Thanks to Reid Beels for the photo.

A few weeks ago was the Community Leadership Summit 2011 in beautiful Portland, Oregon. For those who are unfamiliar with the event, I started the CLS three years ago to be the central meeting place for those who are passionate about community leadership and management to get together to share ideas, experiences, and get to know each other. Apologies for the delay in getting this online. Life has been more than a little hectic recently. All good though. 🙂

I deliberately architected the CLS with a few core values. Firstly it is free and always will be; I believe that it is always important that everyone is welcome and that you don’t need dollars in your pocket to learn how to grow a community. Secondly, the event is strictly vendor-neutral. The goal of the CLS is to provide an environment in which everyone is welcome to share their experience and knowledge and thus everyone is an equal at the event (no-one gets elevated privileges because they work for a particular company). I want offer my thanks to our sponsors Google, Microsoft, Ohloh, OpenStack, Oracle, and of course our wonderful friends at O’Reilly. Each of these companies sponsored the CLS in the true spirit that the event was intended.

So how did it go?

I was really happy with CLS this year. We had a large number of attendees show up on the Saturday and while there are always fewer people on the Sunday, the Sunday was jam packed with interesting discussions and plenty of folks joining us.

The CLS is an unconference, which means that the attendees volunteer and run sessions. This gives the event a far more diverse range of content instead of the other organizers and myself deciding what the topics should be. Throughout the weekend I wandered around and popped into sessions and every session had thriving and vibrant discussions going on.

In addition to the diversity of content, I was really happy this year with the diversity of people attending too. We had people from a wide range of organizations joining us, and many people who had never been to an unconference before. I also noticed a very high proportion of people who work professionally as community managers. I am delighted to see our profession continuing to grow – one of the primary reasons I organize the CLS and wrote the The Art of Community is to continue to grow the profession of community management.

I was delighted to also see event continues to strike a positive gender balance; often these types of events are filled with men, but the CLS has traditionally had a high attendance of women, and more-so this year. I am not sure if this is indicative of community management or the CLS being a comfortable, empowering and safe environment for women, but I hope it is both. On this note, I also put together a anti-harassment policy (unceremoniously nabbed from the Ubuntu Developer Summit site) just before CLS11 kicked off.

Selfishly, I am delighted with how CLS11 turned out. I got to listen to everyone’s stories, learn new approaches to community management, and make a bunch of new friends. I really do think I met some of the nicest people in my life at CLS11. 🙂

Fortunately it seems the other attendees came away with a similar experience. The event feedback sessions were full of positive experiences of the event and positive suggestions for the future. There is lots of discussion continuing on Twitter with the #cls11 hashtag.

For those who are curious, yes, CLS12 is going to happen next year in Portland again. I will get the website updated when I get more details of the dates.

Thanks to the other organizers, Van Riper, Dave Nielsen, Nate DiNiro, Marsee Henon, John Jons, Jeff Osier-Mixon and Erica Bacon for helping with the event and thanks for everyone who came along!

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