Gomm Valley Community Engagement Event

Project Details

Human + Nature is a developer building a new sustainable settlement in the Gomm Valley, Buckinghamshire. We were given 8 weeks to organise a three day community engagement and design event in June 2018, for up to 300 people to attend.

The primary aim of the event was to raise awareness about proposed development plans for the area and provide stakeholders with an opportunity to raise concerns and feed into the design proposals at a very early stage.

Unlike typical stakeholder engagement consultations, the proposed development plans and drawings were exhibited on the actual site, in an open field. This created an informal atmosphere whereby locals could have frank and honest discussions with a team of multidisciplinary specialists about the proposed plans for the area.

Process

In physical conferences, navigation is naturally supported by the layout of the conference venue. However, even in those conferences, organizers need to do much more than letting people roam around. At a minimum, a printed or online program with the schedule plus information about each session, including room numbers, the floor plan of the venue, etc., is a requirement for participants to be able to find the sessions and the people they are interested in.

In virtual conferences, navigation is equally important. The live sessions of virtual conferences need to be easy to find and get into. The online program needs to have information about when and “where” the sessions will take place, e.g., the Zoom meeting links, the Webinar links, the Slack channels, etc. All of this information should be presented through user interfaces that are easy to understand and with links that “teleport” participants to the “places” they want to go. For specific suggestions, see “Navigation” under Ideas for Research and Experimentation.

Registration

In virtual conferences, registration is important not just for regular planning purposes, but also for dealing with time zones and for guiding technology choices. However, some of these very technology choices may be in direct conflict with the goal of having all or most participants register.  Technically, the simplest thing organizers can do is to have speakers pre-record or broadcast talks publicly to the entire world, e.g., livestreaming to YouTube. Livestreaming may also be required for other technical reasons, for example for allowing these streams to be viewed in experimental platforms, such as VR. But that puts the value of registering for a virtual conference in question.

 

Registration for virtual conferences is important for:

  • Content: Organizers may choose to limit the live distribution of sessions to only registered participants and make those sessions publicly available at some point later. Alternatively, organizers may want to livestream the sessions publicly. Both options are technically possible. This decision has strong implications on the technology choices, as some platforms (e.g., Zoom, Crowdcast.io) support restricted participation while others (e.g., YouTube, Twitch) do not.
  • Planning and communication: Organizers may want to limit real-time social interaction to only registered participants. Alternatively, organizers may open up the social interaction channels to the entire world. Both options are technically possible. But without registration, organizers will not know who wants to participate, so it will be hard to plan — 30 people? 300 people? 3,000 people? In what parts of the world are they? How do we send them information?

For these reasons, we strongly recommend that virtual conferences require registration and that they limit social interaction to those who do. Additionally, there are financial and security implications, discussed below.

Commitment to minimal waste

Water was supplied in cardboard cartons, with a 1,000 litre cardboard water store on site to sustain guests through the heatwave. All knives and forks were made from biodegradable, sustainably sourced wood. No plastic was used on site.

Inside the exhibition tents
SELCE Solar Roller

Powered by renewable energy

The event was powered with the Solar Roller, a mobile, solar powered generator producing sufficient clean, green, silent energy to power all the equipment including electricty, including lights, fans and sound.

Pilau Pot

Questions to think about

  1. Where will you host the conference website? 

 

  1. Who will create the conference website?

 

  1. What information needs to be on the conference website?

 

  1. Where will the organizing committee keep shared planning documents? Will everyone be able to access them? Does the platform allow simultaneous collaborative editing?

Community transport

A community shuttle bus ran between the nearest railway station and the event all day long, stopping at points along the route to pick up and drop off local attendees.  This was also beneficial in reducing emissions from individual cars travelling to the site.

Cleaner air, lower transport emissions

A set of bike racks was provided to encourage travel to the event by bicycle. Our attendees were also able to unleash their cycling prowess with our demonstration electric bikes, a great way to introduce young and old to alternative transport options.

Cycle racks

Sustainable event management

Legacy - Sustainable Event Management. We help companies run virtual and in-person events that are sustainable.

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