Here is a little playbook on our experiences with co-designing and co-hosting the Unschoolers Winter Camp at Shikshantar.
Nagpur Learning City Unconference
A job well begun is half done.
-Niyamat M.A C
My friends and I came forth with the common idea of organizing a Learning City Unconference, a concept unheard of in Nagpur city. Several days of planning resulted in a successful event being organized on 6th December 2015 in LAD College, Seminary hills, Nagpur. The questions that arose in our minds; what is Unconference? What is one supposed to do? Which eminent speakers will be giving seminars? How much is the registration fee? If it’s going to be conducted all day, what about snacks? Well, hold your horses because that’s just it. An Unconference is the exact opposite of a conference. Yes. It’s a meeting of people who ‘confer’ on a topic but its foundation lies in the fact that we all get to speak our mind! Let go of our inhibitions, mingle with people of an entirely different field/background/profession and enjoy the exchange of knowledge.
To address the questions; it’s YOU who makes the schedule. Seven open spaces were provided, you could opt for taking a seminar on any topic of your interest (you needn’t be an expert on it). All you had to do was take a chit, pen down your title in brief and post it on the timeline board.
There was no registration fee. Imbibing the concept of gift culture, a contribution box was placed and you could drop in the amount to your liking.
The Law of Two Feet applied here. You walk where your legs take you.
The day began with an introductory session where everyone played a game called ‘Bolo bolo kitne; Aap bolo jitney’. This enabled the crowd to mix and get to know each other. Preceding this, the concept of Unconference was explained in detail and the sessions introduced. There was even an area provided for stalls. From Solar lights, homemade baked goodies, Nutrikitchen, Mera Green Cart to a Selfie counter with oddities to pose with, were among the few that were displayed. There was even a Dariya Dil Freecycling Store at the entrance. The two sessions were scheduled as pre and post lunch. The lunch was an interesting concept where people had brought lunch boxes from home and everyone enjoyed an open potluck. It had a picnic feel to it as all sat in circles on the grass and ate together. Post lunch, there was a second introduction for all those who joined in later. The second session was more festive as a group of people were singing and playing the guitar; someone spoke on love and infatuation while another spoke on Dohas of Sant Kabir. Once the second slot concluded, a feedback session was conducted. For this, everyone sat in the courtyard and shared their experiences of the day. During the introduction Parth, one of the volunteers very eloquently put, “There was darkness when I met you, you were a stranger to me, but when you became my friend is when morning dawned.”
Some feedbacks of those who were a part of Unconference
Rachit Bhatt, CEO, Nobre clothing corporation
I got to know of Unconference from a friend, Baldev Singh Rawat, in Pune who attended one there and told me all about it which is why I was quite excited. It was chaotic but wonderful; in fact it was wonderful because it was chaotic! In my daily schedule I am so tied up in meetings and people who drain the energy out of me that this was like refreshment, something that businessmen like me surely need today. It was a platform where I got inspired and could present my ideas before fellow Nagpurians.
Frankly speaking, the first seminar I attended was on Non- Violent Communication by Ms Aparna Pallavi. I found it quite interesting and also had a healthy discussion with her. I also presented one on Tension and Frustration; how does one get out of it and live in the ‘NOW’. Next i just went and sat in one of the ongoing sessions on Human Relationships. It really feels so good, so many dynamic personalities on one platform.
I would love to come every time an Unconference is organized. We can voice our opinions so freely; there is no judgment no hesitation.
Khushboo Agrawal, Architect at 4D Squares
I took a seminar on Energy therapy but I am an architect and interior designer by profession. I believe that Energy therapy is a subject that everyone should know about. I got into it out of sheer curiosity and ended up learning almost everything there is to know on the subject. Once I began experimenting, my belief in it became stronger. Thus, I wished to share my views and spread awareness about this unconventional healing method.
I absolutely loved the Unconference. We don’t see such events in Nagpur and I really appreciated this effort. It has proved to be a common platform for people to come together and share diverse views and ideas. I used to always wonder that where would I get the opportunity to speak about energy therapy. This Unconference gave me that chance and helped me come across so many interesting faces and concepts. What appealed to me the most was how casual everything was. I missed the first half of the event so I just took a slot and began with my session as I came. I liked how people in one corner were very comfortable talking in a huddle while at the other end some were singing as few played the guitar. I attended the session on Swaraj as well; it was quite interesting and different. Even if I wasn’t attending a session, I was still enjoying being present in such a lively and colourful atmosphere.
People were so eager and enthusiastic to take their own seminars. When I saw the board, I saw an array of different topics. Moreover what amazed me was the kids’ participation which was encouraging. This builds their confidence and ability to speak their minds. I would definitely like to be a part of the next Unconference. I believe this one has been a success.
Sunita Shukla, Freelance writer
I am very happy that I came here today. I had my doubts, but it was the term ‘Unconference’ that really pulled me into coming here and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I compliment you people for bringing everyone together, such high energy. I was just talking to a friend saying that I have worked in the NGO sector for last 25 years and I am slightly jaded when such affairs are concerned, but this has been an eye opener. I am glad I came today.
Shyamala, Safe Food Organic Farming
I can’t find the correct word to describe it, but it has been a really nice experience, a fun experience. It’s a beginning and from here some things should happen. After the Madras floods I was feeling totally devastated because things in our country just go from bad to worse but when such things happen I believe there’s hope. I knew it would be a new and different experience, nothing structured with a whole lot of diverse fields and expertise; not the run of the mill kind of professions, very unique and fortunately all my friends came along with me too. I had heard of Unconferences in Mumbai and Delhi but never attended one nor did I know what it was.
I am basically into Safe food. It goes deeper and further. It is important for me, the farmers and the economy. The peoples’ power can make a difference even if the business communities and government are against it.
Baldev Singh Rawat, Founder, Resumeitup
I have attended Unconferences in Pune and elsewhere but they were no match to the Nagpur Unconference. The difference I felt lay in the connectedness and dedication of the team. I really liked this whole event, like the way we all are sitting and talking here, like in a chaupal. It’s an ideal society for me where I can talk to amazing people. I feel even when people meet they only discuss negative issues. The day passed by too quickly before I could meet each and everyone or attend all the sessions.
Hardik Manoj Rukhiyana, Volunteer at the Unconference
The biggest positive to this whole event is No use of technology or gadgets. I couldn’t find anyone busy with their phones. Strangers became friends; singing together. People had live face-to-face interactions, something that doesn’t happen nowadays.
Shrikant Vaani, Volunteer at the Unconference
Seeing the children, their innocence reminded me of my own childhood.