Co-Creating Solutions: Barcamps

What’s a barcamp?

We chose the barcamp format because it is open, democratic and fun. But what is it? It is a so called ‘unconference’ format, where the agenda is not defined by some sort of a higher entity, but allows for a grassroots-type of engagement by allowing people to pitch their ideas and topics and the audience to vote which resonates best with them. You can learn more about unconferences & barcamps here.

How does it go?

At the beginning of the barcamp, we ask participants to propose a session topic and the other participants determine which sessions get on the agenda. Everyone is allowed to vote multiple times and session owners’ votes count too. If there are more sessions proposed than there are slots, the most popular ones get in, or similar ideas might merge.

People are invited to give a 2 sentence outline of their idea, so that people can decide whether it resonates with them and they want to join the discussion. This is of course not enough to get the full picture, so session owners are invited to give a short, 5-minute introduction at the start of their session.

Since our goal is to connect problem owners, people in a community who have a problem they want to work on; and technology owners, people with expertise in a technology who want to create a social project, people can propose either a social issue or a technology they’d like to use to solve societal problems.

Setting the tone

Before the discussion starts, it is beneficial to set the tone, explain what we are here for, present the barcamp format, the agenda of the evening and expected outcomes, and the code of conduct. The code of conduct doesn’t have to be a long document, the key points we like to emphasise are:

  • Be Kind
  • Be Active
  • Be Open

In a 4-hour evening two rounds of 45-minute discussions can be held. The number of parallel discussions depends on the number of participants and the number of facilitators: it is good to have a facilitator in each round to steer the conversation.

Time to co-create!

To empower and enable all participants, facilitate design thinking, ideation, co-creation, we propose the use of lots of post-its, pens, and the following 3 canvasses:

1. Ishikawa Diagram

Brainstorming on “Deep Why”: with the help of the Ishikawa Diagram. The task is to go deep, find the root causes of a problem, because we too often only scratch the surface of social issues. Before we move on, the session owner has to identify 1 underlying cause, something participants also agree they can work with, represented by a post-it and take this to the next level.

2. Super Hunch

Brainstorming to develop the hunch into a Super Hunch: finding the most impactful and most feasible solution to the 1 cause.  Some solutions might be really impactful, but could be absolutely impossible (the know-how or financing is simply not available), some might be very easy to develop but barely have impact. The point of this step is to create the most social entrepreneurial super hunch out of the idea, together with the participants, who contribute to the session owner’s reality check.

Before the final Pitch is developed, we recommend doing a 5-minute Commitment Round: ask the participants from the round who, could help and how. Ask them to list resources, organizations, or even personal commitment either an intro to somebody from their personal network or their own time. They came to the session because they were interested, find out how they can help you achieve your goal!

3. Elevator Pitch

This sentence is in preparation for the Project Design Sprint Weekend: it does not only allow participants to pitch back at the end of the Barcamp Session in a structured way, but also contains some follow-up questions people should think of when applying to the PDSW.

After the final Pitches are delivered, the Barcamp session is closed with next steps regarding the program, in our case, the application process to the Project Design Sprint Weekend.

If you organise a barcamp yourself, you will see that people will want to stay for some more time and discuss the outcomes, cooperation opportunities with each other, and will have many follow-up questions. Schedule some extra time for this before you have to leave the venue and enjoy: creating new relationships and synergies was your goal in the first place.


Barcamp Tools:

Ishikawa Diagram: Core problem

Super hunch

Elevator pitch