Conferences / Unconferences

Our (amazing) team at Alliance for Better Health is planning an event in June. The purpose is to bring together people in our community who are using the Healthy Together platform, celebrate the community’s accomplishments, and strengthen the connections so that we can find greater success in the future.

I offered a thought this morning that perhaps this isn’t a conference, but an unconference. I wikipedia-ed (it’s a verb, yes?) the term, hyperlinked it in my email and (after sending) went back to read the wikipedia entry. It’s accurate and (I now know) expresses a long history of unconferences. What surprised me is that one of the first unconferences in “modern” times was in 2003 and .. I was there! Despite a dead website, I was able to find someone’s notes on my session @ bloggercon. It’s funny how the world is a circle.

To me, the core of an unconference is not unlike the core of a nontraditional post-secondary education, and the core of a person-centered approach to health: the goals are defined by the people who participate rather than by the people “in charge.”

Students at Hampshire College define their educational goals. Faculty, staff, technical and physical resources are all there to support (and – yes – guide) students on their path.
Attendees at an unconference listen, learn, and direct the course of a community of co-participants. Organizers are there to support (and-yes-guide) but the goals of the unconference are expressed by the participants, not dictated by the organizers.
People served by medical care providers, behavioral health providers, and social care providers are the ones who define their own goals. Words like “noncompliant” or even “non-adherent” become laughably out of place once we understand who is really in charge. We physicians are (I suspect) the worst violators of this imbalance of power, as we’ve been educated to “write orders” and “define treatment plans.” Only recently have we discovered shared decision-making. If “primum non nocere” is really our oath, perhaps we should converge it with “non satis scire” and offer some humility: audire ad primum non nocere, quod non satis sit scire. (“Listen to do no harm, it is not enough to know.”)

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