An Open Letter to Conference Organizers
With valuable knowledge not becoming fully accessible to low-income, low-opportunity fellows, conferences mimic ivy-league universities and country clubs where high class information and networking opportunities are only available to those that can pay the fee of entry. This is something noticed from working with conference organizers over the past year. I understand your need for a higher ticket price. The need to keep your cost down is important for conference organizers. While I was lucky to have enough money to attend last year, many of my skilled colleagues were not. Even though I took extensive notes and shared them with my colleagues, words on a screen or hashtagged tweets do not compare to the experience of having face-to-face conversations.
The point of this essay is not to demand for free conferences or pricing at such a low that your organization cannot support themselves and put on other amazing conferences. What I’m asking is to consider the responsibility one holds as sharers of information for a professional community. A contest can be held, opening up tickets for community organizers. Interested attendees who cannot afford tickets can be offered a work study program to volunteer for a discounted rate. Even a payment plan to pay for tickets in monthly increments can ease the burden that lump sums can bring on financially strapped attendees. All these ideas can bring forth a stronger class diversity in the conference community.
A larger footprint of influence can occur once the doors of information are open to a wider audience, one of all class levels. Design communities can strengthen in poorer neighborhoods, tutoring opportunities can formulate in apartments, and the next generation of makers can be encouraged to prototype their paper sketches; all from an opportunity to hear something inspiring at your conference. How amazing would it be to have the opportunity to throttle this change?
James T. Green
I sent the original letter to a design conference being held this year. The content above is an excerpt, with the conference’s information removed for a wider audience. I reposted the modified version here because I felt that this is an issue that occurs on the national level and needs to be shared.