Gather is back for their third edition, this time at Expohuset in Sickla on the 12th and 13th of September. They are bringing more than 50 speakers, 15 sessions and more than 10 innovation labs. We had the chance to talk with program editor Paulina Modlitba ahead of the event in order to gain a better understanding of what to expect.
Gather was founded by Jakob Grandin, who runs Under Bron and Trädgården, and the first one was held in 2017. Many people would call Gather a conference and it also has components of a festival, but Paulina says she sees it mainly as a community and a meeting place for people who are curious about the future and innovation. That is where you get to meet people from other fields that you would normally not meet.
We highlight the most important questions when it comes to the future, saving the planet and building a sustainable society. We also put an emphasis on how we can collaborate to make that happen. It’s a place for people who want to be a part of the solution in different ways.
There are five main themes, all topical and interesting in their own right: Urban Planning & Society, Humans & Machines, Democracy & Power, Media & Creativity and Business & Transactions. They want to cover as much as possible but keep the focus clear enough.
Following all the latest trends in order to set the agenda and find the speakers for the event requires a lot of work. Paulina attends a lot of other conferences and reads a lot of books, but she also sees social media like Twitter and Instagram as important sources for hearing about new people and new topics. She also meets different people for lunch at least twice a week to catch up on the latest in various fields. She also makes use of her huge global network, including people from her time spent studying at MIT Medialab.
When the Gather team is starting to put together the programme, they have a workshop with 20 people from different areas to brainstorm about topics that are particularly important at the moment. Combining the most important ideas from the workshop with Paulina’s own research, she then plans the program based on each of the five themes having three unique focus sessions.
Some of the topics this year are Gather Galactic, which is a space-related session… The Stuff that Could Save Us, which is connected to the environment and how we can save the planet… and Love as a Service, a session that focuses on dating apps and how meeting people in new ways is changing the society and us.
I always make sure we have a diverse speaker line-up in every possible sense. As close to 50/50 men and women as possible… this time around we actually have 60 % women. But also diverse in other ways, so for example some of the speakers are openly queer. And there is always a mix of researchers, entrepreneurs, students, public sector, non-profits, and so on.
Gather also aims for the attendees to be as diverse as the speakers and topics are. As people are still often working in isolation on their own fields, Gather wants to provide the opportunity for people to meet, network and collaborate. They also offer discounted tickets to students as well as NGOs and startups, in order to get a good mix of people.
The way we design Gather, how we communicate about the event and how we put together the speaker line-up, all of that attracts people from a very diverse audience.
Another important part of Gather is co-creation in what they call Labs.
Gather is not only about sitting down and listening, but also about offering different settings where people can continue the discussions, as well as workshops where people generate ideas around some of the topics that we cover.
The speaker line-up this year includes so many interesting speakers that there will definitely be something of interest for everybody. We asked Paulina to name some of the most interesting speakers you shouldn’t miss. She mentions one of the keynote speakers Elsa Sotiriadis, who has a research background in biotech/medtech and nanorobots, but is now more of a speaker and investor, as well as a sci-fi author. This combination of a person who does a little bit of everything is something very typically Gather.
The most controversial speaker on the line-up is the spokesperson of the Flat Earth Movement, Mark K Sargent. He will meet the host of the podcast You are not so Smart, David McRaney, who will question him on stage. Earlier this year McRaney did an insightful podcast episode on the Flat Earth Movement and how to reason with people who believe in conspiracy theories.
He also had this more humble angle around the fact that we are actually all prone to believe in facts that could be questioned in one way or another. It’s easy for us who are used to seeing ourselves as intellectual and educated to think that we are not going to believe in fake news or conspiracy theories. It’s dangerous to think that we are immune.
Gather also includes a music festival portion that goes under the name of Gather Night. It is a one-day line-up of DJs and artists at Trädgården this year, on the 13th of September. Paulina’s top tip from the music repertoire is Fatima & The Eglo Live Band. Fatima is a London-based Swedish-born r’n’b/soul artist, who is in fact the sister of Amie Bramme Sey of Raseriet podcast fame and half-sister of Sweden’s formidable soul queen Seinabo Sey.
What we want to do with Gather is to build a long-term community. It’s a place you would want to return to. We also invite our speakers back to Gather in order to build that sense of belonging. We believe in the long-term effects, that’s when magic really starts happening and people really start collaborating.