NECUnited stands for “New England Contingents United.” It is a yearly unconference: an open, inexpensive meeting where folks interested in higher education and contingent/adjunct workforce issues come together in sessions proposed on the spot. An unconference is to a conference what a seminar is to a lecture, what a party at your house is to a church wedding, what a pick-up game of Ultimate Frisbee is to an NBA game, what a jam band is to a symphony orchestra: it’s more informal and more participatory. Here are the key characteristics of NECUnited:
- It’s collaborative: there are no spectators at a NECUnited. Everyone participates, including in the task of setting an agenda or program.
- It’s informal: there are no lengthy proposals, papers, presentations, or product demos. The emphasis is on productive, collegial work or free-form discussion.
- It’s spontaneous and timely, with the agenda / schedule / program being mostly or entirely created by all the participants during the first session of the first day, rather than weeks or months beforehand by a program committee.
- It’s productive: participants are encouraged to use session time to create, build, write, hack, and solve problems.
- NECUnited is non-hierarchical and non-disciplinary and inter-professional: NECUnited welcome graduate students, scholars, librarians, archivists, museum professionals, developers and programmers, K-12 teachers, administrators, managers, and funders as well as people from the non-profit sector, people from the for-profit sector, and interested amateurs.
- It’s open and online: participants make sure to share their notes, documents, pictures, and other materials from NECUnited discussions before and after the event on the web and via social media (#NECUnited)
- It’s fun, intellectually engaging, and a little exhausting.
What is an “unconference”?
The shortest answer is this: an unconference is a highly informal conference. Two differences are particularly notable. First, at an unconference, the program isn’t set beforehand: it’s created on the first day with the help of all the participants rather than beforehand by a program committee. Second, at an unconference, there are no presentations — all participants in an unconference are expected to talk and work with fellow participants in every session. An unconference is to a conference what a seminar is to a lecture; going to an unconference is like being a member of an improv troupe where going to a conference is (mostly) like being a member of an audience. Unconferences are also free or cheap and open to all. For more information, see Wikipedia’s entry on the unconference.
Who should attend?
Anyone with energy and an interest in the higher education and contingent/adjunct issues.