The word “unconference” gets a mixed reaction from many, in healthcare it is usually more confusion then skepticism. For those of you that don’t know, the unconference was born out of the technology industry. They are about 4-5 years old depending who you ask, and they focus on participation by attendees. The wikipedia article on unconferences says they are
a facilitated, participant-driven conference centered on a theme or purpose.
Anyway, on Friday, May 28th 2010 I took part in organizing my second unconference called Mental Health Camp Toronto. This conference was a result of Anne attending Health Camp Toronto, and wanting to have one for her Mental Health. A few collaborators later (Madalyn, John, Carlos, and I) and we were on our way.
Although the unconference was born out of the technology industry, it provides an interesting model for participation, collaboration and knowledge transfer (if you want to be technical) for healthcare. I remember going to ChangeCamp, an event and community movement started by Mark Kuznicki to cultivate citizen participation and openness in government. Below is a short video of Mark explaining what an unconference is and how it might be useful in healthcare.
The crazy part is that, it takes the normal model of a committee of 10-30 people that make decisions (speakers, panels, etc) for hundreds of attendees and flips it on its head. With 5 people, we raised thousands of dollars and simply provide a space and food for participants to come together to talk about mental health, social media and anything that attendees wanted to discuss.
Needless to say, after many meetings at the Duke of York, Massey College, and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the skype calls and a few hundred… maybe a thousand emails somehow it all came together. The event went incredible well and we were so happy to see our ‘baby’ born in 8 months.