Agile Coach Camp Romania: Where Community Meets Emergent Knowledge in the Woods of Transylvania

Dear reader, after looking at the title you may ask yourself what an Agile Coach Camp is and how it is possible to “emerge knowledge” out of it. In fact, a camp is just a camp – a bunch of people gathered around some wooden fire telling stories and having fun.
How can THAT emerge into knowledge??

A story of beginnings …

Eight years ago, 30 agile enthusiasts would meet for the first time in Bran, a stone’s throw from Dracula’s Castle, at “Agile Coach Camp Romania – First Edition, in the Mountains”.
I can still remember vividly the first night together, after a full day of talks, presentations, shares, one-on-one discussions…
It was getting late and people were chatting over the table enjoying the dinner and drinks. At some point, I got my Rory’s ® Story Cubes out and invited people co-create.

In the beginning, I got some perplexed looks from the people around me.
After a while, a loooong and contorted collective story based on the visual hints on each cube from the collection was unfolding…

Slowly slowly surprise, laughter, and crazy ideas were ignited, surfaced and exploded in the early spring night. It was May 13th, 2016 and I was seeing my dream come alive.

The story of Open Space had began for me a few years back.
I was attending the ALE (Agile Lean Europe) Conference edition in Bucharest, in the autumn of 2013.
For two half days out of three, the 250-people conference had transformed into an Open Space un-conference, meaning that anyone in the audience could become a speaker should they wanted to host a session!
There were 6 or 7 discussions in parallel at any time, and if you wanted, you could attend them all!

That was my first contact with Open Space, and it was at a big scale!
To me, it was a shock and bewilderment at the same time, but after the initial feeling of overwhelmingness I started to play the game… and it felt like magic!

Open Space: Four Principles and The Law of Two Feet

If you haven’t attended an Open Space event yet, you must know it can get very intense very quickly.
The idea behind this method comes from Harrison Owen, (who sadly passed away just a few days ago on March 16th, 2024). In the years 1980’s he had organized the First International Symposium on Organization Transformation as a traditional conference and wanted to know which part the participants enjoyed most. The answer he got was: THE COFFEE BREAKS!
So he decided to experiment with an edition where the whole conference was like a big coffee break. And he named that experience “Open Space Technology” or Open Space for short.

People would come and create the agenda on the spot, and every participant could be a speaker.
A very important aspect is the “Open” part. The event is open for everyone wanting to participate. This is a key element that gathers the right people. And this is the first principle of Open Space:
“Whoever comes is the right people”

After the Agenda is created, the audience splits into parallel discussion groups and the location transforms into a big, buzzing hive.

People would join whichever talk they deem interesting and contribute by asking questions or sharing from experience. The host is creating the space for conversation and “Whatever happens is the best thing that could have happened”. The host does not need to be the expert, they must have a passion for the topic and ask the questions so the audience can contribute. They are “prepared to be surprised”.
If the discussion is not over after the established timebox, they can continue it in another place, because “Whenever it starts is the right time”, and “It’s over when it’s over”

At Open space there is only one law, The Law of Two Feet: “If at any time you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing – use you two feet and move to some place more to you liking.”

Emergence of a New Community
You may ask, dear reader: “And what happens when people start moving from group to group following the law of two feet?”
One could say that when Ideas collide and get spread, something similar to CROSS-POLINATION can happen.
When I would hear an idea in one group, I could take it to another and in this way contribute to the emergence of some new knowledge on the subject.

An important element is co-creation, revealed in the sense of the pride at the sight of all the outcomes from all sessions. The ideas written, drawn or scribbled on the flipchart pages are showcased during the event so that the people that couldn’t attend a session can have an idea and overcome their FOMO. And yes, recording the ideas is a key task in the hands of the session host.

Over the years we hosted at Agile Coach Camp Romania friends from allover the world: Germany, Poland, The Netherlands, France, Czech Republic, USA. Also, during pandemic we experimented with a hybrid format.

Our topics: we had recurring topics proposed over the years, like “Agile at Scale”, “Estimations”, “Coaching Dojo”, “Graphic Facilitation”, “Leadership”, “Retrospectives”.
We also had controversial topics like “#NoEstimates”, deep topics like “Life Purpose Discovery”, playful sessions like “LEGO Serious Play”, and many more.

A key ingredient for us is CREATIVITY.
In the opening of the Camp, we explain the Open Space concept and create a space for the agenda in the middle of the room. Every opening is different, and in a year we managed to create an original play, which we performed on the spot. The action took place in a magical forest in Transylvania, where a fearless group trains its qualities and explores the group’s resources through the metaphor of the Bee (pollinating knowledge) and the Butterfly (flying in freedom):

“Once upon a time
in a Transylvanian village in the middle of the magical forest
There was a gathering;
People were coming from all cardinal directions and settling under the blue sky. […]“
The full story you can read here.

Last but not least, we play a lot. I could say we got it into our DNA, right from the first edition.

Powerpoint Karaoke, Werewolves, Happy Salmon, board games, playing guitars in a band are a few activities that would fill our nights and create lasting memories…

Join us at 8th Edition: 20th-22nd Sep 2024
This is how drop by drop, year after year, a new community of agilists was emerging and getting shape in Romania.
It has continued for the next seven years after 2016, missing only the pandemic year 2020.
The community has grown up, and the event has grown from 30 to 50+ participants.

In 2024, Agile Coach Camp Romania takes place from 20th to 22nd September, in Albota Trout Farm, a place with breathtaking views over the Carpats, in the heart of Transylvania, near the unique scenic route across the mountains “Transfăgărășan”.

If you want to join us, there are still a few places available. Just go on and grab them! We welcome passionate people: Coaches, Facilitators, Developers, Testers, Team leads, Change agents, Scrum masters, Product owners, Managers and others interested in agility.
The place is at one hour drive from Sibiu, 5 hours drive from Bucharest and 3.5 hours drive from Timisoara.

See you there in September!

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