Category Archives: E-campaigning

Call for Papers: Digital Campaigning Knowledge Exchange

One of my favourite events to be part of over the last few years has been the E-Campaigning Forum – an gathering of online campaigners convened around open space discussions. At the last two annual ECF gatherings we’ve tried to include some discussions of recent research, and, thanks to a great team coming together in 2012 we’re hoping for a full ‘knowledge exchange’ track bringing academics and practitioners together.

The call for papers is below. General registration for the E-Campaigning Forum is likely to open later in the year.

Call for Papers: Digital Campaigning Knowledge Exchange

Charities and campaigning organisations increasingly employ campaigners with digital expertise, with many developing dedicated digital campaigning teams to work on furthering social change goals. The eCampaigning Forum (ECF) has, for the last 10 years, brought together e-campaigning practitioners from across the world for an annual knowledge-sharing event. For more information see www.ecampaigningforum.com

The Digital Campaigning Knowledge Exchange will be a new element of the 2012 eCampaigning Forum (21st-22nd March, Oxford, UK), providing a parallel track of academic workshops alongside the open space discussions of the forum.

There is a wealth of academic and industry research into digital campaigning related topics, but this research rarely crosses over into practice discussions at ECF. Our aim is to foster meaningful links between researchers and practitioners, with a view to bringing relevant, informative research to digital campaigners, and connecting academics and researchers with live datasets and experience to draw upon.

Topics

Based on feedback from participants in 2011 we are inviting researchers with interests in the following areas to propose short papers to present, for discussion in a series of mixed academic and practitioner seminars throughout the event. Based on the papers submitted, three topics will be chosen.

  • The role of digital tools and communication in enhancing engagement to a cause
  • Demographics of digital mobilisation - Is e-campaigning inclusive? Which different demographics and patterns of technology use should campaigners consider?
  • Cross-country perspectives on digital campaigning - Including political and social issue campaigns. How do different national contexts compare?
  • Research methods for digital campaigners - How to collect research-ready datasets; how to employ innovative methods – including social network analysis and digital ethnography; how to combine qualitative and quantitative research methods;
  • Innovations in mobile and web technology; what do new services and approaches have to offer social change campaigns?
  • Approaches to crowd-sourcing and mobilising digital volunteers;
  • Data, data mining and ethics in digital campaigning.

We are particularly keen to have contributions that provoke debate or point to future directions for practice in digital campaigning. Specifically, we are keen to hear from academics that can provide practical suggestions for e-campaigners in additional to any theoretical or methodological insights. Poster submissions are also welcome.

The Digital Campaigning Knowledge Exchange will take place in three sessions on the 21st and 22nd March 2012. Each session will consist of 2 – 3 papers, followed by discussion. Knowledge Exchange delegates are invited to particulate fully in the eCampaigning Forum, including the open space sessions. Academic participants without papers are also welcome to apply as delegates to the eCampaigning Forum.

Academics making a presentation in the Knowledge Exchange will be eligible for a reduced fee if required. Accommodation and meals are available on site at an additional cost.

Papers can be submitted for inclusions in a short peer and practitioner-reviewed 2012 eCampaigning Forum proceedings to be produced after the event.

Research connections

E-campaigners also generate a wealth of data from e-mail metrics and campaign response rates, to social network data and supporter profiles. Space will also be dedicated at the 2012 ECF to creating connections between researchers looking for data to draw upon, and practitioners with live datasets. Discussions will explore how practice data can be made available for research, and how practitioners can draw upon research data and findings more effectively.

Call for Papers

Abstracts of between approximately 200 and 300 words should be submitted to academic@ecampaigningforum.com by the 16th September 2011. Accepted presentations will be notified during October.

Programme Committee

  • Anastasia Kavada, Senior Lecturer, Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI), University of Westminster
  • Janelle Ward, Assistant Professor, Department of Media and Communication, Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • Duane Raymond, Founder and Director, FairSay and eCampaigning Forum
  • Jess Day, eCampaigning writer and consultant
  • Tim Davies, Independent Researcher & Web Science PhD Student, University of Southampton

Open Arms? Unlocking raw data

[Summary: Exploring the process of requesting access to a raw dataset]

Update 22nd December: Almost a month on, and whilst my post on the OPSI Data Unlocking Service has had 30 votes in favour (more than any other request I can see by far) I’ve not heard from either OPSI or the data owner/data.gov.uk in response to my comments/requests for raw data. So far, it looks like requesting new raw data through the advertised routes doesn’t meet with much action. I’ll wait till the Open Up competition closes in the New Year to see what results that might bring – and then it’s time to start looking at what other ways there might be to request this data…

A lot of the open government data that has been released in recent years is only available locked up in PDFs and website interfaces. As this definition seeks to explain this radically limits the potential uses of that data.

Following a recent event organised by Campaign Against the Arms Trade I was curious about who the UK issues Export Control Licenses to, so I took a look on data.gov.uk. Sure enough, the Strategic Export Controls: Reports and Statistics Website is listed on the Data.gov.uk catalogue. But on closer investigation it turn out that the Strategic Export Controls: Reports and Statistics Website (a) requires registration before you can access it; (b) predominantly provides data as PDFs; (c) has a very complex search interface that generates reports in the background ready for download later – but reports which don’t include key information such as the month a license was issued. All the data is clearly in the system – as you can search by date – but in it’s current form, to extract meaningful information about where UK companies have gained arms export licenses (or been refused) would be a long and slow job.

I’ve heard about the OPSI Data Unlocking Service, and I’ve been in a number of presentations hearing senior government officials and Ministers talking about the commitment of government to releasing raw data, so I thought this would provide a good opportunity to test the process of requesting raw data.

So – as of this morning, I’ve tried three routes to ask for access to this data:

  1. Adding a comment to the package on Data.gov.uk requesting access to the data. I’ve also sent a copy of the comment via the ‘Feedback Form’ listed under ‘Contact Details’ for each dataset. From past experience, I think the comment form gets forwarded to the Data.gov.uk team who forward it on to the department – but I’m not certain where that message has gone, or who reads the comments on datasets.
  2. Submitting a request to the OPSI Data Unlocking Service. This appeared to submit an e-mail form to the OPSI webmaster, who is, I understand, supposed to check the request and  then add it to the OPSI website for others to vote on – as well as – I presume, to someone inside OPSI to review and act upon – although the process by which a request could lead to data is fairly unclear. My request is not yet on the website.
  3. Adding an idea submission to the TSO Open Up Competition which you can see here. As I understand, the TSO are working closely with government on open data projects, although don’t have authority to open access to data themselves. However, there does appear to be an interest from the competition in what datasets people want to see – so I figured a request via here can’t harm.

I suspect a fourth route might be to submit a Freedom of Information Request, but I’m keen to explore in the first place how these open data requesting channels work in practice. Have I missed any? How else should be requesting access to raw data? Do you have experience of requesting data? What worked and what didn’t?

I’ll report back on any updates on the process of getting access to this data…

Brief practical notes on open data and activism

Flip Chart from CAAT Conference[Summary: Context, links, resources and ideas for working with open data in campaigning organisations and/or third-sector contexts.] (See other open data posts here.)

The rough notes below come from an short open session discussion held at the  Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) annual gathering last Saturday exploring how open data could be useful to a campaigning organisation. A PDF copy is here: Open Data and Campaigning.

Background & Context

The last 18-months have seen an impressive array of policy initiatives and practical actions leading to the release of datasets from governments in the UK, the US and across the world in open and re-usable formats online. Datasets ranging from the location of educational institutions, to details of taxation and government spending, have been brought together in data portals such as data.gov and data.gov.uk.

The open government data ‘movement’ has three broad constituent parts:

  • An open Public Sector Information (PSI) movement - drawing upon economic arguments to call for government data to be released and made freely re-useable. Often drawing upon comparisons between EU context where government collected data is copyright and restricted, and the US where government datasets are more open and large industries have developed on the back of them (e.g. Weather data; Geodata etc.).

  • A transparency movement – linked to Access to Information and Freedom of Information movements – calling for the release of data in the interests of democratic empowerment, or data to be used in particular contexts and settings.

  • Digital government & semantic web computerization movements - focussed on the potential for innovation and more efficient working when data is made available for computer processing: and working to build open networks of knowledge across the Internet though linked-data approaches.

Many different groups can be found within the open government data ‘movement’ – from groups calling for aid transparency, to SME companies seeking to address what are seen as unfair data monopolies.

Policy context:

(See Open Government Data & Democracy report for a full timeline)

  • The http://data.gov initiative in the US proceeded from Obama’s first executive order on taking power as President.
  • http://data.gov.uk in the UK was initiated by Gordon Brown in 2009.
  • Since coming to power in 2010 the Coalition Government in the UK have continued to push open data initiatives – thought with a slightly different ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’ framing.
    • A requirement has been placed on local authorities to publish all spending over £500 by January, listing supplier and spend.
    • Government departments are under a similar requirement for all spend over £25,000, and have been asked to publish senior staff pay details and internal organizational diagrams.
    • Francis Maude has spoken of the need for a ‘Freedom of Data’ act, and has called for all responses to Freedom of Information requests that contain data to provide that data in machine-readable forms (i.e. Excel spreadsheet rather than print-out of PDF files…)
    • Aid Transparency has been high up the government’s development agenda.
  • The World Bank have released significant amounts of their data as open data.
  • Australia, New Zealand and many European countries have ongoing open data initiatives and campaigns.

Beyond government data

It’s not only government supplied data that is of interest to campaigners:

  • Projects like TheyWorkForYou.com and PublicWhip.org generate structured data about politicians voting records by ‘scraping’ parliamentary records;
  • Data Journalists (led by innovators at The Guardian amongst other places) publish their research as open accessible spreadsheets of data that others can re-use.
  • Some NGOs and community organisations are publishing open datasets.

Why data?

One of the key properties of data is that it can be easily manipulated by computer – allowing datasets to be combined, visualized, explored and used in many more ways than a written report or printed document can.

Where to find data

For official government data – the guardian’s World Government Data Search looks across a range of data catalogues like http://data.gov.uk. Find it at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world-government-data and search for keywords or topics of interest to you.

You can also search http://data.gov.uk direct to browse data my department or topic.

http://ckan.net/ provides a catalogue of open data from many different sources – including government data, NGOs and research projects. It is a good place to ‘register’ any open data you create. It is also wiki-like, meaning any user can edit the records – allowing the creation of ‘collections’ of data on a particular topic: e.g. ‘arms trade’.

ScraperWiki.com provides a collection of ‘scrapers’ which collect structured data from unstructured data-sources (i.e. make open data where the original publisher didn’t provide it). For example, generating a dataset of hospitality received by UK Government Ministers, originally only available as a large collection of different word documents is now here: http://scraperwiki.com/scrapers/government-meetings-with-external-organisations-ne/ and available for download (Update: it’s also now available from http://transparency.number10.gov.uk/)

If you are looking for a particular dataset – it can be worth asking in the data.gov.uk forums, or using the #opendata hash-tag on Twitter.

Data on MPs and voting records is available from www.theyworkforyou.com in the UK, and the PublicWhip.org project collects more detailed voting records and makes them available.

When data isn’t available

Try using the Public Data Unlocking Service to request that data is proactively published: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/unlocking-service/opsipage.aspx?page=unlockindex

If using the Freedom of Information Act to request data, remind the recipient of Francis Maude’s policy statements on the need to provide machine-readable data in return.

If the information is available on websites, but not as structured data – consider putting a request on http://www.scraperwiki.com for someone to build a tool to screen-scrape the data.

Consider using any of the ‘data competitions’ (e.g. http://openup.tso.co.uk) as a higher-profile way to ask for a dataset: emphasizing the government’s focus on accountability through transparency in other sectors such as local authority spending and aid.

Use the facts you can find from datasets like COINS (http://data.gov.uk/dataset/coins) to better structure Freedom of Information requests or crowdsourcing activities.

Explore ways to ‘crowd-source’ the data by calling on campaigners and supporters to find out particular facts – and to enter them into shared online spreadsheets (e.g. using Google Spreadsheets and Google Forms you can create an easy way for people to collaboratively input into a shared document – which can be instantly published online). Crowdsourcing tools like Ushahidi can also be used to develop projects such as http://WhereAreTheCuts.org – crowdsourcing reports of public spending cuts.

Working with data

Working with data scares many people – but it can start off very simply, but there are many approaches – including:

  1. Using data-driven websites such as http://TheyWorkForYou.com (MPs speeches and voting) or http://WhereDoesMyMoneyGo.com (government spending) which have taken government data and made it available in more accessible forms.
  2. Downloading and exploring a single dataset – many datasets can be opened in spreadsheet software like Excel. Sort and filter the columns to look for interesting information.
  3. Visualise the data – using a tool like IBM Many Eyes where you can upload simple datasets and explore a range of different ways of presenting the data.
  4. Building a mash-up – using tools like Google Spreadsheets and Google Fusion Tables, or Google Refine (available for free download) to explore and combine datasets.Google Fusion Tables will allow you to upload any spreadsheet, and, if it contains place names, quickly ‘geocode’ the data for displaying on a map. You can also combine two datasets – matching on any shared keys (e.g. MP name; Town name; Constituency) to build larger datasets.
  5. Holding a hack day – hack days like those organized by Rewired State bring together developers (coders/geeks) and people with problems to solve and spend one or two days of concerted effort creating ‘hacks’ (rapid prototypes) which address those issues, often using open data.For example, a hack-day could look to generate visualizations concerning arms licenses (CAAT Specific), or to create tools that support campaigners to get information to use when writing to MPs. (Update: We could have a campaigning strand at the Oxford Open Data Hack Day on 4th December if there was interest)
  6. Commissioning open data-based tools – developing hack-day created prototypes, or other ideas, into full working tools.

  7. Training activists in using data – through workshops and hands-on activities. (I’m mid way through developing a training workshop at the mo… suggestions of groups to pilot with welcome…)
  8. Releasing datasets - from in-house research or crowd-sourced data – and inviting supporters to use the data in creative ways. For example, putting researched data into Google Spreadsheets and, much as the Guardian Datablog does, sharing links to that data whenever posting news stories or website pages based upon it.

Going further

Search for the #opendata community on Twitter; or the ‘Open Government Data’ mailing lists run by Open Knowledge Foundation. Most of the links above will also provide access to further practical and background information on open government data.

Tim Davies, Practical Participation (tim@practicalparticipation.co.uk) can offer consultancy, training, workshops and support for organisations exploring the use of open data in campaigning. Please do get in touch to explore more…

How can Facebook fight AIDS?

[Summary: help us explore the role of social networks in the fight against AIDS]

The world has been managing the global AIDS epidemic for more than 25 years. 2031 will mark 50 years since the first report of AIDS. While great strides have been made, there are persisting as well as emerging challenges that must be addressed.

aids2031 is not about what we should do in 2031, but what we can do differently now, to change the face of the pandemic by 2031.

aids2031 is a consortium of partners who have come together to look at what we have learned about the AIDS response as well as consider the implications of the changing world around AIDS.
AIDS2031 Consortium

The world is changing. The way people communicate is changing. And AIDS communicators are thinking about how they need to respond.

    How are Social Network Sites changing the way people communicate?

    How are Social Network Sites developing in different ways in different countries and communities?

    What are the implications for AIDS communication and AIDS communicators?

Those are some of he questions I’m exploring on a research project led by Pete Cranston, and commissioned by the Communications Sub-Group of the AIDS2031 Consortium. And we could do with your help.

We know that Social Network Sites means many different things to different people – and that they are adopted and used in different ways in different communities. Only some of that it written up in literature, and our on-the-ground research partners can only cover four of five different countries and contexts. So – whether you work with local government in a UK inner city, you’re using social networks to connect with friends and family in countries across the world, of you’re not using social networks at all – we would really value your insights.

Take a look at the four questions on our project blog and please do take a few minutes to offer a comment or two.

(This is a short-term research project, so the blog is only open until the end of Feb – and we hope to share some of the initial research findings from the blog soon after.)

Ask for Fairtrade (a twitter experiment)

Update: @askforfairtrade now has it’s own blog over here…

Have you asked for the Fairtrade option in a coffee shop that advertise it as an extra and been met by a bemused look from the person serving, been told that it’s out of stock, or simply been told they don’t sell Fairtrade coffee, in spite of the big Fairtrade logo on their menu?

I have. Quite a lot of times. And it’s really frustrating.

So, this morning I set up an @askforfairtrade account on Twitter to start finding our who the worst offenders are.

If you’re a regular coffee-shop hopper and you’re amongst the twitterati, then follow askforfairtrade, and when you’re next getting a caffine fix, make sure you request the Fairtrade option. Report the response you get by tweeting an update to @askforfairtrade.

I’ll aim to collate the reports on a regular basis and will get in touch with the best and the worst of the coffee chains to let them know how they are doing and to put the pressure on to keep Fairtrade on the menu.

Why does this matter?
Fairtrade matters. When a mug of coffee with the Fairtrade Mark is sold in place of a bog standard brew the farmers of the coffee beans are getting a guaranteed price for their labour, and a social premium is being invested in health, education and infrastructure projects in producer communities. Asking for the Fairtrade option makes a tangible difference. (Read more about the different Fairtrade makes on the Fairtrade Foundation Website)

Big companies are actively misleading consumers, giving the impression that their coffee is ethically produced and certified to Fairtrade standards, when in fact, Fairtrade is only available as an optional extra, and no effort is taken to actively encourage customers to ask for Fairtrade. In fact, from my experience, the level of service when trying to ask for the Fairtrade option actively discourages it.

By collecting reports of whether or not coffee shops and chains are living up to their promise to provide a Fairtrade option we can put pressure on them to make sure staff are trained, and products are in stock, for choosing the Fairtrade option to be the easy option. And we can demonstrate the consumer demand for Fairtrade as standard.

Video Change one page guides: youtube, vodpod and video making

I’ve been meaning to post these for a while: six ‘one page guides’ (ok, so actually one of them has two pages..) that I created for the Video Change project with Oxfam.

These are slightly different from the usual ‘one page guides‘ – but hopefully they may prove useful to others running in person or online training around the basics of making video for the web, or about using online video in activism and campaigning.

1) Six Steps to Online Video

An overview guide created to step participants in the course through capture, transfering, editing and uploading their video content.

Step 5 of the guide is specific to Video Change – so would need changing for any other use.

Download the PDF here, or get the original Word Document for editing here.

2) Collecting videos with VodPod

Whilst we had some problems with getting the VodPod widgets to work properly we did use it in Week 2 of the Video Change course to invite participants to collect and share their favorite videos. There is definitely potential for VodPod as a tool for use by Youth Services and websites to clip and display some of the best positive video clips on the web direct to their websites and blogs.

Again, this guide includes some Video Change specific bits in the ‘challenge’ box – so you download the VodPod PDF here, or download the original word document to update this guide for your own settings.

3) Finding and using Stock Footage

This guide should be generic and ready to do without adaptation and includes five sites to search for creative commons and public domain footage.

So if you regularly try and explain to people how they can use stock footage in their video making you might find it handy and it is ready for download as a PDF here. Of course, you may want to download the MS Word file original and change the list of stock video sources to point to your own favourites.

4) Sharing Videos on YouTube

This one page guide includes tips for upload a video to YouTube and for getting it seen by careful naming of the video and using the playlist, favourite and sharing features.

You can download the PDF here, or get the world file to edit from here.

5) Six approaches to Video Change

As part of the Video Change course we explored different ways in which campaigners could add online video their the campaigning toolbox. This guide outlines six different ways in which video can be used in activism – from video petitions through to video reporting and using video conversation tools like Seesmic.

Get the PDF here, or download the word file for editing and creating your own version.

6) Creating a Sisters on the Planet clip

The final module of Video Change invited participants to create their own Sisters on the Planet video clips. If you’re running a video making course you could do worse than to set creating a Sisters on the Planet video making challenge to your students – and I’m sure Oxfam would be happy to feature and use some of the resulting clips. This guide is also available to adapt for other video making challenges.

Get the PDF to use it as it is, and download the word file if you want to play around with it for your own projects.

—–

As with all the one page guides these are all licensed under a Creative Commons license to allow them to be adapted and re-used. However, please do note the request for these guides in particular that if you do find them useful that you credit Oxfam.org.uk and consider making a donation or taking a campaign action from here in return for getting the resources for free.

Climate change, poverty and empowerment

Today is Blog Action Day. And I’ve spent most of the day up at the Oxfam offices in Oxford working on the website for a new campaign project aiming to really raise the positive debate about Climate Change in the media when world leaders meet in Poland this December.

Why, you may ask, when this year’s Blog Action Day is asking people to write about the gross injustice of widespread Poverty in our world, am I starting a post about Climate Change? Surely I’m a year late. And, what’s more, some people might (indeed do) say, ‘Why is Oxfam working on a Climate Change campaign website? Oxfam is about alleviating poverty not about stopping Climate Change!’.

Well – I was a first curious, when, as a member of Oxfam’s Youth Board I discovered the charity was putting a large amount of it’s campaigning effort into climate change – but then I saw the Sister’s on the Planet films – and the whole thing became a lot clearer.

The challenges of alleviating global poverty are compounded by climate change. Climate change hits the poorest first and hardest. And those in poverty are the least empowered to act. Which is why we have to understand the global issues we face as connected. But the connections between poverty, disempowerment and climate change also offer us space for change and space for action. And action has never been more urgent.

00256299.jpgBTW: that last link is to a new book out from Oxfam – ‘The Urgency of Now’ – based on Duncan Green’s masterpiece ‘From Poverty to Power‘. You can read it online, or order in hard copy for £4 or so – but if you’d like a free copy, drop me a line and I should be able to get one or two copies to you…

Reflections on Video Change project

Picture 9.pngEarlier this year I facilitated a pilot online course for Oxfam GB called Video Change. The course, which in the end ran over 8 weeks, sought to equip existing Oxfam activists with the skills for making video for the web.

The course itself didn’t quite produce the level of activity and video making that we had hoped for, but it has produced a lot of learning which will feed into future work by the Activist Support & Campaigns teams in Oxfam GB to provide online learning and support opportunities for activists and campaigners.

Below you can find a few assorted reflections and key shared learning from the course content and process of running the course:

What makes a great campaigning video?

In Week 2 of Video Change I invited participants to pick 5 or so videos that they thought were great examples of online video and video for campaigning.

Of course, we didn’t expect there would be consensus on what makes a good campaigning video – but we were struck by just how diverse the selections that were made were – ranging from 15 minute documentaries through to 30 second clips from the TV.

You can see some of the videos that were selected below or in this VodPod:

And here some some of the participants reflections on the online campaigning videos they chose:

“With the volume of videos on the web if it doesn’t grab me within 5 secs and hold my attention i’m going to switch off. The most popular clips are almost always funny so 4 out of the 5 videos here are funny.”

“It had a non-intuitive approach to the issue, which should hopefully be engaging to people who “get” environmental issues, but who don’t want to spend a lot of time being preached to – so the video is short, and leaves you waiting for the punchline. The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that a good video is quite a lot like a good stand-up comedy gag!”

“What I like about this is, that it’s about a simple activity that anyone can do to make a difference for people living in poverty.To my mind, this is very empowering. It’s simple in style too, although I suspect the editing wasn’t as straightforward as it looks. No frills: the presenter believes what she is saying, and says it. Brilliant.”

“I felt the ‘call to action’ at the end was a bit weak. It needed something to really tell me what I can do next.”

What does all this mean for those creating campaign videos?

Whilst the participants in Video Change were a very specific group of already engaged online video consumers – there is some value in reflecting upon their choices of video and what it could mean for campaigners and NGOs seeking to use video as part of their activist work. In particular, we found:

  • There is no one format or style of video that will appeal to everyone – obvious of course – but it does have interesting implications for NGOs. A number of videos participants chose during the course were remixes of other videos – or were video memes. Instead of trying to create a catch all video with wide appeal it may turn out best for NGOs to create clips which can be remixed by volunteers and supporters to appeal to different audiences.
  • Most videos benefit from a clear call to action – Some of the videos were valued as inspiring in their own right – but many failed to provide a clear sense of how someone could respond to what they had just seen. Simple, down to earth, suggestions of how to respond to a video on the last few seconds can increase impact.
  • Get attention and then get the message across (in that order) – Videos that focussed on getting people’s attention first, and then getting their message across second, seemed to be more popular than those which put their message up front. The most popular videos tended to take people on a journey, even if only a 30 second journey.
  • Activity packed edits got more attention – When videos were reporting on a recent campaigning event or activity then including lively music and regularly changing camera angles (using B-roll footage) kept people’s attention for longer.

If you’ve got other tips for creating campaign videos – do share those in the comments below.

Running an open or closed course

Picture 13.pngWhilst my original pitch for the course was to run an open learning project, in the end we decided to try and closed pilot – working with existing Oxfam activists. Part of the thinking was that this way we could focus on the video campaigning skills, rather than spending time exploring the issues Oxfam campaigns on as well.

Clearly open courses, like the Work Literacy social media course currently running, have a lot more potential for attracting large numbers of participants and vibrant discussions. However, it’s worth noting that these open courses are very much about learning to apply to one’s individual life and work – rather than to apply in support or a campaigning organisation.

Our conclusion from Video Change was that the benefit of running more open courses in the future outweighs the risk of some participants using their new skills to go ‘off message’ – but it’s worth recognising that many big NGOs are still only starting on the path of understanding that they need to let go of a degree of control over message in order to see greater returns of action and engagement.

On a technical level – facilitating the course using Ning set to be a private network was a little tricky – as you loose access to the open RSS feeds which can make it a lot easier to follow what is going on across the network.

Online training or online learning

The idea which inspired me to suggest an online course to the Oxfam team was my participation in the 31 days to a better blog challenge in 2007. In hindsight it is clear that that was an ‘online learning’ project, rather than an ‘online training’ project – and Video Change ended up being a slightly confused combination of the two.

Working in a closed pilot with participants, most of whom didn’t have their own established social media spaces online (blogs, twitter etc) and many of whom were not familiar with reflective learning online, meant that I ended up in a teaching role rather than the learning facilitator role I had hoped for. Being clear about whether a project is about online teaching (needs a classroom style online environment, set inputs and clear plans) or learning (needs a network and reflective environment, inputs and resources which respond to participants needs).

Screen-casts are a great tool
Picture 11.png
Each week of the course had one or two video inputs (perhaps one was a presentation) and a one-page guide introducing that weeks activities and challenges (I’ll share some of the Guides here soon…). However, I quickly found myself making extensive use of Jing to create screen-casts to explain particular steps involved in creating, sharing or promoting a video – and these narrated screen casts were really well received.

With the ease of creating Screen-casts with a tool like Jing they are something I’ll be aiming to add more often to my training toolkit.


The future of a Video Change model?

As a pilot Video Change taught us a lot. It’s unlikely to run in the same format again – but hopefully we’ll soon be able to share many of the course resources more widely – and the idea of online learning for activists and campaigners will emerge in a slightly different form in Oxfam soon.

Video Change Update: Bananas, 6 Million More and Air Guitar

A little while back I blogged about something called 'Video Change' – and I've spent quite a bit of the last seven weeks facilitating it. Video Change is a pilot online course/shared learning journey, delivered using Ning, that has aimed to support campaigners to create online video as part of their social justice campaigning activity.

I'll be blogging a little more about the whole process, and some of what we have learnt later on – but for now – just wanted to share with you a little of what the Video Change participants have been creating:

Whilst on the topic of online video for campaigning – here's a note I got from Kerstin Twachtmann at ActionAid last week which may be of interest:

Our youth team are attempting to smash the world record for the biggest number of people playing their air guitars at this year’s Reading festival!

As part of this we are running an online competition with the chance to win a pair of tickets to this year’s festival, all the entrants have to do is upload their own air guitar video onto http://www.myspace.com/bollockstopoverty. (The closing date is the 15th August) We have already created a series of videos to get people in the spirit of things and we would be most grateful if could mention it in your blog!

If you're interested in seeing how charities can explore engaging with the norms of many online video sites – then Action Aid's experiment is well worth taking a look at (and, if you're up for playing some Air Guitar in the next few days, joining in with…).