A few years ago, I used the term ‘meticulous informality‘ to describe what I liked about the ALT conferences. Maren has blogged how it’s a term we’ve discussed since occasionally on dog walks. Both parts of the term are equally important for participants in an event: informality encourages participation and suggests equality; meticulous means care and support. One without the other is not sufficient – just meticulous can be stuffy and hierarchical, and solely informal can be chaotic and confusing.
Without it being an explicit intention, it captures our approach to GO-GN also. Having just hosted the largest GO-GN workshop in Edmonton, I know how much time and care goes into getting so many people to one location, when you are responsible for every aspect. The work our administrative team of Kylie and Hannah do in organising travel, hotels, meeting spaces, food and entertainment is meticulous indeed. I feel this kind of labour is sometimes overlooked in academic circles (and I also think even some GO-GN members don’t appreciate the level of work required). At the workshop we create an informal environment through the activities and the manner we structure the days.
I have joked that the breakfast is the most important part of the GO-GN workshops. I feel this because it’s a time when all the members are together and breakfast is an inherently informal meal. But the meticulous informality pervades many aspects of GO-GN, not just the workshops. The Research and Conceptual framework reports have been successful in part I think because they combine meticulous depth of the research from members, expertly curated and added to by Rob Farrow, combined with the informal, approachable graphics from Bryan Mathers. Come in, those graphics say, you are welcome here. The same would apply to webinars we host, or our communications I feel.
It’s just a hypothesis, but I wonder if part of the disillusion many feel in higher education is that we have drastically increased the meticulous part of the equation, while simultaneously decreasing the informality aspect. As I contemplate my post-OU life, I think meticulous informality will be a guiding principle for projects I want to be involved with.