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The Unconference – Taking on the challenge

The Unconference, No. 2

The annual oikos Alumni conference took place at the end of August in St Gallen, welcoming participants joining both in person and online. From Friday 21st until Saturday 22nd,  26 people from 11 countries gathered for the second time to make the Unconference a success for the second time. We learned, we laughed, we debated and together hosted 12 inspiring workshops over the course of the two days.

New times, new formats – challenge accepted!

Challenges are better dealt with from a positive perspective, which is why we considered this very unusual and difficult year an opportunity to try out new things. 

We decided to take on the difficult task of creating a format which allows people physically gathering in the same place to interact in a fun and productive manner with people checking in from home, in front of their computer screens. Our objective was to create a new and unique open space for all, allowing a similar flow as (the so far “normal) physical gatherings of workshop participants

The main obstacle was to bring people of different locations together through a screen while keeping the creative atmosphere of some of them interacting, physically present in the same room. On top of it we had to make sure the event wouldn’t pose a health risk to any of the participants. The safe distance between them, although it took a little to get used to, in the end proved to be no obstacle in keeping the classic oikos atmosphere and the feeling of togetherness among everyone present.

How did we go about it?

Having a projector and camera at hand during the various slots, we added an interactive online whiteboard tool, considering it a good way to make it accessible also to the online participants on the one hand and keep physically attending attendants in touch with their devices to keep a close link to the online community.

What participants said?

“As one of the concluding workshops to the Unconference, it addressed the need for specific competences in leadership during times of uncertainty. Our capacity to lead our teams and peers is often put to the test during dire times, and identifying the challenges is the first step in pushing ahead. The preceding workshops on the importance of powerful questions and effective communication provided a good foundation for this session since they form the cornerstone of good leadership. The workshop was moderated to perfection as we managed to identify the specific challenges, categorized them, described the necessary competences, where to obtain them, and established certain “Best Practices” that would give some of us an anchor point. I’ve had to personally make some tough decisions, and it was rather cathartic to reflect on them and identify my lapses. I’m glad I got to learn from people who have handled situations better than I have. It’s often the best way to get started.”

Shyam Sri, on “Leadership in time of uncertainties” workshop

Facing the complexity of or world, what is under our control? What can we consider as right action? In our session on Sustainability & Virtue Ethics, we explored how tending to old philosophers’ wisdom can give us guidance in these uncertain and turbulent times. I enjoyed following the outlines of stoicism and how they invite us to reflect on our role as a human beings in the cosmopolis. The stoic virtues of courage, practical wisdom, temperance and justice came out to be very applicable and resonated with many change agents in the room. Together, we applied our new insights using a decision making canvas that can help us to step into virtuous action.

Sophie Charrois, on “How to have conversations about Climate Change in your daily life” workshop


This second edition, a bit particular, has been a huge success. The combinaison of the online & online participant is a great added value for those who can’t attend and therefore to bring the diversity our network represents. Members from anywhere in the world could attend, we even had a session organised by a member located in Brazil and other participants from outside Europe. 

To go further, feel free to have a look at our digital whiteboard. Next year, we hope having every session captured in it. Link : 

What’s next?

We take a little autumn vacation, so we will be energized to get to planning the 3rd edition of the St Gallen Unconference in St Gallen and online. In case you are interested to join the team and bring in your thoughts and ideas for the next event please let us know and we will add you to our team calls which should be starting in October/November 2020.

In case you will enjoy the surprises we come up with until next year and rather play your part during the next conference as an attendee and/or workshop facilitator, mark your calendars because we are looking forward to see you next year in St Gallen : 

20 & 21st of August 2021 !

Facebook event : 

Feel free to already mark your calendars !