Conferences That Work spotlight—Community Jam Northern California Harvesting/Gleaning Conference

This is the first post in an occasional series spotlighting conferences using the Conferences That Work format. If you are planning such a conference, please contact me—perhaps you’ll be featured here too!

We’ve got to the point where Conferences That Work are being held all over the world. I often don’t learn about them until they’re over—sometimes years later. People buy the book and use it as their guide to create their own events. That’s fine by the way; I love how this approach to participant-driven events has spread and taken a life of its own. And I’m proud that the book is comprehensive enough to allow readers to create, market, and run a successful participant-led and participation-rich event. As a result, Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love is being adopted as a textbook by a growing number of college event management programs.

Sometimes I get advance knowledge of an upcoming conference (and when I do I happily add it to my conference calendar). So I thought it might be interesting to occasionally spotlight examples of these conferences that I hear about. Here’s one!

Community Jam—Northern California Harvesting/Gleaning Conference — Saturday, June 8 2013, San Jose, CA
Village Harvest is a nonprofit volunteer organization in Northern California that harvests extra fruit from backyards and small orchards and passes it on to local food agencies to feed the hungry in the community. Since its founding in 2001, volunteers have harvested a total of 3.8 million servings of nutritious fruit and Village Harvest has become one of the oldest and largest organizations of this type in the world.

Early in 2013 the founders decided to organize a regional conference for Northern California harvesting/gleaning organizations. Although the event was aimed at organizations within a 2 hour drive of the San Jose venue, they were surprised to discover that many peer organizations outside their region wanted to attend, and, with the conference a few days away as I write this, have 56 registrants from 24 different organizations ranging from Salem, OR to Los Angeles.

The conference format is a slightly modified version of the single day Conferences That Work format. With only seven hours together, the model schedule laid out in Chapter 16 has to be simplified and shortened from its original 8 1/2 hour length. The conference committee decided to shorten the roundtable sharing time and eliminate the first of the Three Questions, to use dot voting for the peer session sign-up instead of the usual more comprehensive process, and to reduce the length of the closing group spective. By cutting breaks to a minimum, they have squeezed in a fourth round of peer sessions instead of the normal three for an event of this length.

Although I’m not generally a fan of minimizing breaks at conferences, you can often get away with this at a one-day Conferences That Work event because most people are able to maintain a high level of involvement during a full day of interesting experiences. Still, this event will be a bit of a rush—with the rush, hopefully, also expressed via the energy and enthusiasm shared at the event.