“CampCamp taught me how to approach the problems we all are addressing, in a creative way”, said Moldovan activist Ilia Grom at the final presentation of his project on last day of the CampCamp 2019 in Chisinau.
And this may be the best summary for the four days of impact talks, workshops and master classes, planned (and completely sporadic) presentations of projects and initiatives, competitive fundraising quest, and of course, networking. All this is called a CampCamp, the international barcamp focused on campaigning and communications for civil society organized by the Prague Civil Society Centre (PCSC) on the annual basis. CampCamp 2019 became its fourth and the largest edition, having brought around 200 activists from 15 countries to Chisinau, Moldova, on 25-27 October.
Our Project partnered with the PCSC to enable the participation of civil society activists from the six Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) in the barcamp. Following the classic approach of barcapms, participation in the CampCamp is open to anyone free of charge and designed according to the principle of peer-to-peer learning. It means that half of its content is generated by the participants themselves, often at the spot, but on a pre-selected topic. The later might be the most significant difference of barcamps from traditional conferences, where agendas are fully designed by the organisers and leave the participants only with the role of attendees.
CampCamp 2019 was dedicated to the needs of ‘breaking the bubble’ and was looking for ways civil society activists can step out of their comfort zone, better understand the needs of their target groups and really connect with society at large. “We always think of a problem by thinking of our solution only, because we think that our solution is the best for them [our target group]. We rarely ask them what is better for them in fact, and never ask without skewing their replies in our own favour”, says Alexandr Minkin, the head of the Polden project (the Noon) from Moscow and CampCamp trainer.
This challenge is common for civil societies across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, but some leading civil society groups have made huge progress in their ability to connect with both local and international audiences, engage ordinary citizens and shift values and behaviours. These successes shall be shared, analysed, replicated and built-upon, and CampCamp 2019 became the platform to do just that.
Qristina Parjiani from Georgia says she picked up two very practical things for the organisation she works with: how to collect feedback and opinions of the target audience with zero budget, and the toolbox for citizens created by MitOst and presented to the CampCamp participants. “Our organisation is just 2 years old and we try to find the methods to help us identify the challenges and find the ways to face them. As we do not have financial resources we cannot hire professionals who will help with this and we try to experiment with different methodologies, but it needs human resources which we cannot always provide. The MitOst toolbox is great opportunity to develop our team, as it is created especially for organisations like ours and does not need adaptation. The Toolbox is designed like a board game and it will be funnier and more engaging to the team to find the solutions to the problems we have,” explains Qristina.
All photos provided by PCSC.