Memories of Kiwi Foo, New Zealand, 2016
Kiwi Foo is a weekend-long unconference where there is no set program. The event begins after everyone stands up and gives their three-word introductions, listing three keyword interests. Then new Kiwi Foos are given first preference in putting up proposed talks and sessions. People with similar ideas are encouraged to combine their sessions. Talks are informal (only a couple of people used PowerPoint) and there is a lot of focus on discussion with the audience.
The talks were surprising in breadth of topic and sentiment. There were talks about new research and innovation; but there were also talks about how to redefine life after surviving cancer; some people discussed their passion projects or their professional work; but others led discussions on how to enhance collaboration and not for profit work. I presented on how to enhance gender and diversity in science and technology.
Here is a little on a couple of my favourite talks.
Law, IT & the Future
David Harvey, a former judge recently turned academic, talked about progressive online legislation. He is set to open a new academic centre on the topic and sought ideas and questions about the type of issues they might cover, as well as crowd-sourcing ideas for further funding. He talked about how slow the law has been to catch up on international patterns of internet use, and how online legal resources were arcane and difficult to navigate.
Taking People With You
Another session on building stronger teams when creating social movements was well attended by people from various backgrounds.
Shaun Hendy and Jess Weichler led the session. We sat on pillows on the ground and shared our experiences running volunteer groups.
A few of us discussed the challenges in keeping volunteers engaged, by knowing why they sign up and by validating their service in tangible (if not material) ways.
Co-design to tackle complex social problems
Jane Strange talked about using co-design to tackle social policy problems. This involves not simply gathering data from community groups affected by particular issues, but also supporting community members to lead solutions. Using a set of posters, Strange discussed how two government agencies partnered with an NGO to better engage youth in South Auckland to increase the rates of youth-of-driving-age getting their licence. This area has a low-socioeconomic profile with high rates of youth crime and incarceration, however, many offences begin with minor issues, such as driving without a license. Getting a licence requires a relatively sound level of literacy and additional costs to qualify, and in rural areas where many families are struggling on social welfare, such things are luxuries. Strange talked about driving licenses as a social justice issue. Her talk was entertaining and I’ve thought much about it since.
Learn more on my blog: The Other Sociologist.
[Photos: 1) a quiet, long road with grass and a fence, the site where Kiwi Foo was held in 2016; 2) two people chat, sitting down outside of the cafe area; 3) many people sit in groups talking inside a light-filled lounge; 4) tents pitched on the grounds where the unconference was held]
Source: The Other Sociologist.