General Assembly programs

I’m worried about General Assembly schedule overload. The once inviolable plenary sessions now — rightly — harbor duplicates of programming. But the whole thing is getting more and more crowded. Stakeholders complain that their slots are being taken away. I add a complaint about the lack of quality control and lack of expectations for sessions. One solution would be to severely limit the “slots-by-right” given independent affiliates. I also don’t agree with the suggestion I’ve heard that congregations (above independent affiliates) should be given slots but that’s a discussion for another time.

We need some new solutions. The essence of how General Assmbly works hasn’t changed since the first one I attended in 1993. That was the last pre-mass-Internet year, and how we communicate has changed dramatically in the last decade. (Almost all for the better. ) Also, GA has mushroomed into a huge phenomenon while its inner core of doing the Association’s business has crumbled. It needs structures that support this reality.

First, we need a way of siphoning off the least useful sessions. Why does one want a session at GA? Exposure for your cause, perhaps. Validation. Reaching new constituents, and if your cause is new, perhaps just reaching critical mass.

For starting new things. the organized and timed “off-schedule” use of UUA departmental hospitality suites would help. I know this happens because I was at the charter meeting of LUUNA (Latina/o UU Networking Association) and the (then) Department of Ministry gave the Christian seminarians an hour of meet-and-greet time some years ago.

Also, at Day Job, I constantly hear about “poster sessions.” As best I can tell, this is a way researchers can share their research in poster format — others can read it at their own pace — followed by clusters of brief in-person verbal descriptions. I would also want to see the posters online a BloggerCon way. (An example.)

From what I can tell, poster sessions are still approved or declined by the conference organizers, but the threshold is a bit lower and more researchers’ work can be made public. But many, many, many more bright ideas could get their fifteen minutes (literally) if some time was given to this model.

And here’s a thought about annual meetings. Establish two thrity-minute blocks before a meal for the various affiliates to use (if they want) for statutory annual meetings. Two because there are overlaps in meetings, and two blocks are better than one to try to avoid conflicts. Before a meal incase a meeting runs unexpectely long. But let’s get real: a full program block is wasted for what is a perfunctory if legal task for many organizations.

That is all.

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