Imagine fronting up to your standard event coordinator and asking them to organise an open space conference? They might respond with, "I understood the conference bit..."
When you consider that everything that is traditionally involved in coordinating such an event; funding, promotions and publicity, printed fliers, participation.. it is all geared towards the standard conference - being key note speakers, sponsorship, lectures, workshops and booths.
So when a couple of deep south educational developers decide to sniff out interest and organise an open space conference in multiple locations, you might expect that along the way, actually all the way, they'd encounter difficulties in remaining true to open space conference. Those things that are necessary in coordinating and promoting the event each play their part in clawing things back into a standard conference of celebrities, lectures and mute audiences.
It was through a rather important if brief exchange I had with Derek Chirnside yesterday that I came to realise this with more clarity. Derek has instinctively understood the intent and direction of this conference, and so it was through discussing with him the difficulties of organising and promoting this event that I began to realise the shape of problem, and felt the need to reaffirm the objective of this event.
The objective of this event is to initiate and strengthen new connections and thereby changes in the New Zealand education sector. The key to meeting this objective is through open participation.
To some extent that objective is already being met. The new connections and discussions currently taking place both locally and internationally is encouraging, something a face to face meeting will help to strengthen.
We have invited several people from other regions of the world to take part. This is to bring wider perspectives and connections into the open space conference. It is important that their involvement is complimentary to local New Zealand participation, and it is here that I realise we risk affecting the open space most of all.
Due to the complexity of coordinating the international participation in this event it is easy to see how it dominates the preparations and possibly overshadows the overall event. Our guests are here to see New Zealand, some for the first time, to hear about and see our work, to show us their work, and to join in a discussion and make new connections. So in the final 2 weeks leading up to the Dunedin meeting we should follow John Eyles lead and add more New Zealand based profiles to the wiki.
I hope by doing this we can start to balance and refocus of the event, back to being an exchange of ideas and experiences in as nearer thing to open space conference as we can possibly get.