Public Lab Wiki documentation

Host an event

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Why host an event?

Events can be a way to bring new people into a project or to explore ideas together; they're also a great means of learning and teaching different techniques. There are several types of event models Public Labbers use for different reasons. Read more below to find an event structure or idea that could help you shape your event.

What is a Public Lab event?

There are several important traits that all Public Lab events have. If you’re coming to an event for the first time, they are things you can expect to happen, and what makes a Public Lab event unique. For event organizers, keeping them in mind can help you shape the activities of your events.

All Public Lab events:

  • Follow the Public Lab Code of Conduct,
  • Create learning moments,
  • Level the playing field for people to participate,
  • Increase collective understanding of environmental issues,
  • Allow space for people to think and act creatively, use available resources, and move towards action.

The Public Lab Code of Conduct

This code of conduct applies to all spaces managed by the Public Lab community and non-profit, both online and in person. It is both a resource for engagement, as well as a set of rules all Public Lab spaces must adhere to. More about how the Code of Conduct was created can be found on this page.

Creating learning moments

All Public Lab events create learning moments between people. The events value the knowledge and resources brought to the space, those that are built collaboratively when people share a space and the learning that happens outside a physical event space.

Sharing a Space:

Sharing a physical space is one of the best ways to build collective knowledge. One way in which Public Lab events work to create learning moments is by heavily favoring active participant engagement activities over passive activities.

Active participant engagement: Active participant engagement looks like “people doing stuff together.” This style of engagement favors group activities where each participant physically takes part. Active participant engagement examples include: breakout sessions, brainstorming, group discussions, and "hands on” activities.

Passive participant engagement:Passive participant engagement can often look like someone standing in front of the room facing a group of people. This looks like one person engaging and others listening. Examples of passive participant engagement activities include: presentations, lectures, and readings.

Sharing Out

While sharing a physical space can be a powerful thing, Public Lab also values the learning moments that happen outside of the physical event space. By capturing what is learned at an event, what questions came up, and what people are interested in exploring further, events can engage the broader Public Lab community. By doing so, both event participants and the broader Public Lab community builds collective knowledge and learning moments.

Some resource to engage in the broader Public Lab community during or after events include

Online Resources:

  • Post a question* can be used to capture questions (and answers) that come up.
  • Post a research note* can be used to share out about what was learned, or what people are interested in exploring further.
  • Post an activity* to share out about what was done so others can attempt to replicate or simply learn from your work. Write to a Public Lab list to reach out to a group of people with a particular interest or in a specific geography.

Over the phone:

  • Call into an OpenCall to talk with others about some of your questions, ideas, next steps or take-aways.

Leveling the playing field for people to participate

While we recognize in the section above that everyone who participates in a Public Lab event has something to share and learn. Public Lab events also seek to actively “level the playing field” so that everyone has an opportunity to optimally engage.

To actively “level the playing field” participates should practice tactics such as:

  • Developing plans together,
  • Identifying and use a shared language (stay away from jargon or language that is not clear and understandable to participants),
  • Recognizing and checking the privileges we come with,
  • Aiming for equal speaking time,
  • Favoring engagement of all participants over individual expertise on a subject matter, and
  • Upholding the Public Lab Code of Conduct to ensure that all participants can safely and comfortably engage.

Facilitation resources can be helpful in creating an equitable space for people to engage. (more resources here)

“Leveling the playing field” also means working to make accessibility a priority. We do this by recognizing and mitigating the challenges to participants face to the best of our ability. Challenges in accessibility can include but are not limited to: travel or physical accessibility to an event, scheduling limitations, language, any associated event cost, parenting or child care needs.

Increasing collective understanding of environmental issues

By increasing our collective understanding of environmental issues we’re better able to see pathways forward in our work, and create inroads for others to participate. Events can explore environmental topics, methods, geographic issues, and/or strategies towards advocacy and/or outreach outcomes. Events should explore existing information, resources and ideas, as well as create space for people to develop out those that are new.

Allowing space for people to think and and act creatively, use available resources, and move towards action.

Individual and collective creativity and ingenuity are the most highly valued resource at a Public Lab event and are at the forefront of each event activity. Public Lab events also use and exercise available physical resources. This means that the supplies, materials, and tools at hand, are resources for the event. These resources should be treated with care, and should be accessible for all participants. However, because creativity is most highly valued, some of the best events require the least materials.

Finally, Public Lab events value progress, and should include time for participants to identify pathways and next steps for moving forward, the opportunities to engage others in the work, and the plan for sharing out what was explored and learned.

Types of events

Choosing an event type depends on your goals! Read through these examples to help figure out what kind of event you'd like to host.


1. Community organizing events

Organizing style events are done to help you and your group push forward on a cause. If your community is facing a new environmental challenge such a new polluter, organizing events help you to get started, get people in the room, get on the same page and to move your group forward in a your objectives. They can help you to:

  • galvanize people to a cause,
  • understand the resources you have within your community,
  • identify the relationships people have to eachother,
  • pinpoint the things you need to gather or do to accomplish your goals, and
  • set strategies in your action.


  • Power mapping
  • Picking an advocacy strategy

2. Events to try out and remix a new idea

Many Public Lab events seek to draw on attendees' various skills and experiences to come up with and/or adapt some new ideas. A hackathon is one example of this kind of event, as are:



3. Teach and Learn

Some events focus on teaching a specific set of skills, to enable a larger group to use a method or technique. This can give concrete skills to participants and broaden the number of people who can put a method to use.

Some events of this type seek to "train the trainers" and enable participants to teach the skills in turn to a yet another group. This helps to ensure that there is broad access to a particular method and that it can be adapted and shared with many new people and in new places.


Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.

Also see events you can host in a series such as: - The Wetlands Series - The Garden Series

4. Hybrid or umbrella events

Some events incorporate a variety of activities to span all of these. Public Lab's annual and regional Barnraisings are a good example of bigger events with a lot of separate sessions, often run by attendees, which span all of the above event types.


Public Lab events

Events others host