We can make the impossible possible

ecf open space ideas

ecf open space ideas

Last week I attended the eCampaigning Forum (ecf2014).  It was a completely different event to anything I had ever been to before. There was a mix of presentations, panel discussions and open space groups, convened by participants who together set the agenda for the topics they wanted to learn about. The atmosphere was friendly and open as campaigners, fundraisers, digital leaders, communicators and technologists openly shared their passion, knowledge and skills.

Zaid Hassan opened day one with a talk about his new book “The Social Labs Revolution: A new approach to solving our most complex challenges”

Zaid highlighted that in our complex and unpredictable world, in order to understand and respond to constant change, we generate massive amounts of information. There is too much to digest, which means that we must make decisions without knowing everything about a situation. Designing for change, rather than conventional planning will therefore become increasingly important. How do we know how or when to change? Zaid spoke about the abundance of real data that is available through social media, which can be used to gain opinions; spot trends and test different ways to achieve success in a constantly changing world.

Anna MacDonald, Head of Arms Control at Oxfam then talked us through the many challenges in planning Oxfam’s 10-year Arms Trade Treaty campaign.

Commitment and focus to set an ambitious end goal was crucial. Her view was that if Governments are not telling you your ideas are crazy then simply you are not aiming high enough.

Anna also highlighted that if something is too complicated it won’t work. So rather than getting bogged down in the detail, make things as simple as you possibly can and always refer back to your overall purpose for inspiration. Focus on why what you are doing is important.

Sometimes, not surprisingly, the Arms Trade Treaty campaign felt too huge; breaking the overall goal down into smaller chunks to track progress and celebrate success made the overall long-term goal seem more manageable.

It reminded me of a story a friend told me about their climb to the top of Kilimanjaro. They told me how the climb begins at midnight, in the dark. The reason you start in the dark is simply because if you saw the enormity of your task before you started you would think it was impossible. By the time it gets light and you can fully appreciate your surroundings you have made a good start and the climb to the summit feels more achievable.

There were so many opportunities to learn at ecf2014 both from the expert speakers and also from other participants. My take-outs were:

  • aim big
  • be clear on why your goal is important
  • keep focused on what success looks like
  • constantly review your progress and plan (if you have one)
  • be ready to change your plans as the world changes around you

Perhaps though, the most important part of the ecf2014 experience was that it didn’t matter if you were a campaigner, fundraiser, digital expert or technologist, it was the opportunity to be part of a network, determined to make change happen. A network, that together is committed to making the impossible possible.

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