A great deal of web-based work was necessary to organise this conference. Potential participants had a constant stream of questions and answering them was seriously time consuming. One problem we encountered was that people sent their queries to multiple organisers, and some were answered by two people, some none at all. Particularly during the fund raising stage when there were lots of queries about applications, amounts, rejections, acceptances etc, this became problematic.
- Organisers established a common inbox (a ’front desk’) but still had trouble when more than one of us were checking it. The solution we found was to designate one person to check the front desk inbox, and not to answer all the mails, but forward them to relevant people who have designated areas (ie registrations, financial applications, conference program, visas etc).
Registrations for the conference were at times downright chaotic. People who had registered correctly in most cases received all the correct information and had no problems. But those who weren’t properly registered, through their own mistake or that of the organisers, often did not receive the details and information about the conference. The problem was simply that one person was burdened with the enormous task of doing the registrations, and at the time this unfortunate person had a full time job. In retrospect this was far too much work for one person, particularly someone with limited time.
- In future, an intern or staff member will ideally be dedicated to the task of registering participants and making sure they receive the correct information. They will need to spend most of the working week doing it in the month or so preceding the deadline for applications, and the month afterwards. If this isn’t possible, two or more people will be necessary to deal with the workload. It would be best if these people are physically in the same place, but if not it is imperative they coordinate their work closely.
- In general it is a significant advantage for organisers to be able to meet and work face-to-face. There was an accumulation of work relating to registrations in the crucial last weeks before the conference. This took up time of the organisers when we needed to be doing other tasks. The reason for this was that deadlines for registrations were extended twice.
- In future, hopeful participants should be duly warned that a deadline is exactly that, and not just a vague guideline. Organisers should make sure dates are communicated clearly, and then stick to them. There is much work to be completed after the registrations are over, and allowing the process to continue into the end of December was not a good idea. Outside influences demanded our program be changed at the last minute. There were two major changes from the original program, the first being the addition of long plenary sessions. The plenary sessions were not very participatory and people found it hard to sit passively for 2-3 hours without falling asleep. In addition we found that group plenaries are not very effective in terms of reaching consensus- large group discussions are time consuming and can be repetitive as everyone wants to have their say.
- Plenary sessions where participants have limited should be kept to 1.5 hours maximum.
- When aiming to reach consensus between a large amount of people, such as at the GYG founding congress, is it advisable to split into small groups to first discuss and identify the main points of divergence.
The second major change to the program which we feel is regrettable was the loss of time for participant led, issue-based workshops. Originally in the conference program there was an entire day designated for workshops. The purpose was to give participants a chance to present on their area of expertise or interest; to give us the chance to learn from each other. It also gave participants a chance to be leaders and develop their public speaking skills. However, it was reasoned to us that the major purpose of the GYG founding congress was simply to establish the organisation, and therefore the workshop were unnecessary and should be sidelined. While the logic was understandable, we couldn’t simply sit in a room for four days talking about forming an organisation. We had to stimulate ourselves with the reasons we are activists in the first place; and a global conference is an amazing opportunity to exchange with people from other cultures and continents who care deeply about the same thing you do. It is a truly motivating experience to find this in common with others.
- Participant led, issue- based workshops may not be integral to the political outcome of a conference, but they are important, educational and enjoyable.
- Conference programs should be prepared well in advance, with the advice of outside parties, but ultimately young people are probably capable of creating the best program for GYG.