ECF started as the eCampaigning Forum event in Oxford in 2002. The purpose of the event is to connect, share and learn together with campaigning practitioners, innovators and activists. The open agenda makes it easy to connect, share and discover ideas and effective strategies with peers.
Organised by FairSay (Duane Raymond) ECF evolved into a dynamic and very active global community that has grown to +2700 members. Amongst them you can find the most influential people working in digital to support charities, non-profits, campaigning organisations, unions and activist groups.
The annual global conference is still in Oxford and recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. Since 2010 more onion and FairSay have partnered up to organise eCampaigning Forum Europe. The Oxford event has grown so rapidly that we decided to turn ECF Europe into a more relaxed event with a smaller number of participants in an inspiring venue, far away from the buzz of the cities.
In 2017 we will organise our 7th ECF Europe.
What do you find the most valuable time at events (excluding the eCampaigning Forum)?
Is it listening to speakers? Watching panel discussions? Talking with others in the breaks/meals? For most people, the breaks and meals are the most useful part of most events because we get to talk to our peers about real issues we face. What if events were organised as a series of semi-structured ‘breaks’ and with few/no speakers? What you’d have is an innovative form of gathering called Open Space.
Open Space is a well established (30+ year old) methodology for facilitating people to get the most out of coming together. It has been successfully run for only a few people or for thousands. Duane Raymond – the eCampaigning Forum event organiser, has been running events like this for over two decades. ECF Europe has followed the lead successfully.
Over the last decade, events have increasingly adopted and adapted the open space principles. You may have heard them called un-conferences or birds of feather sessions. It works best when the other people in the room are peers with something to give as well as get. That is why we ask you to ‘apply’, and not to ‘register’: so that only those with something to share are actually accepted.
Be prepared to be surprised: Never before and never again will this group be together.
We are social learners: we all learn best by connecting and sharing with experienced peers. Actively connecting and sharing with experienced peers stimulates success and innovation. Passively listening to speakers doesn’t. ECF focuses on convening the right people to boost fundraising success and innovation.
Thus every participant must have relevant experience to be accepted. The agenda is self-organising small-group discussions. Participants find this methodology refreshing and rewarding, enables great learning and is excellent for connecting people and ideas.
Most events tend to be large impersonal gatherings with a full agenda of speakers and a silent ‘audience’. Organisations respond by sending their new staff to get ‘trained’ and their experienced staff to ‘speak’. But these ‘factory’ events put little thought or time put into helping people connect with others who share their interests in a structured, purposeful way – only random meetings with new people and catching up with existing contacts.
The most interesting conversations are with experienced practitioners sitting beside us, actually connecting on topics of mutual interest is random and must be squeezed into breaks and lunches. Yet sustained success happens because experienced staff continually learn from peers and improve. To achieve this, an event organised on fundamentally different principles is required: one where all participants are experienced and they are the focus of the event, not the speakers.