CampaignCon 2017—a space for thinking outside the box

Thursday 21 December 2017

By Jamillah Mwanjisi, Head of Advocacy, Campaigns, Communication & Advocacy 

When I decided to attend this year’s Campaign Conference (CampaignCon 2017) in Pretoria, South Africa, I did not know what to expect. But I knew for sure I would be sitting and listening to one presentation after another and doing one group work after the other led by ‘campaign experts.

Come morning the following day I was in for a rather great surprise. When I got to the meeting hall I found a nice big circle of empty chairs and no sign of long rectangular desks or roundtables covered with satin cloth. There wasn’t even a projector or screen on sight. Most people in the room who were first timers like me were equally muddled. Why are we sitting like we are AA meeting?

As we all discovered soon enough, CampaignCon is done differently.  As a space for campaigners and activists, everyone is an expert. Everyone was expected to lead a session, facilitate an exchange or just share experiences of building movements and campaigning. This is what campaigners know how to do best!

This year the CampaignCon took place on November 7 to 9 in Pretoria, South Africa and it brought together about 112 participants from 37 countries.  We came together to discuss how best to mobilise and campaign more effectively in today’s world where the space for civil society is shrinking and the freedom of expression and organizing is threated by the growing authoritarian regimes across the world.

This was a three-day hands-on skills and experience sharing of campaigners, mobilisers and other members of civil society groups from different parts of the world. We focused on what innovations and creativity are working where and how can others learn and adopt the different models to suit their context.

Being in this space was really inspiring for me. It is easy to think that mobilising and campaigning for and with children in Somalia/Somaliland is very challenging particularly as we deal with complex issues such as Female Genital Mutilation, early, forced or child marriages and access to education for girls but I learned every issue and space has its own challenges one just needs to think outside the box.

From the youth campaigners, I discovered new and creative ways of campaigning where there is limited or no connectivity.  Experts on strategy development shared why it is important and how to connect your online campaigning with offline actions for effective social change.

One of the issues we have been struggling with in Somalia/Somaliland is how we could ensure that our Every last Child campaign—focused on ending child marriages, FGM and access to education for girls—is supported and that communities take an active role. It will be amazing to reach a point where people—led by women and girls could self-organize and take initiatives to support the campaign objectives. 

I had a chance to present this dilemma to a small group of people and ask them to reflect with us and suggest what we could do differently.

 “It has to start with your theory of change. You need to think what would really move someone to take part. Think about a reward or recognition systems that people will be proud to be associated with. This works well in most places,” said one participant from India who came to listen to our story and challenges. Her organisation—Haiyya—is made up of young and dynamic women from India and they have managed to highlight key and sensitive issues affecting women and girls in their community. She shared lots of examples of initiatives that have forced states to make changes due to pressure from citizens as a result of campaign activities.

The processes allowed the small group to interrogate our approaches and provide innovative suggestions of what we could do differently to ensure we make ‘invisible issues visible.’

Lots of great ideas and most of them could work well in Somalia/Somaliland and for our Every last Child Campaign. However I left with a few more questions that must be answered as we move ahead with a more focused campaign. We need to find ways to build a strategy that is beyond events and moments. A strategy that will aim at building capacities, working in partnerships and leveraging on people-led movements for social change. 

And yes! Often times we forget to celebrate and recognize the change makers in our communities.  That brave father who commits to keep her girl in school despite all odds or that brave mother who says my daughter will not go through the inhumane process of Female Genital Cutting.

When I decided to attend this year’s Campaign Conference (CampaignCon 2017) in Pretoria, South Africa, I did not know what to expect. But I knew for sure I would be sitting and listening to one presentation after another and doing one group work after the other led by ‘campaign experts.

Come morning the following day I was in for a rather great surprise. When I got to the meeting hall I found a nice big circle of empty chairs and no sign of long rectangular desks or roundtables covered with satin cloth. There wasn’t even a projector or screen on sight. Most people in the room who were first timers like me were equally muddled. Why are we sitting like we are AA meeting?

As we all discovered soon enough, CampaignCon is done differently.  As a space for campaigners and activists, everyone is an expert. Everyone was expected to lead a session, facilitate an exchange or just share experiences of building movements and campaigning. This is what campaigners know how to do best!

 This year the CampaignCon took place on November 7 to 9 in Pretoria, South Africa and it brought together about 112 participants from 37 countries.  We came together to discuss how best to mobilise and campaign more effectively in today’s world where the space for civil society is shrinking and the freedom of expression and organizing is threated by the growing authoritarian regimes across the world.

This was a three-day hands-on skills and experience sharing of campaigners, mobilisers and other members of civil society groups from different parts of the world. We focused on what innovations and creativity are working where and how can others learn and adopt the different models to suit their context.

Being in this space was really inspiring for me. It is easy to think that mobilising and campaigning for and with children in Somalia/Somaliland is very challenging particularly as we deal with complex issues such as Female Genital Mutilation, early, forced or child marriages and access to education for girls but I learned every issue and space has its own challenges one just needs to think outside the box.

From the youth campaigners, I discovered new and creative ways of campaigning where there is limited or no connectivity.  Experts on strategy development shared why it is important and how to connect your online campaigning with offline actions for effective social change.

One of the issues we have been struggling with in Somalia/Somaliland is how we could ensure that our Every last Child campaign—focused on ending child marriages, FGM and access to education for girls—is supported and that communities take an active role. It will be amazing to reach a point where people—led by women and girls could self-organize and take initiatives to support the campaign objectives. 

I had a chance to present this dilemma to a small group of people and ask them to reflect with us and suggest what we could do differently.

 “It has to start with your theory of change. You need to think what would really move someone to take part. Think about a reward or recognition systems that people will be proud to be associated with. This works well in most places,” said one participant from India who came to listen to our story and challenges. Her organisation—Haiyya—is made up of young and dynamic women from India and they have managed to highlight key and sensitive issues affecting women and girls in their community. She shared lots of examples of initiatives that have forced states to make changes due to pressure from citizens as a result of campaign activities.

The processes allowed the small group to interrogate our approaches and provide innovative suggestions of what we could do differently to ensure we make ‘invisible issues visible.’

Lots of great ideas and most of them could work well in Somalia/Somaliland and for our Every last Child Campaign. However I left with a few more questions that must be answered as we move ahead with a more focused campaign. We need to find ways to build a strategy that is beyond events and moments. A strategy that will aim at building capacities, working in partnerships and leveraging on people-led movements for social change. 

And yes! Often times we forget to celebrate and recognize the change makers in our communities.  That brave father who commits to keep her girl in school despite all odds or that brave mother who says my daughter will not go through the inhumane process of Female Genital Cutting.