I just spent two and a half days in a conference, and it wasn’t unbearable. In fact, it was sustaining! How the heck did that happen?
Good subject, good speakers, good weather, good facility - all these are nice, but not that unusual nor sufficient to make such a long conference fulfilling. I think there were three key unique aspects to Rio+2.0:
- Speed Geeking. The conference opened up with 27 organizations and a process whereby attendees spent about 5 minutes with about a dozen of them discussing their innovation. Yes, it began the conference with demonstrations about connected technologies innovation, but it also set a perfect tone for the rest of the event. We were immediately cast into dialogue and excitement with a room of strangers. Kudos to Noel Dickover, Office of eDiplomacy at the US State Department, for this perfect beginning.
- 3 Pillars. Attendees came from governments, NGOs, and the ICT industry. ( It reminded me of an ILO meeting I did in my youth – where government, industry, and labor all had votes.) These three groups should be thrown into a room together more often.
- The Unconference. I had my doubts going in, but no more. In plenary we self-selected about 26 break-out sessions, with attendees then able to attend three each. You chose the ones you wanted to attend. All three of mine not only had great discussions, but the groups chose to share emails and continue their dialogue.
My unconference discussions were on ewaste and economic development; water policy and ict; and, connecting Silicon Valley and the MENA (Middle East and North Asia). Kathrin Winkler of EMC Corp had nominated and led the first discussion, Tomas Anker Christensen of the Danish Embassy the second, and David Munir Nabti of AltCity.Me the third. Each had about 15 attendees, and in each we had a discussion that has the potential to enrich Rio+20.
I’ll leave Palo Alto with not only new thoughts, but about 20 follow-ups that I agreed to! Most involve ideas for further activities leading into Rio, and then beyond. And I am sure that anyone else who stayed through the full event has the same tale. As someone said, it really was idea sex!