Your Next Move is the Only One that Matters

ORD Camp is dif­fi­cult to describe to those who haven’t attended.

You can start with facts: ORD Camp is an invite-only uncon­fer­ence spon­sored by Google and Inventa­bles in Chicago, host­ing about 300 peo­ple each year.

Which frankly tells you very lit­tle regard­ing what it’s actu­ally about.

You can talk about the ses­sions cov­ered, but that only gets you a slice. With ten con­cur­rent ses­sions run­ning for hours on end (and I mean hours: the last sched­uled ses­sion is at 4 a.m. one night), there’s no way to expe­ri­ence or explain even a frac­tion. I do know that for two years run­ning I found myself tak­ing pho­tos of newly minted fire spin­ners at 12:30 a.m. one night.

You can call it an “inno­va­tion sum­mit,” as this arti­cle in the Chicago Tri­bune did when it noted the atten­dance of some ORD Campers at a protest over the week­end. In some ways, sure.

I’ve even tried to explain it in the past: I co-wrote this blog post with Joe Born after 2014’s event.

The clos­est I’ve got­ten is that it’s all in the atten­dees: their mashup of dis­ci­plines and pas­sions, along with their open­ness and will­ing­ness to share, cre­ate the magic that is ORD Camp. There’s an incred­i­ble amount of over­lap, sur­pris­ing over­lap at that, when you get enough smart and pas­sion­ate peo­ple in one place.

In one case this year, my ses­sion about the Dan­ish con­cept of hygge ended up hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant inter­sec­tion with another ses­sion about the refugee cri­sis and how it’s being han­dled in Amer­ica. A ses­sion on work goals came up in a ses­sion about inten­tional hap­pi­ness, which came up in a ses­sion about express­ing cul­ture through food, which came up in a ses­sion about fer­men­ta­tion, which came up in a ses­sion about eco­nom­ics, which came up in a ses­sion about gov­ern­ment, which came up in a ses­sion about burnout.

While each year isn’t explic­itly themed, look­ing back you can often rec­og­nize the theme for that year. The first year I attended, in 2012, had empha­sis on the Maker Move­ment.

This year was clearly the year of “how can I help?

With that in mind, here are my take­aways from this year’s ORD Camp:

  1. You are not alone
  2. You can make a difference
  3. Together we can move the world
  4. Be kind, and take care of each other

These can be applied to life, to activism, to work.

If you care about the future, remem­ber that the only move that mat­ters is your next one.

Your turn.