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Getting creative on the beach


FIERY ROUNDS: The Goa Project is inspired by the The Burning Man festival in Nevada

You could get the audience to watch TED videos - and sure, they're ideas worth spreading - but after the video is over, they're back to looking at funny cat GIFs on their mobile phones. Breaking audience ennui is one of the biggest challenges speakers and presenters face. Though the idea they're presenting may be great, there's always someone in the crowd who's gotten comfortable and is about to yawn spectacularly. That's the nature of an audience - passive at best and bored at worst.

The Goa Project wants to shake things up and change the dynamic from one person talking on stage to, well, something more dynamic. The Goa Project wants to harness the collective creativity of people from different walks of life, throw them together in a stimulating environment and force them to compete in the generation of ideas. "Think of it as a sort of cross between TED talks and The Burning Man festival, " says Udhay Shankar N, one of the Bangalore-based organisers of The Goa Project, a community event and social experiment planned for March 28 and 29 in Goa. It is inspired by The Burning Man, a week-long annual event held in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, known for its anything-goes style of creative expression.

"The idea grew out of a bunch of a late-night conversations, " says Shankar. "The plan is to get a whole bunch of smart people from different backgrounds together, and get them to be creative. Just to give you an example, we want to facilitate the kind of interactions where a nuclear physicist, a computer engineer and a social activist could come up with a new way to, say, make gobar gas. "

The curious thing about this project is that there is no audience - everyone is a participant. You can't nod off or check cat GIFs on your phone. Participants must bring something to the table. They could run a drum circle, or give a talk on Japanese manga, or conduct a workshop on making travel videos. It can be presented in any format. "But it has to be interesting. That's the core point, " stresses Shankar. The event aims to restrict participation to about 350 and will be curated by a two-step process. Participants can vote for topics they think are interesting (the crowdsourced 'funnel' ). The event will also have a number of curators who have a vote on ideas they think are worth presenting. A volunteer-driven event, the organisers are an eclectic bunch of people who share a common interest in getting people excited. Most of the members of the core team are strongly associated with Bangalore's vibrant start-up culture.

"It's a creative hybrid of workshops, teach-ins, and roundtables - tossed together with jam sessions, exhibitions, and show-and-tell, " says Shankar. "There are six tracks: Performing Arts & Music, Entrepreneurism, Film, Society, Visual Arts and Fringe. The agenda for these tracks is created by the attendees before and at the event. Everyone who shows up is a potential speaker, and those who don't speak contribute by posting photos, blog entries, podcasts, and video clips of the proceedings. " Confirmed sessions for the event range from sculptor John Devaraj to investor Mahesh Murthy, with various others such as the Krav Maga India team presenting workshops.

The Goa Project also aims to become one big party at nightfall. There will be foodie events, a film festival, pop-up exhibitions and stores and a lot of dancing. Why Goa? "We want to take people out of their steel jungles, and transplant them into the inviting sands and sun of Goa, " says Shankar. "It sets the tone for open-mindedness, and enables all of us to interact with interesting people in surroundings that maximise the transformational potential of the experience. "

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