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Upcoming Unconferences: Greenest City Camp, Transportation Camps, and Planning Technology Conference

I’m literally on the path I’m on today in no small part because of unconferences. There are three coming up (well, technically three — one local, three less so) that I will be either attending or following remotely that I’m deeply excited about:

  • The City of Vancouver’s Greenest City Camp is taking this place this coming Saturday, March 5th at the SFU Work Centre for Dialogue in Downtown Vancouver. It is the City’s final Greenest City event as they wrap up consultation on the second phase of the plan before the City starts to focus on implementing work to achieve the sustainability targets that the City of Vancouver has officially adopted. I was kindly invited to be part of the awesome convenor team assisting in the finishing touches on the event; I was happy to be able to contribute some semi-precious gems from my own turns at helping to pull together unconferences, and some dear friends of mine who have accompanied me on that journey are the ones steering this particular event. I’ll be attending on Saturday, so if you are planning on being there too, come say hi!
  • Open Plans is hosting TransportationCamps in New York and San Francisco — the latter this coming Saturday and Sunday. As I tweeted when they first announced the event, TransportationCamp and TransitCamp are bruthas from the same mutha when it comes to harnessing the energy and interest in technology for improving urban mobility and accessibility. All told, this is the Bay Area’s third Transportation-themed BarCamp-style event. I’m in awe of Open Plans’ work with Streetfilms, and sad that I won’t be able to make it, but look forward to following from afar and hope attendees tweet and take notes aplenty!
  • This one’s a little further afield, but I’m planning to attend: on April 8th, just prior to the American Planning Association’s annual conference in Boston, the Planning Technology Conference (with an Ideas unconference component) will be taking place. I met some members of the organizing committee at last year’s conference. The schedule for this event was just announced and posted.

I was asked at our last convenor’s meeting if I would submit a presentation proposal to Greenest City Camp. I said that I wanted to but that I wasn’t really sure. I couldn’t really put my finger on it — you’d expect, given my history and previous activities, that I’d be jumping at the chance. What could be it? Unconference fatigue? Too long spent in the academy (ha!)?

Upon further reflection I realize that my approach to an unconference at this time and place, on a topic which I’ve been putting so much effort into, is, by necessity, fundamentally coming from a very different place than from when I first started doing unconferences. I haven’t quite reconciled it. I feel like there’s a strange sense of being responsible with the experience/”expertise” I’ve gained. No one is asking the experts to blunt our expertise in order to make room for the voices, interests and participation of others, but because I am privileged (at least for now; who knows what tomorrow will bring) to be working on a daily basis on these issues, I feel like this would be a time to listen.

Except in some ways it’s still not — I may be in the process of developing expertise, but I lack the power that requires me to be held as accountable for it as I seem to be holding myself to that I need to take the very back seat on this. I am perhaps in the position to be thinking harder about the stickiest problems as a result of that privilege, and that awareness is what I can bring to the room. Frankly, the most emotional part of the engagement I have with these topics, at times, is frustration at their seeming intractability. There’s a good chance I’ll feel a lot better after I finish this paper I’m writing on regionalism.

Chances are good, however, that I will propose something on the day of for the Greenest City conference this weekend. It’s just a little hard to resist. Seeing as I’m working on a term project looking at non-motorized urban goods movement, perhaps I’ll just hold the bike courier session and wait to see who comes, like I usually do.

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