Dare Conference has been going for three years but this is the first time I’ve been able to attend. It’s a unique conference focused on collaborative business culture from a digital/ geek standpoint. Founder Jonathan Kahn wanted to explore how to build trust at work – and how we can collaborate better.

Kahn used to be a web designer, but he grew frustrated at the disconnect between espoused workplace values and the reality. He set up DareConf to bridge that gap.

Space to network

The first thing about DareConf is that it’s great for networking (in the best sense of the word). You get the chance to connect with like-minded people on a deeper level than at a purely speaker-focused event.

The conference is a mix of presenter-led talks and interactive workshops (like the one in the photo). In the talks, Rifa Thorpe-Tracey, Laura Morgan, Penny Walker and Holly Burns spoke about overcoming their own problems at work. Those excellent, honest and open talks set the tone for the interactive sessions.

Kindness of strangers

You end up having intimate conversations with relative strangers. A bit of it was role play but we also addressed actual problems we were facing with clients, colleagues etc. I came away with some constructive ideas and new tools to implement them.

Until yesterday, my idea of a safe space was curled up on the sofa, dog at my feet, with a plate of toast and Marmite. Apparently not. A safe space is the first responsibility of facilitators when running a workshop: create a place where everyone can contribute without being judged.

Likewise, Yes, and… is not just an improv comedy technique – it’s a way to hold more constructive meetings.

Practical takeaways

This is all good stuff. But how about the time and resources needed to implement these ideas? Creating safe spaces, along with other trust-building techniques like active listening, all take more time than the autocratic, top-down approach. Building collaborative relationships takes commitment and, like social media, it’s all about prioritising.

As Instagram’s Holly Burns said in the final talk of the day: “Having less time can make you do more – you prioritise more ruthlessly”.

What really matters to you in the long run?

Photo: Paul Clarke (reproduced with kind permission)