From 7 to 10 September 2023, Austria will be the venue for an extraordinary meeting of international thought leaders who share a common vision: designing a better world for the future. BOLD Unconference promises a global exchange of knowledge aimed at creating real change. However, the term “non-conference” can cause confusion for many: what exactly is a “non-conference”? Essentially, it’s a more relaxed version of a conference that doesn’t adhere to the usual guidelines or traditional conference agenda. We at Trending Topics wanted to see with our own eyes what this could actually look like in implementation.
BOLD Unconference in Vienna
“The BOLD Unconference is not an ordinary event. The topics have been selected directly from 10,000 Austrian companies. We are facing the most pressing issues of the future. It is an intense exchange with many meetings between innovative minds and talents that “It aims to show us new paths.”
On Thursday we attended the first day of the BOLD Unconference at the WKO building in Vienna and experienced first-hand what such an event looks like in reality. We can say this: we are moved.
Once the bold minds arrived, there was a very relaxed atmosphere that clearly stood out from traditional conferences. The atmosphere was filled with happy laughter and humorous comments from the supervisors. There was even a joke about Austrian culture, which made it a custom to greet each other at lunchtime with a friendly “meal”, as if this were a small ritual of sympathy with the local culture.
You can see that the participants were looking forward to a break from the usual gridlock of the conference. Admittedly, the view from the top floor of the WKÖ building and the view of Vienna didn’t make it difficult to relax.
But now let’s get to the content. First, the moderators humorously asked the group what the non-conference was supposed to be like. “In a non-conference, there is a rough structure and a main topic, but the specific topics are chosen automatically by the participants on site. “The working groups are formed dynamically depending on the interests and needs of the participants,” was the answer finally after several attempts.
Next, BOLD Unconference directors discussed the goal of the event – that a specific question should be clarified by Sunday. “How do we plan for what cannot be planned?” There are different thematic concentrations depending on the city. In Lower Austria it’s all about digitalization and mindfulness. Upper Austria focuses on the circular economy. Salzburg is dedicated to the themes of tourism and mobility.
Artificial womb as a possible future for childbearing?
In Vienna, the focus is on the future of healthcare. Yesterday, in the first round, participants were asked to identify “uncertainties” in the healthcare system so that possible solutions could be discussed later. And because it’s not that easy, there were sneak peek talks from some of the boldest minds participating to provide inspiration.
Lisa Mandemaker officiated. She works as a speculative designer. Her personal focus is on the social, cultural, and ethical implications of new technologies in the areas of reproduction, health, and policy.
In her quick talk, Mandmaker talked about her collaboration with scientists, ethicists and researchers to shape future scenarios using developed prototypes. She presented her contribution to developing a prototype of an artificial womb. “We need to work together to design a different future for the world. That’s why I built these prototypes. Today I would like to hear different perspectives on this and talk about topics such as procreation and potential problems, but also solutions!”
Better communication against diabetes
Frederic DeBong gave another lightning talk. He is the co-founder and director of hi.health. He first talked about his startup mySugr, and especially about his personal experiences with diabetes. For your information: MySugr is an app specially developed for people with diabetes that makes all diabetes related data available in a central location. The aim of the app is to make everyday life easier for people with diabetes and help them manage their health more effectively.
DeBong then urged the need to improve access to healthcare with the following words: “What we learned from founding mySugr is that while we have helped patients, we urgently need a new layer of service in the healthcare sector – one that connects insurers, doctors, patients and other people involved in a way that Uncomplicated and much faster than before.
Think of solutions using pen and paper
The bold minds were then asked to organize themselves into groups to finally share their individual opinions, ideas and suggestions. Given the relaxed atmosphere of the conference, participants were able to use pen and paper – just as they did in school – to create colorful posters during brainstorming sessions.
When asked how important the BOLD Unconference is for Austria, it can be said that at its core it is not just an event, but a strategic initiative that supports Austria’s ambition to become a dynamic, inclusive and sustainable innovation hub. The interaction between BOLD Minds and local entrepreneurs, policy makers and leaders fosters the exchange of knowledge and ideas, which can also lead to real change.
The decision to hold a non-conference rather than a traditional conference also proved to be well thought out, as it created a more relaxed atmosphere and allowed participants to create their own topics and discussions. In this way, they were able to respond more flexibly to individual concerns, which was reflected in facial expressions and in casual conversations with participants. Everyone was convinced of the benefit of society and stressed that a better future can only be achieved together and especially by bringing different strengths and perspectives.
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