Upcoming Unconference – Schedule and Description

By Scott Sherrill, UNC MPA Student

Coming up this weekend is the Unconference at the Frank Porter Graham Student Union on the UNC campus on Saturday from 9 AM until 3:30 PM- and you’re probably wondering what exactly to expect!


  •  9:30 AM Chancellor Thorpe’s Keynote       
     Hamilton 100      
  • 10:30 AM Go to Student Union       
     Room 3206 A      
  • 10:45 AM Intro to the Unconference Style      
  • 11:00 AM Pitch Sessions     &  Organize Schedule      
  • 12:00 PM Lunch       
     Room 3206 A , Student Union 
  • 1-4:00 PM sessions are held
  • 4:00 PM Report Back       
     Room 3206 A      
  • 5:00 PM End       

The style of the event is such that participants generate the majority of the schedule and topics for the day. Brian Russell, one of the facilitators for the Town-Gown theme group, has used the event format several times before at Podcastercon, in the style of the Barcamp Technology Conference. The meeting style was influenced by open space technology, a mediating/facilitation style developed in the 1970s.

The Chapel Hill 2020 event will begin with coffee and snacks, followed by an innovation talk by Holden Thorpe, and then Brian will facilitate a pitch session. In the pitch session, everyone will have the opportunity to write down and announce topics they want to talk about in each session. Participants might just say “I’d like to talk about this,” and then pitch their idea fairly quickly. All participants will have the opportunity to express topics they are interested in. The ideas will populate a time and room grid, which will determine the schedule for the day and the location for each topic. Similar topics may be combined to make sure there is room for everything. Participants will also place hashtags next to the event they want to attend.

The facilitators want to make sure there is enough room for everyone who wants to attend. So when sessions  start, people can get to rooms. The facilitators also will try to have people who can go to different rooms and make sure everything is going smoothly. There will be a break for lunch and a wrap up at end of the day. Where participants can talk about what they learned.

Typically, everyone leaves happy because participants have control over the day. One of the governing principles is the Rule of Feet: people can get up and move if wanted. Another strong point is the networking angle: participants will meet each other and talk about important things and topics of interest. With the innovation conference and themes, people might get together and start working on ideas they are going to recommend.

Brian hopes people get out what they want: the overarching concept is innovation, and he hopes that people can leave with innovative ideas that they can implement but also have a good time and participate with the comprehensive plan.

Feedback Brian has received from prior events: people tend to leave happy, and participants come and meet interesting people. There is something in it for everyone.

Participants don’t have to marathon the whole day; it is valuable to come at any point: find the grid and determine what’s going on and where.

The event will be held at the UNC Frank Porter Graham Student Union from 9:30 – 3:30 PM. Parking will be available at Cobb Deck parking, Harold Hall.

4 thoughts on “Upcoming Unconference – Schedule and Description

  1. George Cianciolo says:

    The target audience is all stakeholders. I’m checking to clarify the ending time. It may have been extended from the original time to allow for the free lunch that is being provided (Med Deli).

  2. The Announcement says 9:30 – 3:30, but the published Agenda goes until 5 PM. Could you clarify which is correct? Also, who is the target audience for this, all stakeholders or UNC students?

    • George Cianciolo says:

      To elaborate further on my answer as to whether stakeholders are invited participants: a primary goal of Innovate 2020 is to encourage stakeholders in the CH2020 process to propose/discuss/critique innovative solutions to the issues that either confront Chapel Hill now or will confront Chapel Hill over the next decade. With all the brainpower, experience, and expertise that we have in our community it would seem that there might be novel solutions to our problems that have yet to be put on the table. Such novel solutions might include the use of some of the newest technologies or they might involve developing new businesses that can allow our residents to work where they live. They might provide opportunities for the younger generation to stay in the area rather than relocating to the major urban business centers. Innovative ideas do not have to focus on problem solving but might also include new business concepts that can satisfy the needs of the community in a local manner rather than forcing residents to travel to different counties. One topic I’ve heard suggested is to think about novel solutions to handling our solid waste locally rather than shipping it out as is currently proposed.
      The design of Innovate 2020 is that anyone can suggest any topic they’d like to discuss and then the audience will determine how much interest there is in having that topic as a break-out session.

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