CityCamp Chelmsford – initial brief scoping paper
What is CityCamp Chelmsford?
CityCamp Chelmsford is an opportunity for the newest city in the country to showcase its ability to be a vibrant, intellectually stimulating and enterprising city, placing it firmly on the map of technological innovation and creativity. Chelmsford is a city founded in technology and this symposium, following a proven but innovative formula, will encourage people to spend a weekend together developing thoughts and ideas and coming up with solutions that could improve the quality of life of citizens across the world. It will be Chelmsford’s first open- space “unconference”.
What’s an “unconference”?
Emerging from 1980s California, unconferences are gatherings for expert and informed audiences to come together and at the beginning of the event pitch-in for an agenda item to be discussed, issue to be considered or idea to be developed. A facilitator works all the varying elements into a programme. Whilst there will be an over-arching theme to the event, there is no pre-planned agenda, no pre-booked speakers and instead the structure of the weekend will be created by the participants themselves. Unconferences are also an opportunity for sponsors to showcase their goods and services while contributing to the costs of the event and, more importantly, providing prizes that are won by the participants who come up with the best ideas and cash for workable projects that can be brought to bear straight away.
With Chelmsford’s coveted new City Status comes the opportunity for the city to apply for funding to substantially improve the broadband infrastructure of the city. Experts in this field should be familiar with unconferencing and will be ideally placed to work out how this is best delivered. To that end, it is proposed that the first CityCamp Chelmsford adopts Ultrafast Cities as a theme and that this will be introduced to participants in the opening Friday sessions. From then on, it will be up to participants to develop their own agenda as to what the workstreams and outcomes of the weekend will be.
Why a CityCamp?
CityCamps are proven to bring together people who are passionate about their subject areas and often unlock ideas that are then taken on to fruition over the course of the weekend, in a big part due to the networking that takes place. CityCamps are likened to what goes on in corridors and bars outside the main conference arena at a traditional conference – but on a grand scale. However, the audience is active, not passive, and focussed on a productive and enjoyable weekend – for most participants it is their freetime after all. It is the informality and congenial atmosphere that gets the ideas flowing and debate continuing into the night – where the social element of CityCamp comes to the fore.
Councils, partners and businesses will all be involved in the event and there are opportunities to tie in with other “City” celebrations such as the launch of a Chelmsford City Forum. The event will be hosted in the autumn at a venue which needs to be big enough for 200 people with break-out rooms. The event should aim to confirm 200 participants and allowing for a I in 4 drop-out rate the actual number will be more like 150. There is no charge for admission but there are tested methods to retain participants.
If City Camp Chelmsford proves successful it will act as a blueprint for future similar activities. A view will need to be taken on the regularity of future CityCamps which will be driven mainly by the amount of sponsorship achieved. Local companies, including the local press have already expressed an interest in getting involved and a momentum is rapidly building to get the first CityCamp up and running.
What does a successful CityCamp look like?
Success can be measured on a number of levels; numbers of participants, sponsorship raised, ideas developed. A successful CityCamp is also one that has gone “viral” on social media and other internet sites and that coverage is positive. The key risks, therefore are the converse of the above.