Sometimes, ad strategists get to go on #Junket’s too.
Remember that scene at the end of Mean Girls where everyone is happy and braiding everyone’s hair and there are no cliques, only seamless integration between the freaks, geeks, jocks and the beauty queens? Now, I’m showing my age and my horrendous taste in movies, but that was pretty much what the Junkee Media Junket was like by the end of two days in the bubble of QT hotel Canberra. One big, beautiful, intellectual love fest.
For two days in October, 200 of Australia’s most interesting (and #interested) millenials came together for an unconference.
What is an unconference you ask?
A conference without any of ‘the boring bits’. No panels, no speakers, no agenda and certainly no Powerpoint to speak of. In fact, we barely sat down. The conference room was only used as a break-out space and part of the unique program included a ‘critical run’, a Beyonce dance class and a human library (where I met the American Ambassador while wearing Havianas…I did us proud guys).
Did I mention the all expenses paid accommodation, food and open bar? Telstra, Qantas and Visit Canberra put the junket in #junket.
The attendees were a carefully curated bunch of Australia’s most socialised nerds, the brightest and boldest in their fields, diverse and opinionated, hungry to make an impact on their world any which way they could.
And to be fair, most of them already were doing this long before Junket even began.
At the beginning of the conference anyone who felt the urge was invited to partake in a 60 second pitch to the room, stating what they wanted to run a session on. The best of which included; ‘How can we make aged care more attractive to young people?’, ‘How can we close the gap on Indigenous health and stop the number of indigenous women who still die in childbirth?’, ‘Why don’t more people job share so they can pursue more of their entrepreneurial ideas on the side?’, ‘Who and what is an Australian in 2015?’, ‘Why don’t we talk about sex more?’, ‘What is leadership and why aren’t there more introverted leaders?’ and ‘Have soundbites destroyed what makes science, science, it’s complexity?’.
We had most bases covered, except surprisingly, what to do with the refugees. General consensus was that it was an issue that needed to be solved politically rather than with innovation and fresh thinking. Nonetheless, with some editorial intervention it swiftly found a place on stage.
From here, the Junkee team (probably stayed up all night) and created an agenda that turned these topics into 55 unique sessions, each run by the person who pitched it, and attended by anyone who was interested.
The issues were debated, strategized and ideated on in mini-groups and in most cases were solutions focused. The best came to the party with a distinct problem to be solved (just like a good creative brief), the less wonderful came with a topic to discuss but less of a direction for solving it (just like a crap strategy). All were fascinating and rich conversations.
I think, however, that the most important part of this adventure weren’t the topics we covered, or even the insanely instagrammable mid-afternoon treats (jam injectable donuts anyone?), it was undoubtedly the opportunity to meet and connect with people who we would never normally have anything to do with.
Every introduction started with ‘well I do this, but I’m really interested in this’. No one was scared to put their hand up and say something silly, everyone was ready with a personal anecdote, ideas to share, and the enthusiasm was at full viral load.
One of the coolest sessions was hosted by Visit Canberra. It was a ‘human library’ where we could ‘rent out’ a person to share their story and chat with. These people included the Amercian Ambasssor to Australia, in a gay marriage and ex director of a zoo with a lion named after him (I have a minor crush). We had a great chat about representations of politics in pop culture and he left me with a sense of optimism that eventually Australia will follow the rest of the world footsteps and make his marriage legal here.
But while I was at Junket I also curated my own ‘human library’. Housing some of the more interesting people I connected with. Purely by accident these are all females but I promise the guys were brilliant as well and I’ll tell you about some of them if you ask, though I’ve lost my voice after three days of non-stop chatter.
So let me introduce you to a few of the gorgeous people I’d like to keep in my very own human library and hope that one day you get to meet them too.
Sarah Moran: Despite many of the world’s biggest tech companies, such as Microsoft, Google, Intel, Twitter, being run by women in Australia, there is still a notable gender imbalance in the local tech industry. Sarah started Girl Geek Academy with an audacious goal – to teach one million girls how to build apps and create start-ups by 2025. She runs Girl Geek dinners, ideation sessions and hackathons in Melbourne and Sydney and I’ll be heading along to the next one very soon. We discussed solutions to ‘de-masculainise’ the gaming industry such as moving it from a Tech industry definition to one in The Arts.
Laura Stokes: By day, advancement director of Queensland University’s International House, by night, organiser of Brisbanes TedXWomen. A lady with far too much energy for her own good and general enthusiasm for bringing everyone into the conversation, Laura is currently working on an app to connect women with mentors. She described it to me as LinkedIn meets Tindr and that combination certainly made a lot of sense.
Chanel Costabir: Chanel has been recognised as one of Australia’s top entrepreneurs under 30. She draws on her background in psychology to offer a unique take on the stuff we wear ‘closest to our soul’. She incorporates psychology into the lingerie business, educating women on how to use the right colour lingerie to trigger the right emotions in any situation. And she’s not talking about the partners, she’s talking about the women themselves and how they feel when wear a certain colour.
Andrea Myles: I finally found another China geek! Andrea is ‘Chief Instigator at the China Australia Millennial Project, an organisation designed to bring China and Australia closer together. We discussed how we can use creativity to help Chinese partners overcome their fear of failure and at the same time teach Australians to shut up and listen more. Crucially, we discussed the importance of cultural translators, not just language translators when doing business in China.
Emma Beckett: CSIRO nutritionist by day, volunteer at MPAN, the Missing Persons Advocacy Network by night. We discussed how the biggest problem with missing people isn’t in fact those that are missing, there’s only so much you can do to find them, but the families left behind. Without death certificates they are often unable to access bank accounts to pay the missing persons rent, close down accounts or access phone data. The friends and families left behind are resolved to a miserable limbo and it’s actually them that need our help. We developed a communication strategy to draw attention to the space left when someone disappears and raise awareness for the true tragedy of missing people.
So, that’s just a glimpse of what occurred for a few days in Canberra but as the Sydney team discovered yesterday I can talk for a good while about everything that went on. It was inspiring, invigorating and reminded me once again of the importance of getting away from our desks, off Google and Facebook and spending time in the real world with real, interested people.
The more we can make time to do it, the better our ideas and enthusiasm for what we do will be.