Progress 2015 might be the biggest ideas festival you’ve never heard of. This is the second time it is being held (the first was in 2013 when 1000 people attended at Melbourne Town Hall and speakers included Barack Obama’s campaign field director, Jeremy Bird).

This year the (big) ticket price reflects the prestige of the names it has attracted – and its scope. It runs over three days and includes talks, panels, workshops, films and music, so there’s a lot of bang for your buck.

Alongside fugitive and whistle-blower Edward Snowden speaking via video link, on the bill are barrister and human rights and refugee advocate Julian Burnside; Australian of the Year Rosie Batty; moral philosopher Peter Singer; CEO of the Climate Council, Amanda McKenzie; author Naomi Klein (via video link); the managing editor of Junkee, Steph Harmon; and Taren Stinbrickner-Kauffman, an Australian now living in the US who founded and runs the SumOfUs, a corporate accountability movement. That list is just a drop in the bucket.

Progress 2015 is aimed at those working in not-for-profit organisations and those working as professional campaigners, policy advocates and organisers. But event organiser and executive director of the Centre of Australian Progress, Nick Moraitis, says Progress is also for anyone interested in the big social issues facing Australia right now.

Considering the massive program, which covers issues around feminism, media, climate, childcare, disability, politics, science, family violence and music over three days, we asked Moraitis for his tips on don’t-miss events.

Keynote address, Net Loss: Freedom?
Edward Snowden is doing his first-ever Australian appearance at Progress. “I think he has chosen this moment because he knows this audience is going to be influential,” says Moraitis.

Panel: Charting a New Course On Asylum Seekers
This panel includes Julian Burnside, Kon Karapanagiotides from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and others. It will focus on refugee rights and the current government policy toward asylum seekers. “We clearly need to see change in that space, so we have to figure out what we want,” says Moraitis.

Panel: Climate Change: Here, Now
This panel will avoid the usual conversation about emissions targets and UN negotiations. Instead, Moraits says the panel will discuss, “How to mobilise the communities that are most affected by climate change in Australia.” Turning farmers, fire fighters and scientists into advocates.

Panel: Our Best Behaviour: Using Behavioural Science to Drive Change
With the head of the Cancer Council and advertising specialist Bill Shannon, and other experts in the field of behavioural science, this panel will look at how clever communication can be used for campaigning and advocacy. “A lot of the tools used in advertising can be deployed for social change,” Says Moraitis

The media
Documentary films such as Citizen Four (about Edward Snowden), and Frackman, the new film out about CSG [Coal Seam Gas] will be shown as part of the conference. It is part of a focus on documentary as a catalyst for social change.

First Draft, Last Chance: What’s Next for Journalism is a panel on the role of the media. It features media owners and philanthropists/investors and Erik Jensen, the editor of The Saturday Paper. The mainstream media is dying. “But there are new digital and niche publications that have a more progressive slant than the Murdoch tabloids,” says Moraitis. “People think philanthropy is the new business model for the media. So we’ll be exploring whether that’s the case or not.”

The Saturday of Progress will be about action. Shifting gears from listening into acting. “It’s more about working together to devise campaigns that tackle things like problem gambling, fracking, childcare, or any area we think is under-campaigned,” says Moraitis. These are hands-on opportunities for people passionate about issues who want to take it to the next level.

On Friday night Godfrey’s Street (near Southern Cross Station) will be closed off for the Progress 2015 party, catered by Kinfolk cafe and organised in partnership with The Savoy Tavern. Progress ticket holders can look forward to bands and DJs and revelling with their fellow thinkers, movers and shakers. Even the greatest of minds need to get a little loose every once in a while.

Progress 2015 will run from May 7–9 at Melbourne Town Hall. Citizen Four will be screening at Cinema Nova in Carlton several times this week including on Wednesday May 6. Tickets are available separately through the cinema.

The ticket price is $649. Non-profit tickets are $399. Broadsheet readers get a 15 per cent discount.* Use promo code “broadsheet” at the checkout when buying tickets online.