Monday, 10 December 2007

JISC CRIG Unconference #1 - The Meta Stuff

Just back from the JISC CRIG Unconference


I think that about covers it. I have to completely take my hat off to the CRIG Support team for the sheer bravery in innovation they've shown with the unconference approach. The event was hugely fun, even if quite draining, and I think practice for all involved can only improve the outputs of these kinds of events in the future. JISC should take the support team and give them a huge pat on the back for their work here.

From a personal perspective, I found the unconference process entirely charming. As someone who quite seriously studied Stafford Beer and Organisational Cybernetics experiencing the unconference was like living in the pages of Beyond Dispute What follows is more for my own benefit and memory, but may be of interest I suppose. The result of what I know as the "problem jostle" generated some variety, although a few soap-boxes did seem to skew the work. The team did a great job of assembling enough variety of backgrounds to try and get some emergent activity. I think there needed to be a little more attenuation and coordination as a result of the initial problem jostle, there were terms that needed to be harmonized and some topics that I think probably needed to be toned down. To this end, I think it might have been fun to have a "System 2" (In terms of the VSM) board somewhere in the room, a board where we can scribble common definitions, and other coordinative activity. Again, one slight problem with the coordinative activity is that it all seemed to take place in the heads of the facilitators, which is sort of what you want when freeing the participants to think about their areas, but it did raise the slight spectre of agenda setting. In part I think this is a danger of the facilitators having expert domain knowledge. Although I'm not at all complaining, I think the team did a great job. The balloons, apparently functioning as some kind of parasympathetic channel, didn't really work I don't think. I can see where it might work in the US, but there were too many british sensitivities preventing them being useful. Actually, this is a pity because there was a need for some mechanism like this. I think if the participants had more time to gel before the actual event, it might have been less of an issue (Then again, it might have been more of an issue). Overall, the outputs seemed to be quite rich, although there didn't seem to be quite as much new variety as I expected.

Well thats enough meta-conference for now, on to the details....


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