Got a great note last week from Nick Moraitis about the launch of Social Tech Brewing in Australia. The first event is set for later this week in Sydney, then moving to Melbourne in the coming months. I met Nick when he was here in Toronto working with Taking IT Global and we kicked around some ideas about successful community-led events -- thought I'd quickly recount them here:
Personally, I feel that many of these events happen too frequently. When we switched the Toronto Social Tech events to every six weeks it really took the pressure off having to organize a monthly event; and when we switched to every other month, it really took the organizing pressure off and seemed to attract more people at each event. My advice: pace your series and focus on quality content / participants -- there's no rule that says an event has to happen every month.
Size doesn't always matter, but good participation does. In the end, I felt that Social Tech events in Toronto were getting too big and too diffuse (not that they were anywhere near the size of Toronto's BarCamps or DemoCamps). They lacked the continuity of common experience and the solidarity that brings; participants came from far and wide and conversations become very general to accommodate everyone's needs. Some of the best events that I attended were small -- maybe 10 - 15 people -- where we could really delve into a topic and come away with new ideas & energy.
On the participation front, my personal take is like this: be as specific as possible about the reason for convening the event, and about the type of participation that is expected, and about target participants that would really add to the event. I'm a huge fan of networking for the sake of networking in the context of things like market-building, or business development, or just plain ol' socializing. However, in the context of building "communities of change," I've found that a broad participant base can work against group cohesion. Ultimately, that is part of what happened to Social Tech brewing here in Toronto: for me it was an attempt (that was not clearly defined) to build a community of change, but that for others it was a regular networking / socializing space.
Anyway, that's my three cents on community-led events and building communities of change. :-)
Congrats to Nick for getting Social Tech Brewing off-the-ground in Australia! My friend Simon who lives in Adelaide pointed out that BarCamp has also made it over to that side of the world recently too.