To make sure we are listening to a diversity of perspectives, much of OpenCon’s programming is driven by—and centered around—highlighting the needs, interests, and work of attendees.


The Unconference is a part of the meeting in which participants are able to control content and sessions. Participants get to propose, vote on, and run sessions themselves. This enables peer-to-peer learning, collaboration, and diverse session types and topics. Rather than content being exclusively dictated in a top-down fashion from the Organizing Committee, unconference sessions allow for a more participatory conference design that puts the needs and interests of participants at the center. More information on how to run unconference sessions can be found on our unconference webpage.

Story Circles

The passionate people that work on advancing open research and education are at the heart of the OpenCon community. Our community members come to work on advancing Open with widely different backstories. In 2016, we gave participants the time and space to hear about each other’s experiences, foster deeper connections with and empathy for one another, and build community through Story Circles.

Participants broke up into small groups (no larger than seven people). Each person was then given the chance to tell their life story in eight minutes—from when they were born to how and why they got to where they are today. The Story Circle session was one of the most highly rated parts of the 2016 meeting, and we would encourage other conferences to consider adopting a similar model. Access our guide to facilitating story circles here.

Project Presentations

We want OpenCon to be a platform for students and early career academic professionals to showcase their work. Each year, we invite participants to submit proposals for short two-minute presentations about their current work. In 2016, we were inspired by exciting projects and initiatives advancing Open from over twenty participants. We aim to select presenters across Open issue areas (Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data) and geographical regions. As we describe in greater detail in our self assessment, assessing shortcomings in speaker diversity in past years motivated us to be more intentional about increasing the diversity/gender balance in participant project presentations.

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Ensuring your Venue is Accessible & Inclusive