The Ronin Institute has initiated a series of “unconferences” on subjects of interest not only to independent scholars, but to anyone with an interest in how academic scholarship is funded, organized, carried out, and disseminated. “Unconference” refers to an informal format where the details of the agenda are worked out in real time, as attendees organize around specific topics of mutual interest. This format ensures a “bottom-up” organizational structure that is in keeping with the values and priorities of the Ronin Institute. It also guarantees that if you join us, we will cover topics that are of specific interest to you!

2021 unconference

This unconference, a “Scholarship Values Summit”, was open to all, and was held in three sessions between Sept 14-16, 2021.  More details at the conference site:


2020 unconference

This unconference’s theme was “Rethinking Fundamentals about How We Live and Work”, and was held remotely in two sessions: June 23 and June 24, 2020. Initially limited to Research Scholars, it was later broadened to include scholars from our Fellow Travelers network.

Held early in the COVID-19 pandemic, this Unconference focused on exploring different ways that we can shift the fundamentals of our social and economic infrastructure (e.g., food systems, economic systems, health care, education, governance) to better reflect a healthier and more holistic and sustainable society. As humanity faces a multitude of global-reaching environmental, economic, and public health stressors, themes in contemporary thought that have been typically marginalized are now emerging into more mainstream discourse, including circular and “doughnut” economics, local currencies, universal basic income, permaculture, mutual-aid networks, deschooling, equity, and many others.

In this unconference, we asked: What can we do to move closer toward a better future of work and living? The goal of the unconference was to help build collaborations, knowledge sharing, and collegiality among Ronin scholars, which can lead toward new Interest Groups or to seed new initiatives, so the Institute can play a stronger role in exploring alternative models for living and working

2016 unconference

The first Ronin Institute Unconference was held November 5, 2016, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. It was held at The Democracy Center, located in Harvard Square, at 45 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The theme was “The Future of Careers in Scholarship”.

We appreciated the generosity of the sponsors for this event:


The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation (http://www.kauffman.org) is a leader in the promotion and understanding of entrepreneurship.


The Society of Professional Consultants (http://www.spconsultants.org) is an organization that helps individuals establish themselves as independent consultants and helps established consultants to maintain successful careers.


Ronin Institute Research Scholars Gordon Webster and Alex Lancaster are the principals of Amber Biology consulting (http://www.amberbiology.com), working at the intersection of biology and computer science. They have published a book together, Python for the Life Sciences.


Ronin Institute Research Scholar Anne Thessen is the principal of The Data Detektiv (http://datadetektiv.com), which specializes in custom data analysis and inference in the biological and geophysical domains.


Research Scholar and Board Member Steven Orzack is the founder of the Fresh Pond Research Institute (http://freshpond.org), which served as one of the inspirational models for the Ronin Institute.