Irish Charity Lab is my new project, aimed at increasing knowledge-sharing, collaboration and innovation on digital projects in the Irish charity sector. I am extremely honoured and grateful that Irish Charity Lab has been chosen for the 2014 Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Elevator Award.
Irish Charity Lab consists of an expert panel of digital specialists, all with an extremely high level of skills and a rich range of experience in the charity and commercial sectors.
We are providing resources for the Irish charity sector, including:
free online guides and toolkits
a mailing list circulating advice and resources
an online community that connects digital charity people
affordable expert workshops
We are also developing a digital mentoring service that will help charities to build skills and develop strategies. If you work for a charity, please check out our resources and let us know what you think, and how we can help you work better with digital.
[Oops...I wrote this post back in November about the Offset creative festival, and somehow forgot to post it. Here it is now, so it is.]
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Some of my high points from Offset 2009:
Scott from AAD, who did a great job of balancing a presentation of their work with a wider discussion about design and creativity.
Design legend Massimo Vignelli, who was extremely engaging and funny as he showed us decades worth of his elegant work. He had an interesting insight for me about why perpetual calendars (which I am constantly tempted by but never buy) don't work: you have to tell them the date, which defeats the entire purpose of a calendar.
House Industries: I've been a big fan of House Industries for a long time and it was great to see their presentation. The attention to detail that they devote to their study of type is mind-blowing. Their Photo Lettering project - the preservation of a huge archive of lettering - is fascinating, and their Photo Lettering online tool will be a great resource when it's ready. Also, their Alexander Girard collection made me whimper with longing. I bought this print the same day that I saw their presentation.
Chip Kidd showed us some of his famous work and explained his creative process, and on top of that was just completely hilarious. He's quite similar to David Sedaris, an author that he has worked with many times.
I probably took more pictures of Oliver Jeffers' work than anyones, and he did a lovely little doodle and autograph for my small girl.
Dave McKean, David Shrigley, Linda Brownlee and Anthony Burrill were also notably wonderful. And my pals Johnny Kelly, Chris Judge and Gisele Scanlon were all fantastic too.
I was really, really impressed with the polish and professionalism of many of the speakers, and how funny and charming they were. I've been at a couple of presentations and conferences since Offset, and they've really emphasised how good the Offset speakers were. These are clearly some people who are extremely skilled communicators, not just visually but verbally as well.
I can't recommend Offset enough: I'm still racking my brains as to how they managed to present such an amazing line-up and only charge €150 per ticket. It inspired me in more ways than I could have predicted, and I'll be there again for sure next year.
There's already a huge amount of useful stuff online that came out of the Ecampaigning Forum, and there's much more to come. I've started a list of links here, and will add to it as they come in:
Fairsay site - lots of updates appearing here
ECF08 tagged links on Del.icio.us
Brian Fitzgerald of Greenpeace International
James Stewart of jystewart.net
After I posted last night we had dinner with all the ecampaigners, and then Alice and I went on a lovely and slightly tipsy walking tour of Oxford city centre. Oxford seems to be one of those cities like Venice or Paris where you don't really need to make any plans, as you see something incredibly beautiful and charming around every corner. Although Alice's notes that she found on the internet were great for orienting ourselves and identifying buildings, and were also full of interesting facts. Such as! Hitler really liked Oxford and planned to make it into the British capital if his invasion was successful, which is why Oxford was never bombed. Hurray for facts. We had a lovely stroll, admiring the architecture, peering through railings at secluded gardens, and stopping for occasional delicious whiskeys. Then back to the campus bar where we had drinks and fun with the rest of the ecampaigners.
So it was a late night and an early start, but there was still plenty of enthusiasm for the day's sessions. We started off with a presentation by Xin from Greenpeace China, about the challenges of campaigning in China. Despite the multiple hurdles put in their way by the Chinese government, they've managed to already run a a really successful campaign to encourage people to stop using disposable chopsticks. After this the Open Space sessions began again. I first attended a really useful session on composing campaign emails - it's a constant challenge for all NGOs to keep the emails relevant and inspiring for our campaigners. Once again, this session was full of practical tips from Ben of MoveOn.org.
I spent the afternoon visiting a few different shorter sessions - the one on practical tools for online campaigning generated a list of about a hundred handy urls, as well as inspiring a useful discussion about the importance of meaningful, compelling content. It's easy to get so involved in the medium that we obscure or don't fairly represent the message. It was good to see that the people I spoke to at the forum were very mindful of that pitfall - everything always came back to the message and the people, and there was no feeling of getting lost in technological discussions. I also spent time in a couple of groups discussing campaigning on a shoestring, and working with external agencies - having listened to useful advice in most of the other sessions, I thought it would be good to go to a few where I could contribute some of my own experience. As the sessions concluded, we all met in the lecture hall to run through the outlines of the various group meetings - they will all be compiled and put on the Fairsay website soon, and I know they'll be an invaluable resource for me. The day closed off with a few presentations on some ecampaigning projects that various attendees were running, a nice pint and sandwich in the lovely Royal Oak around the corner, and a mad panicked dash for the train to London.
The Forum was a really valuable and interesting couple of days, and we're all very grateful to Duane Raymond for the tremendous organising that he did.
I made a quick but extremely fruitful trip to Oxfambooks at lunchtime, where I got a first UK edition of Lolita for only £20! I can still hardly believe it. And also a HM Bateman collection, which is an excellent find - I love his work and I think it's nearly all out of print now. And two lovely colourful kids books for Lily; one by Richard Scarry that gave me powerful nostalgia (I think I must have read it hundreds of times when I was small, as every page is hugely familiar) and a Helen Oxenbury counting book with beautiful 70s style artwork. One of the loveliest bookshop hauls I've had in ages.
I'm writing from the Fairsay 2008 Ecampaigning Forum in beautiful Oxford. I'm very grateful to Oxfam Ireland for sending me here - I'm the only web specialist in our organisation, so its really great to be able to meet with and talk to people who work in similar roles, and discuss ideas. And here's hoping it delays my transformation into a cranky hermit.
This is my first year attending the Forum, although it's been running for five years. This year, there are over 100 people attending from over 60 different non-profit organisations. The biggest presences here are probably Oxfam, Amnesty and Greenpeace, but there are also lots of small NGOs with really interesting projects, such as Walk to School. I'm here with our lovely Campaigns Coordinator Rebecca Emery, many of my international Oxfam colleagues, and my old and dear friend Alice-Mary, who works with Trocaire. We sat together today in a lecture hall and sneaked looks at each others notes; it was like being back in college, except with less drama and alcopops. Although the night is still young.
The day kicked off with a speech from Ben Brandzel, who has worked with MoveOn.org and the John Edwards presidential campaign among others, and there couldn't have been a better start to the day. As well as being a really engaging and articulate speaker, Ben gave us absolutely nothing but useful information - it was memorable and stimulating and set us up beautifully for the discussions that followed.
After Ben spoke, my colleague Karina Brisby from Oxfam Great Britain spoke really well about ecampaigning; showing examples of Oxfam's work in the area, talking through tips and common pitfalls, and giving examples of successful and innovative ecampaigns, such as ushahidi.com, My ActionAid and the Burma Facebook group.
The afternoon discussion groups were set up using a technique called Open Space, something that was completely new to me. I am generally a bit too curmudgeonly to participate in activities that ask me to visualise myself as a bumble bee, unless toddlers are involved or I've been at the gin - or both, which I can recommend. But I have to say that this worked very well.
I attended four sessions in total, all of which were packed full of interesting questions, new issues to consider, helpful examples, tips and brand new technological concepts. I can't overstate the value of this kind of face to face discussion, particularly for someone like me who is so busy that I rarely get time to do any research. In fact somebody in one of the sessions mentioned that they feel we should all be spending 20% of our time on research. So anyway, I attended sessions on 1) The Swarm, 2) Campaigning to a young audience, 3) The trends that are likely to affect ecampaigning over the next 3-5 years and 4) blogging. After this, there was a panel discussion on elections, and how to best use ecampaigning around them. I took copious scribbly notes in all sessions and will beat them into some kind of useful shape over the next few days. A useful aspect of Open Space is that notes from all sessions are posted on the wall, so I got some concise n handy tips from sessions that clashed with the ones I attended. I'm now all over stimulated and fired up, and will go to dinner and babble at whatever unfortunate is sitting beside me, and probably drink wine too quickly. Hurray!
Happy Birthday Alice!
I also attended an excellent pre-meeting for Oxfam Ecampaigners the day before the forum - it was my first meeting with this group, and it was really inspiring to hear about some of the great work that's going on in the affiliates. Links to follow.
If there is a box of Krispy Kreme donuts at an ecampaigning meeting and you eat 2.5 of them, you will feel like you need a shower for the next 24 hours (and counting)...even just after you've had an actual shower.
Oxford is incredibly beautiful, the college where we're staying is gorgeous, the anglepoise lamps in my little room make me feel all studious. I'm hoping to do more exploring this evening, and see more floppy-haired boys riding bicycles.
It would appear that saying that the chef is 'the best chef out of all the college dining halls' is roughly equivalent to saying 'he's the best chef out of all the local prisons'.