TechCamp Sarajevo: Activists Talk about Technology for Government Accountability

[TechCamp is a program under Secretary Clinton’s Civil Society 2.0 Initiative to galvanize the technology community to assist civil society organizations. With the support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Fundacja TechSoup organized TechCamp Sarajevo in close collaboration with the Office of eDiplomacy of the U.S. State Department.]

On October 18-19, local NGO representatives from the Western Balkans (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina) came together with local and international activists who already use technology in their work in order to exchange their experiences, share ideas and incubate new projects for civil society, particularly with a focus on government accountability.

The two-day meeting used the TechCamp “unconference” format ­­-- an interactive, hands-on event, which is part of the “Community boost_r Tech for high impact” effort run by Fundacja TechSoup and its NGO partners - Dokukino (Serbia), Zašto ne (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and Kosovo 2.0 (Kosovo).

TechCamp Sarajevo opened with remarks from U.S. ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina Patrick Moon on the evening prior to the first day. A hundred and forty people participated in the sessions and workshops that followed in Dom Mladih, the coolest and biggest concert venue in Sarajevo. Most of the participants originated from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Kosovo; some of them, however, came all the way from Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia, and Albania to be able to join the conversation.

Apart from the great group of watchdog and transparency focused NGOs (including different Transparency International chapters from the region), a carefully selected team of local and international trainers contributed to TechCamp’s success. Representatives of the Sunlight Foundation, Frontline SMS, Open Street Map, Open Data Albania, Open Knowledge Foundation, Ipko, One World See, and the Institute for Sustainable Communities (among others) did a great job of sharing their ideas and facilitating conversations.

An unconference is a participant-driven meeting where people have a huge say in what the agenda of the event will turn out to be. TechCamp started with inspirational presentations from the tech trainers and NGOs who are already running tech for accountability projects. This “speed geeking” (not to be confused with speed dating) then led to discussions and brainstorming sessions. Participants then formed teams and, along with the trainers, worked on solutions for problems that they face in their everyday lives.

Topics varied from how to use mobile technology for effective election monitoring (Amy O’Donnell from Frontline SMS led this discussion), all the way to “how to educate people to protest” – a very grassroots workshop (briefly described on Fundacja TechSoup’s community boost_r blog).

TechCamp Sarajevo was a big success and a great confirmation that this new regional partnership is well established. There are a lot of amazing initiatives taking place. Fundacja TechSoup and these new regional partners hope to help the ideas that came out of TechCamp grow into effective projects in the near future.

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