Note from Beth: With all the travel I’ve been doing, I was hoping that I could sync my schedule with attending TechCamp, a program under Secretary Clinton’s Civil Society (CS) 2.0 initiative – an effort to galvanize the technology community to assist civil society organizations (CSOs) across the globe by providing capabilities, resources and assistance to harness the latest information and communications technology (ICT) advances to build their digital capacity. Unfortunately, that was not possible. But, will be sharing guest posts from participants at the various camps.
TechCamp: Empowering women through technology – guest post by Ma’ayan Alexander
“Anyone who works for the State Department knows that they work for women and for the advancement and empowerment of women,” said Alec Ross, Secretary Clinton’s Special Advisor for Innovation, with pride at the opening of TechCamp Tel Aviv. The spirit of his statement inspired the entire seminar.
A State Department initiative and part of their Civil Society 2.0 agenda, TechCamps are two-day seminars, which have so far taken place in 22 cities around the world. The participants, most of them women, are exposed to a variety of tech tools, which are easy to adopt and help in organizing community activities, such as: messaging via cell phones, mapping tools, remote conferencing, arranging meetings for large groups, social networking, and more. The participants work together in small groups, ask questions and discuss problems, and work together to find solutions and initiate joint projects.
TechCamp Tel Aviv took place from April 30 to May 1, with TechCamp Ramallah following immediately afterwards. Based on the underlying theme of women’s empowerment with a focus on education and entrepreneurship, the 70 participants of the Tel Aviv event included representatives of NGOs active in the fields of employment, education, women’s empowerment, consultancy, and tech training from all over Israel. The event was organized by Appleseeds Academy, an Israeli NGO that works to reduce social gaps in Israel through the use of tech tools and the development of life skills. The list of trainers, themes, and tools that were discussed can be found on the TechCamp wiki site.
I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts following the seminar:
Cooperation is a critical element in solving social problems.
Working in small groups, we learned that different communities deal with similar problems, that new ideas emerge from collaboration, our exposure to information was increased, and that we can share tried and tested tools as well as infrastructures. Skills in team building, enabling people and organizations from different cultures to work together towards common goals while maintaining their own identity, are no less important than the latest technology or Facebook interface updates.
Technology does not solve problems.
Technology alone does not solve problems. Dafna Lifshitz, General Director of Appleseeds, noted that in the 21st century technology does not close gaps but creates them. It is our job, as members of civil society and activists for social change, to work towards minimizing these gaps. Adapting different tools to our specific needs, reaching a consensus regarding the use of these tools, and staying the course for the duration are what is needed to promote effective and productive technologies for social change.
We need an arena for continuing thought and cooperation
At the end of the second day, after talking to some of my fellow participants, we all felt full of new information, insights, and positive energy. But we knew that the next day we would be back at our jobs, dealing with our daily routines, priorities, and tasks that are the core of our organization’s mission. There is a clear desire to keep in touch and promote collective thinking and action, but we need a framework and an arena.
Meanwhile, the discussion continues on the Facebook group created for the TechCamp Tel Aviv participants, and there is talk about arranging another meeting, either face-to-face or online, in about a month’s time. I really hope that together we can find a way to maintain the conversation, whether by developing projects together or by sharing knowledge and our experience of using internet tools for social change. I also want to broaden the circle of discussion beyond the TechCamp participants, to add more social activists, both women and men.
Do you have ideas how to keep in touch after a two day seminar?
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the organizers for this initiative and for arranging this event and Appleseeds Academy, the trainers who shared useful knowledge and information, and all the participants – some I met for the first time and some I already knew – it was great meeting all of you and learning together.
a. 1st day ice breaking activity was creating collages of “Women of the 21st Century”. This is my group’s collage – the mother board. http://twitpic.com/9fjxhq (photo by me)
It was great fun!
YouTube videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5WvwH1gNmY , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjqW1uHblPU
Storify – http://storify.com/techcampglobal/techcamp-tel-aviv
TechCamp Global FB page – https://www.facebook.com/TechCampGlobal
Ma’ayan Alexander is an Internet Activities Manager and Internet for Social Change Consultant at Shatil, the New Israel Fund’s initiative for social change. Ma’ayan lives in Jerusalem and is involved in community activism on the local and national levels. She shares her thoughts and experience of Internet usage for social change on her blog