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:
- You are not alone
- You can make a difference
- Together we can move the world
- 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.