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January 19 2011


Camps: Setting the stage for 2011

Earlier this week, we shared some of the lessons we learned from running the 2010 Camps Pilot. Not only did we learn a lot, we also got pretty darn excited for all that this network of changemakers can do! I’m writing today to share some of our ideas with you, ask for your feedback, and hear what you think about Camps 2011.

Cultivating the bottom-up

Communities have been solving their own problems for millenia. The networked nature of the web provides us with ways to harness new resources towards local issues, and our web-based platform provides us with a relatively easy way to surface and curate project success stories to our global audience. Together, harnessing human capital on the web, coupled with a networked approach to cultivating and supporting action networks offline creates an environment where there are entry-points for actors at both the local and global level. Funders, technology companies and volunteers are able to plug-in wherever most appropriate, based on their own capacities, interests and aspirations.

The Camps program is designed to provide both a space for people to share and learn, but also to develop new solutions. At the organizational level, we see our role as the ‘context providers’ -- whereby, we create a framework for community organizing while providing some of the tools, resources and support in order to increase the likelihood of success of all participants. By design, we recognize that the energy, ideas and innovations come not from us, but from the bottom-up, and it’s the activities happening at the local level that can change the world. As regional events play out, our job is to curate the stories that emerge from the network, and to work with our partners to harness resources where there is need.

More breadth and depth

The 2010 Pilot saw events in 6 cities, in 4 countries (with over 500 engaged participants). We think the resources and lessons can scale further and have set new goals for 2011. Specifically, we’re aiming to mobilize at least 1000 people this year at regional events in as many as 10 countries around the globe.

You can check out the previous post in this series which included highlights of what we learned in the 2010 Pilot. What’s important to note here? We learned a lot, and will be bringing those lessons with us as we co-develop the Camps program this year with participating organizers. We’re committed to bolstering more resources towards the effort with our technology partners and sponsors, while addressing some of the barriers to collaboration we identified last year (including translation issues). As usual, we’ll be addressing these issues with the organizers, partners and participants, but if you have ideas or other examples we can learn from, please drop us a line any time!

From Local To Global: Surfacing Local Success Stories via NetSquared Challenges

Part of the NetSquared platform for the last 5 years has been the open innovation “Challenges” that open up a call for ideas to the world of innovators working at the intersection of technology and social change. Projects like Ushahidi, See-Click-Fix, and Frontline SMS: Medic received some of their initial funding through participation in the NetSquared Challenges and we are excited about the idea of combining the Challenge process with Camps taking place in local communities around the world.

Here’s the idea in a nutshell: Each Camp could administer a local NetSquared Challenge to surface great ideas for new tools, mashups, or strategies that local organizations are developing to extend the reach and impact of their work.

We are hopeful that by surfacing innovative Projects, mobilizing participation at the local and global level, and providing various entry-points for local participation, we can best leverage our position as a global social enterprise to harness resources on behalf of these projects. We’re excited about the potential of a community-driven approach, as it provides the communities we serve with the means to design social-benefit projects that address contextually appropriate solutions, while leveraging the knowledge, passion and interests of NetSquared’s mission-driven global network.

We are looking for your feedback to help shape the Camps 2011 plan! If you have thoughts on including Challenges or anything else, just leave a comment to let us know!

January 18 2011


Camps: Lessons from the Pilot

After a few years hosting a Global Conference in conjunction with our open innovation Challenge, we found that we had a room full of interesting, smart, excited changemakers. But, we also had a huge portion of our global community that couldn't be in the room. In the summer of 2010, we tried something different: NetSquared Camps, a pilot in regional events. Working with a small group of motivated NetSquared Local Organizers, we distributed all of the resources associated with organizing our annual conference. In this two-part post, we want to share some of what we learned in the Pilot this summer and get your feedback on what we could do next year.

Is Local the new Global?

As the NetSquared Local network grows (events currently happening in 79 cities and 25 countries) we continue to explore the potential of a distributed event model for organizing and community building.

Highlights from the Pilot

Throughout the 2010 Pilot, we shared thoughts, notes, and ideas in real-time with weekly blog posts in the Camps Notes tag. We also connected with the participating organizers to get their feedback, ideas and insights to help mold the program for next year. Some of what we learned from those organizers includes:

What worked:

  • Vetted participation: The NetSquared global network reaches tens of thousands of individuals. In order to vet participant engagement for trusted, community leaders we sought out pilot participants from Local organizers who already hosting monthly face-to-face events. We cast the call to the 135 volunteer organizers to join us for a Camp orientation call. A sub-set of about a dozen from the network joined us to discuss scope, roles and responsibilities and worked with us to develop a formal contract for the pilot. We plan to continue this process with our Local Organizer Network in the coming months, as organizers said it was easier to work in an environment and with people they already knew and trusted.
  • Resources: NetSquared team translated the lessons learned from organizing our annual conference in an easy-to-use format so that others could build on what we had already tried and tested. Specifically, all organizers had access to the planning guides, templates, examples, and files via an online handbook and we continued to developed additional resources as new needs emerged.
  • Accessibility: Our team remained accessible to organizers throughout the process, to ask hard questions, and address issues as they came up. Organizers had access to TSG staff via email to support Camp organizing efforts throughout the process, as well as well as weekly ‘coaching’ conference calls focused on addressing obstacles standing in the way of organizing the event. Coaching calls focused mostly on recruiting participants and volunteers, sponsorship and logistics.
  • Promotion: We created separate pages on the site for each Camp event and promoted events across our online (and offline) channels. Organizers confirmed the value and the attention this support provided and we plan to expand outreach efforts for Camp organizers in the year to come.

Where we can improve:

  • Unconference model: Some people attend unconference-style events all the time, and are comfortable with the format. Others, are less comfortable with a format that is more informal and demands participation in a way that traditional conferences do not. We’re still working on balancing the strengths of “unconference” model with its limitations. Strong facilitation, and a participatory culture where actors have a clear sense of (a) What they want to discuss (b) How to orient people around their work in an unconference-like setting. Moving forward, we’ll continue to integrate programmatic support to the unconference model in order to help organizers develop a framework for an agenda that maps to the local community’s expectations to be sure people at all levels of experience can participate.
  • Shared planning: Everyone works a little differently, so even with a shared planning process (developed via Basecamp and the wiki), we struggled with finding the sweet-spot in supporting organizers with enough structure to organize tasks and milestones in a way that harnessed the diversity of needs from organizers. Moving foward, our planning efforts will focus on activities at the “Milestone” level in order to simplify communications on the project, while making TSG staff avail to organizers interested in tapping expertise when and where they need it.
  • Language barriers: The NetSquared network reaches all around the world. To this end, we hope to tap into the knowledge of the community to translate documents and reuse for Camps organizers and participants beyond the English-speaking world.
  • Sponsorship: This is the area with the most opportunity for new partnerships and engagement both at the global (sponsors that support the program or all Camps events equally) and local (sponsors that support the event/s nearest to them) level. We are thankful to our sponsors, SAP and Blackbaud, who took a leap of faith in supporting the global program last year, and are eager to work with them and other companies and funders interested in community-driven models. More details to come regarding plans for 2011 shortly.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can review the Camps Pilot pages, check out the Camps Notes series, or stay tuned for part 2 with details about Camps 2011 later this week!

July 09 2010


Camps Pilot Notes from the Field: Reflections

On April 22, Billy announced the launch of the NetSquared Camps Pilot. During each of the 8 weeks since then, Amy has been reporting using the camp-notes tag here on the blog about the progress, lessons learned, and questions that have arisen as part of the pilot.

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July 01 2010


Camps Pilot notes from the Field: Week 8

Last week saw events in Portland, Paris and North Carolina: the Camps Pilot is 4 events down, 2 to go!  The original plan with these Notes from the Field was to share emerging questions and lessons on the blog in real time over the 8 weeks of event planning alongside the organizers. But, as there are still two more events to happen and much more evaluation and thinking about the pilot, I'm sure this will not be the end of the posts!  (If you haven't been following these weekly notes, you can catch them all with the Camps-Notes tag.)

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June 13 2010


Camps Pilot notes from the Field: Week 6

We are well-into the Camps Pilot now, with the Douala event already passed and more coming next week. We have learned a lot and made quite a few adjustments and iterations in real-time throughout the process. Posting these notes each week has helped capture thoughts and start conversations as a team and we hope it's been valuable and interesting for you, too! (If you haven't been following these weekly notes, you can catch them all with the Camps-Notes tag.)

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June 07 2010


Camps Pilot notes from the Field: Week 5

Last week was the 5th week in the Camps pilot (based on our 8-week planning process).  The Camps planning really began back in February though when participating organizers came on board and the groundwork for this summer's events was put in place.  Last weekend was also the first Camp event, taking place in Douala, Cameroon! As I've been doing over the last 4 weeks, I want to sharesome notes and questions that arose from our side of the planning process and hope you'll share, too!

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May 28 2010


Camps Pilot notes from the Field: Week 4

This is the fourth post in a series I'm writing to reporting publicly about the Camps pilot as it develops, sharing questions and ideas each week from the global perspective of planning and creating events. I've having some greation conversations with colleagues like Bonnie Koenig this week that have continued to surface ideas and insights about our work. (If you haven't been following these weekly notes, you can catch them all with the Camps-Notes tag.)

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April 30 2010


Camps Pilot notes from the Field: Week 1

Last week, Billy announced the launch of the NetSquared Camp pilot.  Local organizers are already off and running, gearing up for the local events taking place in Chicago, Douala, Portland, and Vancouver.  (Plus Campfire events in North Carolina and Paris!) Each week, I'll be reporting here on the blog - a public view of the field notes in a way.  This pilot is a chance for us to learn and experiment together as a community and we know that the more we can share, in real time, the more we can learn!  I hope you'll join me, share you

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