Unconference: Be a Voice for the Voluntary Sector

An unconference is a novel concept – it implies the inverse of everything we’ve come to expect from business-oriented events. The plethora of organisations attending the Winchester Unconference are preparing for the unique opportunity it presents to participate in the question:
How can Winchester be a premier business location?

Thanks to the recent spate of snow, the Unconference is now taking place on Wednesday 9th May at Winchester Guildhall, meaning there’s more time for more participants to get involved.

As Community First works to support a thriving local voluntary sector, we want to encourage local organisations to make connections with each other and with local businesses. We’ve seen the benefit of creating these opportunities through our own events, such as at our impact event last month. There’s a lot we can do together.

Delegates from the voluntary sector, local businesses, and government bodies, connected with each other at Community First’s impact event.

While the content of a conference is pre-programmed by organisers, an unconference is a dynamic event with an agenda created by participants on the day. Delegates can become session leaders within minutes by pitching their topic for votes. Find out more here about how the vote works. You can also air your ideas online prior to the unconference through the CitizenLab website.

So, what’s in it for the voluntary sector?

Suffice to say, funding is a live issue for the voluntary and non-profit sector. With continued pressures on traditional funding sources, neither charities nor our more commercially minded private sector counterparts are immune to the reality that we all need to be looking for ways to innovate. We need to improve our customer offer while ideally saving time and money. A key driver to be able to meet this challenge is to learn from the experiences of others. It’s the old adage of ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. The truth is that we face common challenges, whether financial, social or environmental.

Equally, our physical location can have a big practical impact on how we carry out our work. We may face location based issues with services like internet connectivity, accessibility of transport services including congestion, and even availability of parking. These can all have a knock-on effect on our working efficiency. When funds necessarily go towards delivering a high standard of service to end users, this may not leave a lot aside for pragmatic considerations that affect how we operate within the local area.

What is your experience of working in the Winchester District? What are the issues that affect your services and your customers? They’re unlikely to be unique to your organisation. Perhaps you’ve identified an issue, but not yet the possible solution? Perhaps, on the other hand, you find Winchester has great facilities for delivering your services, or you’ve fine-tuned your operations in response to your working location. If so, please share your insights!

For our part, Community First have enjoyed building good relationships with local businesses, as we work closely with partners in the private sector to broker relationships with our member charities and community groups. In the last year we’ve teamed up with 12 local businesses for our Employee Volunteering schemes, organising 21 events and working with 155 business volunteers. These opportunities deliver additional value for all parties – aligning missions and values, and sharing skills and insights.

The unconference presents the perfect opportunity to explore how we can improve or (at least) mitigate the issues we experience, with peers in the voluntary sector and delegates from businesses of all shapes and sizes. Even when sessions aren’t explicitly about the voluntary sector, attendees can steer the conversation to bring their perspective into the fold. This informal approach opens up many more conversations where we can share and learn from each other – more so than a fixed conference programme.

After all, the business of nonprofits and the voluntary sector does a lot for our city. So, what can our city do for us? Are there ways we can work together to crowdsource solutions to our common challenges? The unconference will serve as a springboard for these important conversations. Practical answers may be found just around the corner, literally and figuratively.

The conversation won’t finish at the end of the day, either. A solution-focused ‘hack day’ will respond to issues identified in the event. Details will be released on the WinchBiz website and social media.

Essentially, the more voluntary sector delegates in attendance at Winchester Unconference, the more we can help by informing and influencing the conversation. So, if you’d like a platform to discuss the issues that affect your work in and around Winchester, the chance to connect with local businesses, or simply to support the voice and presence of local voluntary organisations – there is still time to book to attend. We’ll be there and speaking for the sector.