Socialcamp ’09. Day One.

Socialcamp ’09 is a barcamp-style event that brings together social media people and NGO professionals. The aim is to exchange ideas for the public good. But after day one I must say that the sessions lack progressivism a lot. Their titles remember of a bullshit bingo playing ground: At least every second one has the words “social” or “fund raising” in it.

I’m not against anything social at all. But behind these titles are often people explaining a downgraded social media to NGO staff. It’s top-down lecturing that’s not barcampy at all in my eyes. I understand that some NGOs still need to learn a lot on how to use social media. But this way one common pattern becomes strengthened:

There are very few progressive social media projects by German NGOs. Instead, they tend to implement tactics that have been state of the art years ago, spending relatively much money on that. Often, resources are wasted due to redundancy since every NGO wants its own software. It’s not without reason that one session was called “Does it always need a new social community?”.

I think this money would be spend much more useful if NGOs would invest in progressive social media projects. Only they need to know about them beforehand. A socialcamp could be the perfect opportunity to elaborate ideas that take up the experiences of both social media experts, developers and NGO professionals. Instead, sessions are used to manifest old concepts.

Maybe that’s also because NGOs are generally perceived to be conservative and unable or unwilling to adopt new ideas. In fact, this can also be seen in sessions’ names. As I’ve said, “fund raising” is an important issue. It seems as if NGOs are mostly interested in funding their current projects. I.e. the question is “how can NGOs use social media to get money for funding” instead of “how can social media be used to reach NGOs’ goals”.

Luckily, talks between sessions have been much more interesting. I’ve met Tobias Eigen, the founder of Kabissa. The veteran in African social media is a partner of DigiActive – and Tobias even has a sticker of us on his mobile. Yay! Day two will hopefully feature a session with him as well as Christian Kreutz and Georg Neu of Transparency International on mapping for social change. It would be one of the very few sessions that are not centered on Germany.

Disclaimer: I know it’s not fair to complain about the issues debated at a barcamp, especially since I don’t hold a session myself. I’ll excuse the latter with my youth and the fact that it’s my first barcamp, and hope my criticism can foster a debate rather than piss off people.