What I learned at Open Cambodia

I had the privilege of traveling to Cambodia last week to work closely with Allen Gunn (Gunner) and Misty Avila from Aspiration, running an event for the Open Institute called ‘Open Cambodia.’  We had over 100 participants from all over Cambodia, who were largely interested in using technology to support their advocacy efforts.  What was most striking was how solid the participatory event format actually is, even in a cross cultural context.  Michael Silbatron recently extolled the virtues of participant run events in a blog post about the most recent Greenpeace Digital Mobilisation Skillshare.  During this particular four day event, the model proved to be effective for meeting the needs of participants in many different contexts.

2014-02-25 08.58.07

Drawing your data universe

Like most of the collaborative and community building events that I’ve helped run, the goal is to get as many participants engaged and sharing knowledge as possible.  We instruct facilitators to think about what they want to learn from the participants, as opposed to what they want to teach. At the beginning we asked for 15 volunteers at the start to act as  facilitators, and by the end over half the participants had volunteered to either facilitate a session themselves, or run a small group skill share.  ALL the participants shared their knowledge and expertise.

Some examples of the titles of the 94 sessions that the were self-generated by the participants:

  • Open source tools for advocacy
  • Mapping gender based violence
  • How to become a story maker
  • Protecting your online identity
  • Crowdsourcing sensitive data
  • Building a listening dashboard
  • Youth-led Advocacy
  • Introduction to Integrated Voice Response
  • Mobilising your community around trafficking

During the speedgeeking presentations, participants got to know several innovative projects including:

2014-02-25 13.58.17

SpeedGeekers are my heroes

Most of the above sessions and some parts of the large group plenary sessions were conducted in Khmer.  The participants work on a wide range of issues including: trafficking, access to legal representation, land grabbing, and raising the minimum wage to 160 USD a month.  This format meant it was not just an opportunity to share tips on using technology to support their campaigns but also an opportunity to build solidarity.

More pictures from the event can be found here.