Creative thinkers and makers, technology enthusiast, professionals, students and those with an entrepreneurial spirit gathered at the College of Business Building at the University of Central Arkansas Saturday for BarCamp Conway 2014.
While the focus of many startup events is capital and competition, BarCamp Conway 2014 focused on community collaboration.
The participatory “un-conference” event included eight presentations from members of the community ranging from Raspberry Pi to “Creative Doodling.”
“We all have so much to learn from each other, it’s a really great way to spend a Saturday,” said founding member Dan Decker. “We think of it as getting to hang out with over 200 of our closest friends.”
The event was 100 percent free due to local organizations and businesses who sponsored the event including hosting the event, promoting and advertising the event, feeding attendees and providing free materials.
La Lucha Space director Sandra Leyva said she is happy to be a sponsor of BarCamp Conway for the first time this year because the event is very much in the spirit of what La Lucha Space also does.
“It’s good to see more fun projects that focus on networking and partnerships,” she said. “The time for competition is gone; the time for collaboration is now.”
Although the reoccurring theme may be “community growth,” BarCamp Conway was founded in an all out race to beat Jonesboro for the title of first BarCamp in the state of Arkansas.
In the summer of 2010, Decker explains, he and another founding member, Arlton Lowrey, were sitting downtown at Conway Co-Work, a co-working space they started, when Lowrey mentioned BarCamp.
“But the real reason we pulled it off in six weeks was to beat Jonesboro to the punch for Arkansas’ first BarCamp — it’s true,” he said. “Once we got the wheels turning, we had the team in place.”
In 2010, the team planned for a crowd of about 35 to 50 people, but had to keep moving the venue as registration grew.
“Eventually we needed something as big and advanced as the CoB to make it happen,” Decker said. “We’re incredibly thankful for all the support we continue to receive from everyone.”
Saturday was BarCamp Conway’s fourth event. BarCamp Conway has been held in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014. The group is already making plans for another go round next year.