Preparing for Barcamp Nonprofits

It’s very interesting to see how ideas shape up. Barcamp Nonprofits originally was born out of a need to build a platform for nonprofits and geeks to spend time together and clarify some really basic terms. When I attended the IoF National Convention back in 2010 Steve Bridger and Howard Lake agreed that a lot of rather basic digital/tech/social terms are misinterpreted in the non-profit sector. I even felt that the blogger engagement programme was way out of line at the time (and today I still think not many brands appreciate that) but I fell into the trap of more basic misunderstandings. So today, as the next London Barcamp Nonprofits is about to happen I am going back to that one conversation I had with a fundraiser about “digital”. We spent 15 minutes conversing and in the end, he went off convinced I work in email marketing, not social media, simply because that is what “digital” stood for at the time.  Today a lot has changed in the UK non-profit sector thanks to many brave individuals who dare to speak up, do their own things, work outside of their sometimes very limited organisation boundaries. Sometimes some of them leave to become independent consultants. Sometimes they stay and work even harder to convince their managers to shift from traditional ways of work to digital/tech friendly ones. Before every Barcamp Nonprofits, I like to look back at all our events and remember the people who made them happen. First, we had the event in Oxford. When many were still not convinced few friends (Dan, Anna, Graeme, Nick, Tony, J-P and other Oxford geeks too) understood the need for a Barcamp and supported it! They were the ones who made it happen and I will remain eternally grateful for that. Without Oxford Geeks Barcamp Nonprofits would not happen at all! Then we moved to London and once again few of my London based friends trusted me, arrived on the day and contributed to the event! Catherine from Princes Charities convinced her management and gave us their great venue which allowed us to keep the tickets costs free! Amy, Laila and Nick were there to help in organising, Euan,  David and Rachel took time in their busy schedules to join us for the panel, Michael and Mike helped us with the first Google hangout, many of our attendees took a day off to contribute! (I love the fact that there is always something that makes the event attendees feel that it is “almost perfect” because it always prompts them to contribute, to take part, to fix, to step outside of the box…)

Today I see that @spirals and the London team did an amazing job in bringing the original spirit and goals of Barcamp Nonprofits to London. I am really excited about tomorrow! But…I do repeat and will keep on repeating that if you come with professional interest you will be tested, I have to warn you. Each of us works somewhere and many of us wear multiple hats but on the day we leave them all behind. We are present on the day as people with skills and expertise, opinions and ideas, not as brands. I feel that London’s Barcamp Community has matured enough now to pick up shameless pitches and boo them out – even if just on Twitter. Please note that each participant can leave your session at any point of time so if you want to make it compelling do not sell, but teach and bring value. The problem with sales pitches is the fact that they distract us from genuine solutions and the main goal of our events is to help our attendees to utilise the acquired knowledge, connections and ideas for all the social good they are to achieve in their work afterwards. So help us make the day pleasant and effective by following those gentle rules. If you do so, we will remember it for at least another 365 days!

I feel that Thursday at Mozilla offices is going to be AMAZING because we have so many talented, interesting, motivated to collaborate people. I look at Twitter conversations and marvel each and every time I see a new attendee worried about their contributions on the day! I see that you all care about the success of the event and this is exactly what we need. Because as much as we can prepare the day, we cannot plan its success. It is down to every single one of you to make it your own. You might want to take it slow and simply help with setting up the place or just helping out the organisers with their tasks. You might want to come with a clear idea of what you want to talk about. In any case, do consider one thing: Barcamp Nonprofits is a day for you. It will not happen until the next year in this very form so do make the most of it here and now, this Thursday. Come in in the morning, grab a coffee, slowly look around, say hi to few people. OK, if you need to, do check your work emails if this gives you time to listen to sessions, that’s all fine, but look around. Maybe there is more value in helping those guys with the schedule or registrations? Look at sessions, join them, host or moderate one. If you like to tweet, take notes or take photos – do just that! We need as much documentation as possible to promote the event more in the future so you are helping a lot! Participate in sessions and follow up after the event with people you think you can create something awesome with!

Make the event YOURS because we do it for you.

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