HOLYOKE, Mass. -- Is your credit union ready for the un-conference? If so, head to BarCamp.
Created originally out of the Silicon Valley software world, where people shut out of industry events with limited attendance decided to host their own gathering dedicated to sharing and learning in an open environment, BarCamp is gaining popularity in the credit union industry as BarCampBank (http://barcamp.org/BarCampBank).
"It also emerged as a reaction to hearing the same talking heads at industry conferences," said Everything CU Chief Experience Officer Morriss Partee. "Where the real answers attendees wanted were actually found in the audience among their peers, and that is how it evolved and came into the financial services universe."
He added that the BarCamp Bank community's mission is to "foster innovations and the creation of new business models in the world of banking and finance."
Groups can meet virtually or schedule face-to-face gatherings. Interested hosts post a Web page stating they are interested in holding camp on a particular subject on a particular date at a venue that is low-cost or free. Organized as an open-space event, participants construct the agenda during the meeting itself and host their own breakout sessions. The freedom of format is designed to encourage ownership and spark more meaningful discussions. Partee said active participation among attendees is the life blood of BarCampBanks. Whether by speaking on a topic, facilitating a roundtable, helping to organize the event or blogging about it, everyone is engaged somehow and that is what keeps it fresh, said Partee. Each discussion group makes a record of their conversation to be made available to others and at the end of the day the groups all reconvene as one.
"The most challenging element in hosting one of these is that you don't know how many people will show up because everyone connects online," said Partee. "It is still a relatively new phenomenon but the experience is just incredible. Even if you don't attend you have an opportunity to read the discussions online and post to the community well after the event."
BarCampBank originated in Paris and the first BarCampBank in the United States was held in Seattle at MiKiJio Arts last July and covered topics ranging from social media: banker-to-banker collaboration and small business social funding, to transforming consumers to co-creators and removing obstacles, driving change and innovation through an organization. Since then BarCampBanks have popped up in San Francisco, New York, Dallas, New England, Chicago, Charleston, S.C., and plans are underway for events in Madison,
Wis., Charlotte, N.C., and coming in September-BarCampBankBC.
Partee hosted the New England BarCampBank at America's Credit Union Museum this past April and campers consisted of not only credit union people but those firms innovating in the financial arena. If Partee gets his way, he'll attend every BarCampBank held in North America this year.
"First of all, what better place to discuss the current revolution in personal finance management than the place where it occurred 100 years ago?" said Partee. "What's great about this is the number of connections credit union executives can make with people outside the industry. Many times in the credit union world we listen to the same usual sources for news. It can be really beneficial to take a look outside the industry to see what is cutting edge and have a real opportunity to get involved with new technologies."
He added that the possibilities are endless.
"The camp format may not be for everyone and it's the diversity of the participants that makes the meetings. If it is purely just credit union-oriented then there is no real reason to venture outside of the established events," said Partee. "What makes the camp great is that everyone is invited and can connect. Instead of wondering why the world isn't showing up on our doorstep, this is a way to go to the world's doorstep to figure out how to partner up."