What is the Online Facilitation Unconference (OFU)?

The Online Facilitation Unconference (OFU) is a learning exchange on the art and practice of facilitating in virtual environments. It is a community-driven event that brings together people from the public, private and non-profit sector from around the globe whose work includes, or who have an interest in, facilitating online.

OFU is a place to share, learn, make new connections – and have fun!

What do you mean by “virtual environments”?

“Virtual” refers to any process or experience that takes place outside a strictly in-person context. At OFU, we explore the methods for delivering facilitation using any tool, technology or channel that provides virtual venues, for example phone conferences, online chat, video conferencing, virtual reality, augmented or hybrid in-person processes and events – you name it!

What is an unconference & how does it work?

OFU is an unconference. While traditional conferences come with a pre-determined schedule, an unconference allows the participants to create the agenda on the fly based on who shows up and what their interests are. In a nutshell, participants bring their questions and topic ideas and – in collaboration with their peers – suggest, schedule and host the sessions and workshops that best meet their needs.

Unconferences require attendees to put in a bit of extra work, but the results can be magical.

We will provide an attendee-only online collaboration space to facilitate discussion of topic ideas, session planning and scheduling, and documentation of outcomes.

What’s the timc commitment as an attendee?

You can spend as much or as little time as you’d like. Based on past experience, the average participant tends to attend a handful of sessions over the course of the entire week. Sessions can vary in length but most commonly take anywhere between 45 and 90 minutes, though shorter or longer is allowed, too, of course.

Which platform do you use to run the sessions?

OFU is a BYOT (bring your own technology) event. The session hosts are free to choose whatever tool or platform (or combination of tools) they like to run their sessions.

In the past, sessions have relied on a wide variety of technologies, giving attendees an opportunity to discover new options or become more familiar with those they already know.

The only technology OFU provides for all attendees is the attendee-only online collaboration space, which runs on Mighty Networks.

Where do I find the schedule?

We will have a handful of pre-scheduled sessions earlier during the week (Monday through Wednesday, October 19–21). Details for these sessions will be announced over the coming weeks leading up to the event.

Participants won’t start scheduling their unconference sessions until the event gets under way.

However, to make planning ahead a little easier, we suggest three 3-hour windows throughout each day, optimized for trans-continental bridging (Americas, Europe, and Australasia):

  • Morning – works well for Americas + Europe
    8-11am Pacific Time / 5-8pm in Berlin)
  • Evening – works well for Americas + Australasia
    4-7 pm Pacific Time / 10am to 1pm in Sydney)
  • Night – works well Europe + Australasia
    12-3am Pacific Time / 9am to 12pm in Berlin / 6-9pm in Sydney)

We encourage everyone to block their calendars accordingly and – when the time comes – please aim to schedule their unconference sessions to fall into one of three time windows on either day of the unconference (Thursday through Friday, October 22–24).

Deviations from this guideline are perfectly OK. We trust that you’ll make it work as best as you can!

Who’s organizing the event?

The event is run by the Center for Applied Community Engagement, LLC, a private institute and social enterprise based in San José, CA (USA) serving the growing professional field of community engagement and public participation practitioners from around the globe through market research, content publishing, industry events and other services.

What’s the history behind OFU?

In 2013, a group of people on the famous Online Facilitation Yahoo group took this idea, which had been brewing for a while, and decided to run with it. Within a few short weeks, the first OFU was held.

In 2014 and 2015, OFU was organized by San José, CA-based digital engagement consultancy Intellitics, Inc.

In 2017, the Online Facilitation Unconference was moved under the ownership of the Center for Applied Community Engagement, LLC.

OFU 2020 will be the seventh time the event takes place.