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article imageTrend Spot: Deconstructing The Business Conference Special

By Lisa Devaney     May 19, 2009 in Business
Shine09 UnConference for social entrepreneurs takes a new approach to business conferences that sees attendants lead workshops, play games and brainstorm ideas for a better future.
Increasingly popular among business conferences is an approach that turns the old model of passive information absorption, into an engaged, interactive experience in what is being called the “unconference”.
Some organizers have turned the old scenario of having attendants pay what are often significant entry fees, to watch industry leaders speak, and network among trade show display booths, into a new, often more affordable, business experience. In London last week, the Shine 09 UnConference for social entrepreneurs gathered at The Hub in Kings Cross, to spend two days focusing on new ways to make positive change happen. It was a mix of participant-led workshops, social collaboration games and one-to-one mentoring sessions, a formula that produced new ideas with concrete execution strategy, and in one case, real funding, to move forward with progressive projects.
“The difference here is that last year’s event was a very urban-guerrilla, anarchist feel to it and this year it is business, with a focused switch from pre- to post- recession and a real display of determination of people who want to make real world change happen,” said Cliff Prior, Chief Executive of UnLtd..
The spirit seen at Shine seemed to capture the zeitgeist mood of the business world today, as thousands face layoffs from traditional jobs in the recession, many are turning, often by default, to alternative methods of employment, and ways of doing business.
Attendants included Felix Gonzales, an independent video production specialist, who heads Youandiskills.com, a social and community focused production company and pitched his concept of Video-in-a-Bag to a judging panel allocating funding.
“We hope to share, inspire, create and amplify digital voices and allow people to pass on knowledge through video, and get involved in community projects,” he told the judges.
Also competing for funding was Re-Made in Brixton, Open Free Cycle and the winning entry by Martin Sherrard for his Stratford Walled Kitchen Garden concept, offering horticultural training and a community restaurant serving produce grown in the garden.
“Our aim with Shine is to never have talented people sit in a room and just clap, we need to give interaction, space and structure to fill out the event with ideas and see inspiration turn to perspiration,” Prior said.
Shine joins a number of creative conferences coming up, both in the UK and USA, that are styled after predecessors BarCamp , Foo Camp, and SXSW, all which take inspiration from the unconference concept.
Upcoming untraditional conferences include:
bTWEEN (11-12 June 2009, Liverpool), an interactive digital media forum
2gether09, a London summer conference run in festival style, aims to explore and celebrate how technology can be used to promote social progress.
Over The Air, a September London mobile development gathering spaced over two days of fun, learning, hacking and socializing with participants camping over night.
Commercial sponsors still fund the majority of these event, and often have gotten invovled in mentoring start-ups, offering funding for new ideas and providing continued support to emerging small businesses. Last year Hewlett Packard sponsored a £10,000 prize at bTWEEN.
Fees for the events range from £30-£100, and are often free for students.
More about Shine09, London, Conference
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