The Social Age conference is at the more experimental end of the work that i do, and why not? It’s an event i run once a year to explore: to create a space that provokes discussion, exposes us to new ideas, and provides a ‘sense making‘ capability. This week we finished the design, built along Scaffolded Social Learning principles, and almost ready to kick off later this month. This year, we are exploring three aspects of the Social Age: ‘The Landscape of Trust‘, ‘The Socially Dynamic Organisation‘, and ‘Emergent Technology – innovation and impacts’. There are no presentations, no formal sessions, no lectures: but rather exposure to 16 different performances, experiences, and panels, designed to provoke discussion.
That’s how Social Learning should work: it’s not a story that an organisation tells, that we have to learn. Rather, it’s a series of structured spaces, within which we are exposed to new ideas, to new experiences, within the arms of a connected and engaged community.
One of the most important aspects of the design in this type of experience is the choreography. When you are using circus performance, poetry, art, technology, and music, it’s easy for the experience to be entertaining but, ultimately, incoherent. You need to provide a structure for the journey, stimuli along the way, the spaces for people to reach their own conclusions.
There are two parts of the event this year that i am particularly excited about: one is a panel of alcoholics, talking about trust within rehab, the other is a creative collective panel exploring leadership beyond leaders. Both, i suspect, will provoke a lot of discussion, and that’s the point. A conference where you go to learn can imply that you expect someone to teach you: but in the Social Age, much of what we need to know sits within the community itself. Our role, in instructional design, is to create the spaces, provocations, circumstances and support, for the community to form, and for us all to learn.