This particular conference was part of the Youth@Work Partnership, and it took place in Mersin, an agricultural and educational hub in southern Turkey in December 2019. Cooked Illustrations was selected to participate as a delegate; a welcomed surprise that we later learned was part of an effort to diversify away from the youth work and education sectors, by injecting entrepreneurial voices from the grassroots. And so we set out from Cardiff to Mersin, via two trains, two flights and one bus ride straight to this seaside city where we tasted Turkish tea for the first time.
Networking done right:
While the emphasis of the conference was on the cooperation between formal and non-formal youth education providers and the social and business sector’s employers, the reality was one of pure network-building. Unlike other conferences we’ve been to, this one had a lot of time, space, and facilitation created to allow moments of real cultural dialogue. The conference even opened with a dance and music number! Which provided us, as reporters on the floor, with fascinating and energetic material that would later influence the visual identity of the final booklet too. Cooked Illustrations believes that often conferences are not about the information being shared but about building connections and friendships through serendipitous encounters, often involving food, booze, comedy, shared tragedy, or dance. For best results, make sure you use all of the above. Conferences are, as poet Donald Hall puts it, a Third Thing
; not about the conference itself, but about the bridging of different people who would have never met one another.