Tara Hunt Digital Marketing Executive
Many newcomers to the social media scene don't know about a very important piece of history in the evolution of the social web. It wasn't mobile or virtual or any of that. It was actually the opposite of digital. It was as analog as you get and, though the social web powered it, it relied on people coming together in THE MEAT SPACE to happen.
It was/is called Barcamp:
The founders - Ryan King, Tantek Çelik, Eris Stassi, Chris Messina, Andy Smith, and Matt Mullenweg - were inspired by FOO Camp, an annual gathering of O'Reilly Media authors, speakers and partners, that came together and 'made the conference up as they went along'.
The founders loved the idea, and thought it should be 'open sourced', so they organized the first one quite publicly and the rest is history.
Barcamp is a fantastic format to encourage collaboration between people.
What kind of collaborations?
1. You bring outside ideas into your organization - TransitCamp did this by inviting developers, transit enthusiasts, startups, and more together with transit officials - and it bore amazing ideas and partnerships in a single weekend.
2. You encourage cross-discipline collaboration - I've seen Barcamp-style events being done internally, bringing people from all sorts of different departments together who don't normally have a chance to brainstorm together. Growing organizations often come up against the issue of silo-ing - or a decline in cross-departmental collaboration. An internal Barcamp, where different members of different departments present their challenges could open that up. I encourage you to do this at least once per quarter.
3. You help encourage people who wouldn't normally speak up, speak up - And finally, many organizations bring their senior leadership to innovation days, but there are LOTS of great ideas at non-senior levels.
The open schedule at Barcamp could give these ideas a platform to get in front of their colleagues and give rise to fresh, new ideas.
It's such a simple and fun format. The only barrier I've encountered are people who cling to structure and are fearful of uncertainty:
"But what are our goals?" "What is our desired outcome?" "Should we hold some spots for keynotes from the senior management?"
These are also the people I find that get the most out of a Barcamp format at the end of the day. :)