Spark Camp: Curating a Crowd

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I'm just back from Spark Camp, an un-conference helmed by Amy Webb of Webbmedia Group.  Co-hosted by the Niemann Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, Spark Camp assembled c. 75 people to exchange ideas on how to respond to the ongoing disruption of journalism.  In addition to the lively discussions around evolving business models, here are the more personal sparks that flew:

1)  Curation can be applied to crowds, not just content — Defined by Beth Kanter as “sorting through the vast amounts of content on the web and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme”, curation of content is a valuable skill, to be sure. But as I participated in these sessions involving a diverse (50% women/men; 30% of color) group of experts, it became increasingly clear that ideas weren't flying by happenstance.  Amy, and Spark Camp co-founders, Matt Thompson (NPR), Amanda Michel (Guardian US), Andrew Pergam (Washington Post), and Jenny 8. Lee had spent four months assembling the right guests for their weekend-long dinner party (complete with a FrieNDA), as they described it.  Given the flawless execution, it would have been easy to forget how critical curation was.  Yet, when you get the crowd right, content worthy of the cherry-picking that is curation, will follow.

Lippmann House: Niemann Foundation for Journalism

2)  I really do need a ‘dare to dream' team — Prior to Spark Camp, each participant was invited to submit a proposal for an Ignite presentation.  I was ready with a topic (I could build on my HBR piece Disrupt Yourself), but was hesitant to volunteer.  I wasn't afraid of the work involved to condense 45 minutes of content into 5 minutes,  I was afraid to put myself up for scrutiny.  However, when I thought of dream team pals on The, several of whom would be at camp, I could almost hear them whispering in my ear:  enter the room, sit at the table, chair your life.

3)  Our world changes one conversation at a time — I will remember the esprit de corp during the larger sessions (and the hot fudge sundaes and steamed clams during the breaks).  But I will most remember my one-on-one conversations.  My newfound friends are now, in a small way, a part of my dare to dream team, and I theirs.  Because of our conversations, the spark inside me is shining just a bit brighter today.

In summary:

As with the best of dinner parties, I was honored by the invitation, delighted at the spirited, though not dispiriting, debate about the future funding of journalism, and enlivened by my many private conversations.  To paraphrase Hemingway, “If you are lucky enough to attend a Spark Camp, it will stay with you for your whole life, for Spark Camp is a moveable feast.”


What are your thoughts on curation?  Do you curate your crowd of employees like a dinner party?  What would happen if you did?

What are some of the favorite conferences you've been to?  Why?

When you are looking to muster up the courage to do something, who are the people from whom you draw inspiration?

Have you ever considered that a person can be a part of your dare to dream team for even just a few moments?

What are the parallels between curation and Psyche's 1st Task — the sorting of the seeds?

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