GardenCampLA is a community organized, gardening-focused, unconference which calls upon local communities and people to share their knowledge, expertise and other important information on developing your garden, landscape design, and public garden environment.
What is an unconference?
Unconferences are self-organizing conferences, similar to many professional conferences, but instead of hiring well-known, professional speakers, they call on the attendees themselves to provide the content and focus for the event. Every person who attends is highly encouraged to present on some topic deeply important to them or, barring that, to facilitate an open breakout session or round table discussion or even just to engage and converse with their fellow attendees between presentations. A few organizers band together to find a venue for the event, recruit sponsors and invite attendees, but the focus of the unconference is driven solely by the attendees.
Some might question the usefulness of presentations by their peers, but we have found that there is an enormous amount of real-world expertise available in each and every local community. GardenCampLA utilizes a format that draws out that expertise and benefits everyone. GardenCampLA (and other unconferences) provide a structure and an opportunity to share this expertise in ways that traditional conferences do not. Additionaly, GardenCampLA can also attract gardening professionals who can use GardenCampLA as a way of introducing themselves to a new audience..
How was GardenCampLA developed?
The genesis of GardenCampLA was found in the BarCamp unconferences held around the world. GardenCampLA founder, Douglas E. Welch, was a long time attendee of BarCamp, which is an event that embraces any topic — although it often leans toward technology — and PodCamp — which is focused on podcasting and new media. After seeing the success of BarCamp as a way to illuminate and educate within a community, Welch that the unconference concept could also be applied to the specific world of Gardening.
What is the typical structure of GardenCampLA?
Each GardenCamp can and should be different, but there are some basic steps that suit the purpose of the day.
Much like any unconference, each GardenCamp is driven by a small group of passionate organizers in the local community. These organizers locate a venue, select a date, collect volunteers to assist on the day of the event and sponsors to cover the minimal costs of the GardenCamp. Local restaurants can be recruited to provide breakfast or lunch. Local stores can offer gift cards for their services to be used in a free raffle for attendees, often held at the end of the day. The organizers are also responsible for promoting the GardenCamp by reaching out to local media for coverage, sometimes bringing in various media as sponsors.
On the day of the event, attendees arrive, check in and are greeted in an opening session where the organizers briefly explain the mechanics of how the day will proceed. Typically, there will be a schedule board, divided into a grid of rooms and session times. Most GardenCamps have 3-5 session rooms for each hour of the day, as well another series of rooms or seating areas are available for open, un-moderated, “breakout” discussions. This combination of presentations and open discussions allows for a wide variety of content to be shared across the day and allows the attendees to choose among this content as most benefits them.
After the opening session, attendees proceed to the schedule board and begin placing their presentations, and breakout discussion topics on the board — selecting both a room and a time for their presentation. As the time for first “session” period approaches, attendees make their way to the session or breakout rooms and the first presentations begin.
Between each session, attendees are given 15 minutes to re-visit the schedule board and select their choice for the next session period. This process then repeats throughout the day. When possible, a catered lunch is provided, allowing the attendees to remain on-site and continue their discussions and networking between morning and afternoon sessions.
A closing session ends the day thanking the attendees, sponsors and organizers, soliciting feedback from the attendees and, in some cases, offering a door prize raffle of items from various GardenCamp sponsors.