An “unconference”? You may well ask why. The idea came about when one of our members asked me a simple question “Are we sufficiently tapping into the power of our people?” and reflecting on the wealth and depth of the conversations that happen at our events. Why not throw the floor open? Unconferences are a great way to facilitate cross-pollination of ideas so everyone can learn and be involved throughout a mutually beneficial day.

If you are wondering if this is for you, then consider that innovation is all about collective genius. Rather talk about the science of innovation here I’d suggest taking a few minutes to watch this excellent TED talk.

Unconference days always starts with a little trepidation – what if no one turns up, what if no one pitches a session, what if no one likes the sessions? A true heart in mouth feeling!

So we asked our delegates to give us one word to describe how they were feeling at the start of the day

Shaping Demand Start Workcloud (2)

So with no speakers, no agenda and a room full of expectant people we set off. Unsurprisingly the delegates were intrigued. However it wasn’t long before the delegates pitched, selected, organised and planned the day in an exhilarating whirlwind of spontaneity.

The opening sessions were delivered by Phil Swan (iNetwork Director) reflecting on why we were here and why Shaping Demand is such an opportunity. Phil Rigby, who facilitated the day, followed on with everyone benefitting from his recent experience in many projects with Liverpool City Council, shared his experiences and successes of attending unconferences and working with communities.

The session board quickly filled up with all slots being filled in 15 minutes, each person had the opportunity to pitch for a session of interest, the delegates then gave a nod or show of hands for support and the session was allocated a slot. What did we have?

• How to create space for innovation?’ How can overworked social workers find the time to innovate?

• What exactly is devolution and what will it mean for me?

• Children’s Mental Health – how to spend money and get the best results?

• How do we inject speed into change?

• Data Sharing – Issues and Solutions

• FOI – reducing the unpredictable demand of Freedom of Information requests

• Helping Carers – is it really a minefield out there?

• Behavioural Economics, a game changer?

• Asset Based Communities – ideas for community resilience

• Social Innovation – zeros to heroes

People could choose which session they wanted to attend and also were encouraged to use the rule of two feet and if they felt they weren’t contributing or learning from that session they had permission to move to another.

After lunch we asked our delegates to give us another word to describe how they were feeling after the morning sessions.

Shaping Demand End Workcloud (2)

We also asked how people felt at the end of the day and delegates responded:

• One of the best events I have been to this year. So open, freeing and honest – Julie Williams – Relationship Manager – Public Service Transformation Network

• A very different event that was thought provoking and good to be involved to discuss and share real issues and possible solutions – Wendy Moss – Strategic Workforce Development Lead – Liverpool Council

• Great to meet others faced with similar challenges and willing to share solutions and ideas – Kurt Goldman – Head of Customer Services – Sefton Council

One of the overriding conclusions from the day was that it isn’t all doom and gloom out there. With huge levels of ingenuity colleagues are working hard to engage with communities and there are some fabulous projects, ideas and delivery happening with some major successes emerging.

Shaping Demand is a hot topic because almost all local public service organisations now understand that a focus on supply side efficiencies will not sustain them. We are all facing the challenge of rising demand for services and with diminishing resources and these trends are set to continue for the foreseeable future. We all need a new way or approach of working and the people working in this area are really passionate about the future of public services and have a real desire to share and learn from each other so watch out for more subjects under this title in the near future.

Many thanks to everyone who attended and participated on the day, I really appreciated your willingness and eagerness to try something new it was amazing to see all that creativity and enthusiasm in one space.