Often the "best part" of a traditional conference comes as an unexpected burst of new insights resulting from a spontaneous chat with unfamiliar (or familiar) colleagues in a moment between the formal sessions. Also, despite the best intentions of traditional conference organizers, sometimes the selection of sessions just isn't very interesting or sometimes the three sessions that you would most like to attend are all scheduled concurrently.
The traditional UnConference format is designed specifically to promote interactions and channel this creativity into concretely useful products and experiences, all within a schedule that is negotiated in real time by the participants. At the start of the UnConference the Program is just an empty shell. Therefore, one of the first activities is a group process that intelligently designs the life of the Program: the actual topics and activities that will nucleate the interactions are determined by the participants.
Starting in 2009, the oCUBE UnConference was a true UnConference, wherein the entire program was set in real time. In 2014, celebrating our 5th anniversary, and evolving like any good population of biologists do, we piloted a blended format, with several session topics proposed and tentatively scheduled in advance--hence the modified (Un)Conference title. Following the UnConference format, however, these, along with topics that were pitched the first day of the meeting, were 'voted in' to the final Program.
With the Program established, each session has one or two conveners/facilitators, usually those that pitched the topic, who frame the topic, facilitate the body of discussion, and guide closure toward a concrete product. The main products of each session are published in near-to-real time on the oCUBE website: feel free to peruse the Programs of our previous UnConferences right here on the website, where you'll find links to all of these practical collaborative products.
We generally have two types of sessions: BIGS (Big Idea Group Sessions; ~ 55 min) and GIFTS (Great Ideas For Teaching Sessions; ~ 25 min). All of this activity is bounded by "white space": time for spill-over discussions while sitting on the dock or strolling in the woods.
You can check out our previous UnConference Programs with links to session materials below!