Wednesday, November 22, 2006

RootsCampNYC

Last Sunday I went to RootsCampNYC, a election debriefing and Democrat unconference for digital activists in New York. I went there to meet Zack Exley, whose New Organizing Institute co-organized the event, and also to get out of the office and see some e-advocates in the real work. It was also my first unconference. I must admit, I was suspicious of this model, according to which you bring a group of people together under a determined theme but without a determined schedule of events. The themes and facilitators of the workshops are determined by the interest of the people who attend. At RootsCampNYV there was a large corkboard timetable in the main meeting room (see photo below) and people put scraps of paper on the board with the titles of workshop that they would lead.
I decided to lead a session on e-advocacy in the developing world (big surprise there) which was a bit of a failure because I didn't have anything prepared. However, I attended workshops by better-prepared people on such topics as the netroots and the Connecticut Senate race and a website called the Spotlight Project that allows people to send blog posts to members of the media. While there are some downsides to the unconference format (there were more sessions in the afternoon than the morning as people became inspired to add a session) the strength of the format is that it is very engaging. Because sessions are ad hoc they are more seminar than lecture and there is tons of discussion (see below).
The unconference model is most useful when you have a lot of smart people with something to share, because it amps participation. Without attendee participation there are no workshops, and not much said within them. Fortunately, the attendees at Sunday's event were very smart and talkative. There were other RootsCamps in San Francisco, Indiana, and Ohio and hopefully I will be attending the capstone event in DC on December 1 & 2.

categories: internet activism_,

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