What is an (Un)conference?

We all know this feeling: You spend a whole day at a conference, hear some interesting things, but realize that the best parts of the day were the conversations you had with fellow participants when you got a chance to learn what other people are working on, explore an idea that has come up, or simply share a laugh.

(Un)conferences were created to make sure that the best part of conferences happen for most of the day. They are intentionally participant driven, interactive, and fun! They also give you the opportunity to capitalize on the wealth of knowledge and experiences in the room, in one awesome afternoon of exploration and action.

What can I expect?

After lunch, the space will be opened by our host extraordinaire, Jerry Michalski.  He will explain some guidelines for the day and welcome those who want to lead a discussion to come forward to share their ideas with the group. While not required, those who wish to lead a discussion can say a little bit about themselves and then offer up a brief description of a topic they want to lead a discussion on.  Discussion proposals will then be written down on a large card you will be provided with at the beginning of the day. Those cards will then be placed onto a grid that will become our schedule for the afternoon. Together, we will create a schedule of the day that looks like this:

Photo Credit: Justice for All

Sessions will be broken up into three tracks. Over the next three hours you are free to choose to go to any sessions you would like to attend. And if you’d like to attend more than one, go ahead! You’re only required to stay in a session as long as you’re learning something.

How can I prepare?

There are two very important roles in any (Un)conference – those who wish to lead or facilitate a discussion, and those who want to join, learn, and contribute to one.

If you want to join a conversation, great! Bring an open mind and a willingness to explore. Connect to your fellow participants and listen out for ways in which your group can connect or take action together. You’re also welcome to blog and tweet (#SHARESF) about your discussion to spur conversations in your social circles!

If you’d like to host a conversation, you’re welcome to begin to think of topics that you might offer a session on. The topics proposed will be a mix of ideas that have been inspired by the morning program and topics people want to host based on their personal experiences. You’re by no means required to be an expert on your topic subject, so feel free to propose a session based on a question or undeveloped idea you have. You could also use your session to host a discussion on your program in the context of Sharing, get feedback on a program that uses sharing, hold a brainstorm for a new project, or a host workshop around a related theme.

Questions to ask yourself ahead of time might include:

What opportunities does my sector have in the sharing economy?

What knowledge can I share with this community?

What is going to best help grow the sharing movement here in San Francisco?

What do I need from this community?

What projects would I like to start with others in the room?

Some awesome topics people have already mentioned include:

“How can social entrepreneurs in this space work together to create a unified message about this new economy?”

“How can community organizers are social entrepreneurs work together to help people learn how to share in community?”

“How can we use places where people already share like libraries, parks, and churches, to get more people sharing”

“What would a shareable city government look like?”

Ultimately, the best way to learn how to participate in an (Un)conference is by attending one! And as always, feel free to contact milicent@shareable.net if you have any questions or need more information.  

Milicent Johnson


Milicent Johnson

Milicent is an idealistic realist with a passion for learning, laughing, and building community. Her passion for empowering communities to find meaningful solutions and resilience led her to work on

Things I share: Love, life, happiness, and almost everything between.