Now What, Lexington? is coming soon and I have been reflecting how the event last year impacted my life. I heard about Now What through Twitter and really had no idea what to expect. An “unconference” – what was that? But I knew that I wanted to get involved more as a citizen of Lexington. I was good at talking, and discussion is important, but what had I really done to improve my city? So off to the Carnegie center I went.
How does an “unconference” work? Well, it’s quite brilliant actually. They start with a blank board with sections for each conference room and 45 minute blocks of time. Then anyone who has a topic they want to discuss blocks a spot off on the board and off we go. There were so many topics on the board I found interesting. Topics around bringing technology jobs to Lexington, untying the skies (getting rid of above ground power lines), how to not repeat CentrePointe, as well as art initiatives like how to do art on a small scale. There were too many to remember them all, but the board was full and I actually had a hard time deciding where I was going to spend my 45 minute blocks of time.
One of my favorite sessions was by In2Lex. They were discussing what Lexington can do to bring and, even more importantly, keep technology jobs to the area. There were over 20 people in the room just coming up with ideas. From downtown design to attract younger workers, to working with the University to retain students after graduation, to how we attract business to the area. This was not city council (though many council members attended the event) or a review board or Commerce Lexington. This was a group of citizens working together to figure it out. They didn’t get permission; they just showed up and participated. I found it invigorating.
I’m not going to tell you every idea from that day was implemented, even some of the really good ones. There was a lot more talk than action. But there WAS action. Change for Art and Epic Small both got their start that day.
Do you enjoy the local authors at the Farmers Market? That was an idea that came out of the unconference. A program to help recruit and retain new employees by getting to know their interests and introducing them to their community during the interview process is still being worked out, but came from a discussion in one of the sessions. There are so many more.
We ended the day by discussing the event, what ideas we liked, what worked and what didn’t. The main question for me was how do I get more involved? But I realized that by participating, I already had. I met people that day that have become great friends and I have found ways to get more involved in projects that are important to me. I am so excited to see what this year will bring. What will be the next big idea? I can’t wait to find out.