A Climate Unconference

Today we hosted a climate unconference organised by Alex Deschamps-Sonsino. The Eventbrite blurb said “A free unconference to coincide with COP28. An opportunity for the London climate community to meet and learn from each other.” The agenda for the event was to create an enviroment where “the participants run a session/give a talk / play climate games / whatever that others who are attending can choose to sign up to on the day. It’s chaotic but fun.”

The best things about these events is meeting new people and learning about their similar but different journeys through life. The discussion today ranged from a computer scientist working with ecologists asking whether interaction designers would help us make better tools for analysis; an MA student on the Narrative Environments programme at CSM noodling on where is away in our throwaway culture; questions on how should we be taking action and is non-violence the right approach (interestingly this was the discussion with fewest voices participating).

A Climate Unconference - agenda Agenda

Alex raised an interesting discussion around the people who are delivering repair services (senior, white, males, with sheds) and asked how do we get a broader demographic engaged in seeing that as a viable career path for service delivery on the high street. I asked “Do we need more data to reach net zero?” - the discussion was helpful, ranging from the yes to learn new things, yes to get in front of decision makers with evidence and no we have enough we just need to use it.

A Climate Unconference Alex querying the demographics of repair folk.

The unconference format was new to about half the participants in the room. It is a format I like since it depends on having people starting serendititous conversations and the timing format means that it is easy to move on from a discussion that you don’t want to dwell on (whilst at the same time allowing that to happen if appropriate). It gives voice to a broader number of people. It means that more people get actively involved in the event itself. I have been to a few unconferences over the years - my first was an invite to SciFoo whilst at Arup working on the Drivers of Change project. Writing this made me go and look at the notes from back then SciFoo day 0, SciFoo day 1 and SciFoo day 2. Day 0 contained a list of people I had met - unfortunately it sufffered bit rot and I (nor the Way Back Machine) has an archive. But still, 6 nobel laureates, Neal Stephenson, Kim Stanley Robinson, Linda Stone, Felice Frankel….

So what is next? This prototype event sparked lots of interest and the discussion on the day delivered the value anticipated. Alex will be working on a “main” event to coincide with COP29 next year (November’ish?) so get in touch with her if you want to support.

For me a seed has been sown on the possibility of a “repair module” at UCL (and potentially in collaboration with RCA?) - how would we use our making approach to “learning by doing” to develop a culture of repairing and fixing? How would this tie into the Sustainability curriculum at UCL? What would a repair module teach? How do we train students in this skill? Themes for potential sessions included: sewing, strategies for white good repairs, furniture fixes / hacks / upcycling, electronics diagnostics, dissassembling phones, understanding engines, re-sealing enclosures, return to learning through play, jewellery and crafting, cycle repairs, solar punk….