Australia’s Future Is Not A Spectator Sport: Why We’re Doing JUNKET (And How We Chose The Delegates)

A message from Junket's curator, Jess Scully.

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In the words of Australian philosopher/poet Chet Faker, talk is cheap (my darling). What we need right now is action.

When I was brought on as the curator of Junkee’s first youth unconference JUNKET — which takes place from November 1-3, at QT Canberra — I was asked to bring together 200 people of action (with the help of a diverse bunch of brains).

Individually, the delegates we found are all already deeply engaged in shaping Australia’s future. But by connecting them with each other — so they can crew-up projects, and draw on each other’s networks and know-how — Junket has the potential to amplify their impact exponentially.

Picking these people was an extremely difficult task.

We received hundreds of public submissions, which we whittled down to a shortlist. Our programming committee and the rest of the Junkee crew made a lot of their own suggestions, and reviewed the final list I created. I spent a frightening amount of time researching: reading articles about young innovators; trawling through industry and state award finalists; lurking in Facebook groups, and tracking conversations on Twitter; going through my notes from conferences and my own events over the past few years.

I’ve been enormously inspired — and more than a little awed and intimidated — during the curation process. The list we ended up with (and you can read some of the biggest names here) is packed with extraordinary young minds from a variety of backgrounds, fields, professions and communities, who have the potential to enact great positive change in Australia. In fact, many of them are well on their way.

They’re fighting deforestation for palm oil and protecting the Murray Basin. They’re re-designing job-sharing and the way we work, or trying to bring fairness to the world of internships. They’re building new lines of dialogue and collaboration between Australia and China. They’re disrupting investment and superannuation. They’re communicators who’ve won Cannes Gold Lions, engineers designing smart wheelchairs, building robots or rethinking how we generate energy. They’re researchers working on adolescent mental health and cyberbullying, they’re Indigenous health workers, human rights lawyers, astrophysicists and surgeons, or urbanists reshaping the places we inhabit. Between them, they’ve founded a social impact toilet paper company, a sex-toy company, a network supporting women in music — and more apps than you can fit on your phone.

These people are engaged, informed, and motivated. You’ll know some of them from their jobs as actors, journalists, commentators, advocates or designers; you’ll know them from radio or from #QandA; you’ve read their books or attended their events.

So if they’re already doing so much, you might ask, what help could they possibly need?

Getting out of the echo chamber

Sometimes when you buckle down and focus on your own research, or become passionately enmeshed in one community, it can be easy to feel isolated, and difficult to see beyond your own world to find out how your idea could affect or be improved by other groups. Some may be forging their own paths, with no mentor to turn to, script to follow, or people to share ideas with; others may be experts in their fields, but they might not have the diverse skill-sets or  media channels to make the noise they need to.

At Junket, we’ll give these people a chance to look up from the microscope (or skateboard or canvas or keyboard or classroom), put down their books (or stethoscope or guitar or … you get the idea), and learn from each other’s ideas. They’ll discover new strategies for making change, launching campaigns or securing funds, and they’ll build contacts with people from different communities, locations, or industries.

We want to help the 200 young leaders we’ve picked make change, faster; to build the networks and support they need to tackle even bigger challenges; to launch those pipe-dream projects that may have seemed impossible. There’s no better place or time to build new projects. We’re hoping this moment will spark conversations that evolve into action.

On the first day of Junket, there’ll be a board on which anyone can add their idea; those who do have 30 seconds to pitch it to the rest of the group, to invite people to join them in a discussion. The full event program will be formed in real-time. I’ve challenged our delegates with a series of provocations: open-ended questions or statements that will help them frame their pitches in a positive way, inviting collaboration and contributions from specific types of people. These provocations ask our delegates to consider the resources we have to draw on, the opportunities we have to exploit, the processes or systems we need to reinvent, and what they see as our top priorities — and our next steps.

Like all of Junket, these provocations are oriented toward action, optimism, creativity and resilience. The outcome is theirs to shape, just like the conference program — but knowing the amazing work our Junket delegates do, and the diversity of their interests, life stories and knowledge, it’s going to be a stimulating couple of days.

It’s not just about them; it’s about you, too

Although there’s no audience for the Junket unconference, we’ll be reporting on the event as it happens on and across social media (using the #Junket hashtag); the impact will go way beyond the 200 people in the room.

A heap of Junkee staff members will be documenting the action from the elevators to the afterparties, and media from across the board will dive into the stories and ideas that emerge from the event. The team will be particularly active across Twitter, Instagram and Periscope. They’ll be covering the event live, but also diving down into key discussions and issues in more depth, and we’re producing videos to capture the knowledge and experience in the room.

We’ll continue to facilitate conversations after the event; the event itself is just the beginning.

Junket takes place at the QT Canberra on November 1-3.

Visit the Junket website here.

JUNKET’s curator Jess Scully is a festival director, media producer and curator who uses creativity and the arts to engage communities with each other, and with the public realm. She is also the curator of Vivid Ideas, one of the curators of TEDxSydney, public art curator for Green Square Library and Plaza and instigator of Kids Hack Day Sydney.