Every autumn we host CampCamp, a four-day barcamp focussed on campaigning and communications for civil society in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. This year was our biggest yet, with over 150 participants from ten different countries joining us in Yerevan.
CampCamp responds to the specific communication needs and challenges faced by NGOs and activists in the region. As the space for civil society shrinks, its members increasingly have to think outside the box and find innovative, alternative and creative ways to tell their stories, build support and engage domestic audiences. The ability to cultivate domestic support is often a missing link in civil society communications and is an important gap to bridge. CampCamp deliberately pushes civil society to think outside the activist bubble and develop creative solutions to overcoming barriers to communicating their work.
To help the participants do this we were joined by an incredible array of talented professionals from the worlds of advertisement, PR, social media marketing and design. All representing successful and socially minded companies from the region, their practical and interactive workshops and presentations served to inspire and equip participants with the tools to go back to their organisations bursting with new ideas on how to engage people in their work. Media, marketing and business specialists gave their time and energy to provide crash courses, provoke discussions and challenge accepted ways of working. In addition to the professionals, the brains behind successful civic campaigns and platforms also shared the secrets of their success.
Topics ranged from take home practical skills such as workshops on public speaking and a masterclass on writing engaging content to planting the seeds for wider organisational changes and approaches. For example, one workshop focussed on the introduction of CRMs for NGOs and others looked at the opportunities for diversifying revenue through the adoption of business models. Money – how to earn it, and how to spend it, was a central feature of CampCamp and it was inspiring to see how much can be done on a minuscule budget. In fact, a common message running through all presentations and workshops was that NGOs do not need big budgets and expensive campaigns to get their message across effectively.
Identifying ideal opportunities for campaigning was also a big part of CampCamp with brainstorming sessions on using international events as opportunities for public campaigns sparking several interesting discussions and ideas. The use of art for creative campaigning also featured heavily with workshops on combining activism and art, as well as using art to encourage the involvement and participation of local communities popular parts of the programme.
It was a packed four days and participants left with new connections, inspiration and energy to continue their work in their home countries. It was particularly heartening to hear from attendees how CampCamp helped change assumptions and stereotypes. From private sector experts realising how sophisticated and ambitious the civic sector in their countries is, to participants reassessing their preconceptions of other nationalities, CampCamp not only boosted communication capacity but helped build bridges between civil society across the region.