An Unconference like no other

A reflection on our annual event, Curiosity Camp

By Dror Berman and Ali Jordan

The last two years have been challenging. Endless video meetings, a global pandemic, wildfires, and overall chaos left us craving human connection. We missed the opportunity to spend quality time with friends and peek into the worlds and passions of new friends.

Given this, we were incredibly excited to celebrate Curiosity Camp again! It’s our chance to connect with some of the most amazing people on earth. We were literally counting down the days.

And Camp 2022 did not fail us. It exceeded our expectations. Incredible guests joined us from Australia, Hong Kong, Denmark, London, Sweden, and the US. Our hosted sessions were better than ever, providing vision and insights across many critical topics. Most importantly, we had a chance to reconnect with old friends and build relationships with many new ones. But before we dive into all that, we’d like to briefly reflect on the journey of Curiosity Camp and why this annual event is so important to us.

Looking back

We first started Camp back nine years ago as an experiment. After coming across so many incredible entrepreneurs and technologists in our day-to-day work, we wanted to design a unique experience that would facilitate genuine connections for our community. We wanted to bring together the best scientists, technologists, artists, and business leaders. We wanted to create an environment where they could connect at a deeper level, get new ideas, and come out inspired to build a better future.

We landed on what we affectionately call an Unconference. It’s an event with no preset schedule, no booths, no panels, no stuffy board rooms, no ego, and most importantly, no cell service. It’s an opportunity for the most curious minds in science, technology, business, and policy to converge, share insights, and build on each other’s ideas.

Our campers range from Nobel laureates, government officials, well-known CEOs, Ph.D. fellows, to founders and researchers. No matter what stage of life and career our Campers are at, they are free to mingle comfortably and enjoy one another’s company. Therefore, we save the bios and lists of accolades for after Camp and encourage campers to bring their sense of curiosity instead.

Our campers held thought-provoking sessions on topics they love, technologies that excite them, scientific discoveries that they are curious about, or some of their deepest fears about family, company building, or where humanity is headed. Unlike regular conferences, these sessions are a discussion, where everyone is expected to contribute and share something new. There are up to eight concurrent sessions at any given moment, so the most challenging aspect of Camp is choosing a session!

The event is held on a beautiful campsite by the Russian River with hiking trails, a swimming hole, and tents. We’re sure to mix in other activities for campers. But of course, it’s not the venue, the delicious food, or the activities that make this event a success (although our camper’s dance moves are a must-see) — it’s the people.

Here’s what we recommend to our campers who want to get the most out of this event:

  • Get outside of your comfort zone. The more risk you’re taking, the more valuable Camp becomes.
  • Everyone around you has a superpower. Try to find what it is.
  • Lead a session on something you are passionate about.
  • Keep an open mind. Learn from others and build on their ideas. Be open to changing your perspective. Experiment.

Curiosity Camp 2022

While we say it every year, Camp 2022 was the best one yet :) Over 130 incredible campers from all over the world came together to spend time with us. While we maintain Chatham House Rules and cannot share the identity of the campers, we thought we’d share some of the most exciting topics brought up in over 60 sessions.

Here’s a peek into some of the unique sessions and guests we hosted this year:

  • A computational physicist and synthetic biologist from MIT led a discussion about the science and ethics of terraforming Mars (and our planet) with microbes.
  • A former Stanford student and current entrepreneur spoke about his journey fleeing from Syria following a chemical attack on his house and the way he used technology to benefit Syrian refugees.
  • A leader from the US special forces spoke about their approach to recruiting, developing, and retaining talent.
  • World-leading quantum physicists from Caltech and Google X spoke about traversable wormholes and entangled black holes.
  • Senior leaders from the largest tech companies in the world partnered with startup CEOs to talk about building great company and team cultures.
  • Two startup founders and a special forces fighter spoke about managing your own psychology amid difficult times, overcoming adversity, and dealing with failure.
  • A former European State Secretary for Foreign Affairs led an in-depth session about the future of Europe.

The sheer variety of fascinating sessions this year was mind-blowing. All sessions were lively and exciting. The conversations allowed for diverse opinions and often confrontation while fostering inspiration and surprising discoveries. We’ve witnessed new ideas pop up, seen resources and support shared openly and honestly, and seen partnerships formed. As for us? We’re left feeling hopeful for our future, rejuvenated, and inspired by the work that we do.

Looking ahead

We think we can’t top the previous Curiosity Camp each year, and we continue to be proven wrong. The event stays true to its roots while evolving into something even more special. Next year we plan to once again descend on our new gorgeous campsite with more people, more programming, and more opportunities to learn from one another. And as we look ahead, we will continue to conceive ways to bring a taste of camp into other events and our work. Curiosity Camp will continue to be a huge part of our ethos at Innovation Endeavors.

Please drop your info here If you would like to nominate yourself or someone else to join us for Curiosity Camp next year.

#StayCurious

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