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.