Tales from Barcamp NFP

I went to my my first Barcamp at Google Campus yesterday.

Barcamp is an un-conference – instead of listening to speakers with prepared presentations and occasional questions, the attendees set the agenda. We started the day by suggesting impromptu workshops on topics that interested us, from digital directly changing lives and how homeless people could use SMS to organise their lives, through to mobile for charities and running hackathons. Then we ran the sessions ourselves, talking to whoever turned up.

Lots of people also suggested workshops for others to run, meaning everyone got to learn about topics that fascinated them.

I loved running the social media workshop with Laila from UNICEF. I also enjoyed facilitating a discussion on how texting LOOK to 84424 gets you a guide on the five most common signs of breast cancer – an example of digital changing lives directly, rather than just promoting charity events and news.

The variety of sessions was fantastic – social media and the law, creativity in Mailchimp, how to work with bloggers, digital storytelling…the format allowed attendees to get what they wanted out of the day by setting the agenda themselves, and learning from their peers.

Towards the end of the day, appetite for a hackathon increased. Talking about so many interesting topics seemed to increase desire to gather teams, and get stuck in to a real life problem. Rewired State ran a session on doing just that.

The day ended with a wrap-up, positive suggestions for the format of the next event, and a tidying effort that was so typically collaborative that it took all of five minutes.

The barcamp format isn’t for everyone. Not everyone wants the responsibility of running the workshops themselves. Personally, I believe we have more to learn from our peers than experts, particularly when collaborating on solutions to real problems, so I really enjoyed it.

I would probably have liked to see more rolling outputs from the sessions. Each had a note taker, and reading them between sessions might have sparked ideas for more new paths to follow.

Overall, a great day – looking forward to the next one in February.

(and thanks to Dawn Newton for the above pics!)

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