Past Conferences in Perspective
I have been organizing events in one form or another for the past 21 years, and while I like to think I have gained some experience at this point, I still very much look forward to the surprises that I know will come my way.
Events are like children, you birth, feed and nurture them, all the while stepping back to provide the room in which they can grow. Events grow their own culture, attract people for whom the themes resonate strongly and will surprise the principle organizer by showing that those things one thought were very important are not so important at all, while the real substance will arise where one least looked for it.
Questionnaires from attendees in 2012 confirmed our expectation that face to face conversations between attendees were more important than merely arraigning for a series of presentations. Our experiments in small group social engineering designed to encourage these kinds of conversations were well received. And to some surprise, we learned that processing the pycho-emotive side of our understanding of Collapse was of great importance to many people. Based on this feed back we decided to expand the 2013 conference to 3 full days, provide more time in the schedule for attendee conversations and to bring in more spiritual content.
In 2013, questionnaires from attendees emphasized... The Cold. We had daytime temps in the low 30's for most of the event, which completely bollixed our schedule for attendee conversations in our open spaces. Without our new tent pavilion it would have been much worse. Staff liberated every spare coat and blanket from our homes to help people with the cold and we made the best of it.
People broadly complemented the 3 day format with more space between the presentations. And continued voicing their support for the spectrum of content. Again folks asked for more "hands on" workshops and we have responded with this years "Practicum." Six days of hands on work in Collapse mitigation directly following The Age of Limits .
Comments from Attendees
2013 Age of Limits Conference
"The content and presenters were very well selected and the conversations were intelligent and timely. The social atmosphere was very friendly, congenial."
The spiritual aspect is very important. Can you find more and different Earth-Centered voices for spiritual reflection, politics and leadership?"
"The pace and schedule were very good. It allowed me time to unplug and process, which I had to do a number of times. A couple of the interesting scheduled conversations never materialized, it might have been the weather - too damned cold! And everyone huddled around the fire instead! :)"
"Three days is a better length, given the density of the subject. Long blocks -1:30- with no choice of competing sessions is just right."
"More process oriented in-between-session opportunities would be helpful to deal with the emotions. Another grief ritual please."
"I found presentations helpful, though the question-and-answer components were the most valuable to me.I do appreciate and want more focused small group discussions, but it did not always work out that way, what with the cold. And people need transition time in between the major presentations."
"I was pleased with the evening social times, especially how Thursday evening warmed people up for the conversations to follow."
"I have to say - I go to a lot of social gatherings ranging the spectrum - But I have never felt at such ease in just walking up to a group of people and interjecting myself.into the conversation. Very well done."
"The conference length is perfect. I enjoyed the insight and information from all the presenters. I particularly liked when presenters shared what had and had not worked for them ie: Orren on Four Quarters, Bates on The Farm."
"I enjoy the more practical workshops. And folk dancing is a very important post-collapse community building tool - please keep it on the program."
"Maintain the deeper thinking of Collapse. This is a journey of people who have weighty information and a unique opportunity to speak to our fears and share ways in which we cope."
"Orren's introduction on Friday was very helpful in understanding the realities and some adaptations of Collapse. You see people "living" it and "doing" it and it hit me that this is dead - serious - stuff!"
"It's an excellent venue for Age of Limits , because the founding ideas of Four Quarters match the conference. Staff and facilities were very accommodating given the very cold weather. Food and entertainment were great, including the vegetarian items."
"The venue was fabulous and much more than I expected. Hot showers, flush toilets! Perfect! The food was simply fantastic. My compliments to the Chef and the staff was lovely."
"Amazing staff with beautiful, compassionate response to the challenges of the cold!"
Comments from Attendees
2012 Age of Limits Conference
"The Friday evening social was definitely a great way to start. Relaxed schedule is good. Small group discussions would be a good improvement, people have so much on their minds that they need to say."
"I felt and feel grateful for the communication skills exhibited here, meeting my needs to be heard, understood and respected."
"Yes, I think the format was excellent. Talks interspersed throughout the day with time off in between. I found the question/answer periods as rewarding as the lectures themselves."
"Excellent Social Engineering !!"
"I did enjoy the big discussion session with the "Popcorn." I'd also enjoy an opening welcome talk from Orren to set the tone and intention for the weekend, maybe an opening prayer or invocation."
"Yes, well done. By far much more interactive participation than at any type of "Conference" I have previously attended. Just keep doing it."
"I think you've achieved a good balance. The social time was enjoyable and the information time was relaxed and encouraged participation. All in all a great time."
"There was lots of time for informal discussion which was good, the presentations could be even more interactive. The Saturday night: Discussion in the Round" format was good, I would like to see smaller group workshop/discussions around topics that attendees could suggest."
"I would enjoy more workshops around spirituality and emotional content."
All good - we probably need grief work around this but can't say I want to go there just yet, the interactive spiritual stuff surprised me at how much it helped.
"I would have liked a "Primer." Peak Oil 101 / Collapse for Dummies to help ease me into the big picture."
I would like to see more practical what-to-do workshops. That said you had some big thinkers that really gave perspective to our shared problems."
"The space and time given to facilitate connections was ample and essential. Perhaps having "focus groups" areas designated at the breakfast/dinner tables would help organize more specific networking and conversation."
"Add "Preparation" from a rural and urban aspect, more spiritual and add in more of the practical. Speakers were great with a broad range of topics. It was a great start."
"More recognition that climate change won't go away by hiding in a city. More content on the ethical conundrums, living in community and generally staying sane."
"I think the attendees of this conference are already on-board about the collapse. Expansion to more specific individual and group mitigation strategies are a natural next step."
"The focus on talking about collapse was unnecessary to me, I think we are all pretty well informed around the issues, that's why we came to the conference. I wish that the focus was more about the solution than the problem."
"There were many newbies to Peak Oil at this event, perhaps some introductory sessions around collapse would be helpful? The spiritual and emotional content was much appreciated."
I"I would like to hear alternative living situations explore more deeply. Transition community people, other intentional communities?"
"Workshops? How about what attendees are doing in their own lives to transition... Sharing Circles."
"All staff members seemed delightfully competent and kind to me. I'm very grateful for the delicious meals and accommodation to my vegan preferences. I would recommend both 4QF and this conference without reservation.
" A lovely setting, the staff were excellent and the meals were wonderful. Since I don't own a car it was an effort to get here. I would recommend it and will return next year."
"Meals were wonderful and delicious!!!!!!!! Four Quarters is a beautiful place that is clearly tended with love and I would recommend it to others. I'd recommend the conference to others too. The real plates and silverware (not disposables) and the wash stations were a big plus for the event. I think it should be a longer conference: 3 full days. I plan to return next year."
""Yes, Yes! End of May is a tough time to leave the garden or farm, but it was worth it."
"Great venue. Only complaint is that those wonderful benches got hard, but I'll bring a cushion next time!"
"Four Quarters is a beautiful venue and is ideal for this kind of conference. The facilities and meals are excellent. I will recommend Four Quarters to others and return next year if at all possible.
"Food and staff were excellent. No complaints. Hospitality fabulous. Would recommend to friends. The closing party was a great way to conclude and celebrate our coming together."