2018 unConference A Great Success


Bright ideas and tangible literacy solutions were just a few of the outcomes from this challenging and productive event.


Sandy Carvajal (World Vision) gets creative with fresh ideas.

Library For All partnered with Griffith University to deliver the inaugural Brisbane unConference on 24th October 2018. Literacy and development experts from across Australia came together for this unique innovation experience.

LFA founder and CEO, Rebecca McDonald, had previously run unConference events in New York and Fiji, with positive strategic outcomes. The Brisbane event was an opportunity to share knowledge and generate collaboration opportunities, guided by an experienced IDEO Design Thinking facilitator.

“The New York event had an immeasurably powerful impact. We discovered opportunities for resource sharing across NGOs that we never would have uncovered through research alone. I was introduced to some incredibly influential people, who have gone on to partner with us on projects all around the world.”

Rebecca McDonald, Founder and CEO, Library For All

What is unConference?

The unConference model retains the deeply satisfying facets of a traditional conference model, like shared learnings and networking opportunities, while breaking away from keynote speakers and one-way information sessions that limit collaborative advancement. Working with a facilitator, participants generate new conversations around ongoing topics in a space where everyone can speak, and everyone is heard.

Originating at Stanford University, IDEO is a process of creative problem solving drawing on design school principles, but applicable across disciplines as a way of driving fresh thinking. International design academic Michelle Douglas generously donated her time to guide our unConference group through the day’s program. Michelle is Program Director of the Masters in Design at Queensland College of Art and has many years’ experience in design-led innovation.


Image ref: http://citl.illinois.edu/paradigms/design-thinking

Creative Connections

This year’s unConference participants came together at Griffith University’s South Bank campus, representing NGOs, including United Way and World Vision, along with a range of academic, librarianship and publishing backgrounds. The day’s agenda was deliberately loose, with a view to participant-led content creation.


Michelle Douglas (Griffith University) guides the group through the IDEO process.

The program commenced with some background to Design Thinking and team activities that helped familiarise participants with each other’s frames of reference. From there, we proceeded through the steps of IDEO – from ‘empathising’ (developing a deep understanding of a challenge) through to ‘prototyping’ (designing a feasible, achievable solution). Some ‘Testing’ took place through role-playing and presenting ideas to the wider group, but ongoing innovation will take place away from the room as projects initiated on the day come to fruition. More than mere ‘brainstorming’, the IDEO methodology sends participants back to the workplace with tangible objectives and action points.

Real Solutions


Kym Simoncini (University of Canberra) and Lara Cain Gray (Library For All)

Working with pen and paper, Post It notes and whiteboards, the unConference format invited participants to move around the room and interact. It was a chance to dig deep about ‘blockers’ to progress, as well as a chance to envision solutions in an environment without limits. If money was no object, what would your solution look like? If you had a magic wand, what is the one tool/program/innovation that would ameliorate a given challenge? Participants agreed that this type of expansive thinking was highly productive, especially in industries so often inhibited by restricted funding.


Sandy Carvajal (World Vision) and Rebecca McDonald (Library For All)

In addition to thinking through specific, actionable solutions to problems, unConference offered an intimate and engaging networking space. Whether at the whiteboard or around the lunch table, all participants had the chance to talk about individual projects and make connections around overlaps with potential mutual benefits.

A social gathering in the beautiful Brisbane sun completed an invigorating, exhausting and highly productive day.

Plans are already afoot for next year’s unConference – will you join us?