there is some discussion following the inclusive church conference on a few blogs about how to shift away from experts presenting on a stage. it's easy to moan after any conference but i thought dave paisley's comment on jason's blog was really helpful - he describes (in a comment) open source conferencing that offers a very different model as follows:
In my Masters work I came across something called Open Space
and got to use it a couple of times with amazing results. It appears to
be stuck in the hippie-ish/new agey/consultant ghetto in which it
originated, but it works incredibly well.
In a nutshell, it would work something like this (numbers are flexible, but just to give you some idea...):
1) You set aside enough meeting areas for everyone to meet in groups of about 20 (so with 400 people you'd need 20 meeting spaces for about 20 people each).
2) You create a schedule for each room for an hour or two each, with breaks in between. so 9:00 to 10:30, 11:00 to 12:30, 2:00 to 3:30.
Doesn't seem very creative yet, does it?, but here's the good part:
3) Anyone with a topic of interest writes it on a piece of paper and posts it in a meeting room/time slot. The topic only has to relate to the theme of the meeting, which would be, say "Issues in the Emerging Church". Brian McLaren could post a couple of ideas (but should be free at some times to flit around and see what else is going on), but so could some unknown newbie struggling to get started. If someone has proposed an idea that someone else would like to expand or embellish, then it's up for discussion between the two parties involved.
4) Once the slate is filled up, start meeting at the appointed time.
5) Meeting rules: only the meeting organizer (the one that proposed the topic) has to stay in that one meeting to record and record notes, actions, insights, whatever. Everyone else is free to go to what interests them and stay or flit around as the spirit moves them. These butterflies are actually a key component for cross-pollinating conversations in different meetings.
6) At the end of the day, all groups give a brief outline of what came out of their discussion, but as long as somebody is taking notes in each conversation these can all be available.
It might not sound like much, but the creative energy unleashed is amazing - because the people drive the agenda and their input and insight is valued. Plus, in the above scenario you'd have 60 meetings/conversations in a day rather than three or four large sessions, or a whole bunch of workshops that weren't exactly what people wanted, and where the "experts" talk most of the time.
Couple of key points: It "opens the space" for quieter voices to speak up - the loudmouths/extroverts can't be everywhere at once, and it allows people to participarte in what excites them.
I've used this in church, college and corporate settings and it works amazingly well every time.
i like the sound of this a lot...