ChangeCamp: Next

Cross-posted from

The ChangeCamp community is growing and continuing to build momentum. After ChangeCamps in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver and with organizers coming together in Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal and beyond, this felt like a good time to reflect and share what we’ve been doing together and explore some possibilities for the future.

To that end, I hosted a cross-Canada conference call for past and prospective ChangeCamp organizers and allies to share where we came from, what we’ve accomplished and learned and where we might go. Detailed notes are available on the wiki. We are building relationships across Canada so organizers can support and learn from each other. If you are interested in joining us, please join the Google Group.

A Point of Departure

A second goal of this call was to share a synthesis of my own accumulated thoughts, conversations and inspirations over the past six months, describing what I believe is under the hood of ChangeCamp and to describe a vision for what ChangeCamp might become. I am embedding my slides here to share with the wider community.

This vision is speculative, blue-sky and from my own point of view. I am sharing it to begin a deeper discussion and to begin designing the kernel of ChangeCamp. A fuller description of this vision and your comments follow after the jump…

A World in Crisis

I believe that much of what causes us to gather around the word “Change” from such diverse walks of life comes from the reality of the world in which we find ourselves. Our problems are outstripping our capabilities to solve them. They are multiplying and they are complex. Our institutions charged with managing the world on our behalf are straining to keep up to the accelerating pace of change. From financial to economic crises, from climate to broader environmental and social crises, it is becoming clear to many that what has worked for us in the past is no longer working. This global reality poses risks to each of us, the communities we call home and civilization as we know it.


Much of this mismatch between our problems and our capabilities to solve them comes from the increasingly complex and hyperconnected systems around us. As individuals, as institutions and as a society we lack the necessary tools and skills to perceive complexity and make sense of it, much less to manage it. We need new tools and new institutions for this new world.

Community, Social Capital and Connectedness

From Putnam we know the importance of social capital to community resilience and success. And yet throughout the industrial age, our communities have become increasingly disconnected. Our suburban model of urban planning separated work from life and people from each other. Professionalization and specialization of everything separated capabilities into silos of competency managed within command and control systems. Mass media and politics separated people into clumsy demographic categories that denied much of our humanity. Our public service model took lessons from mass commercial enterprise and began to look at citizens as customers. We’ve lost our sense of civic belonging and participation.

The essential challenge is to transform the isolation and self-interest within our communities into connectedness and caring for the whole.

Peter Block: “Community: the Structure of Belonging”, p.2

Social Web

Into this vacuum of disconnectedness comes a new world of social connection, participation and collaboration enabled by the social web. The set of new social behaviours enabled by social web technologies are, in the view of Clay Shirky, retrieving some much older patterns of human social behaviour. The return of peer to peer, of leaderless organizations, of the circle as the form of social gathering, of tribes, of reputational authority and of trust are all enabled and embedded within the nature of the social web and the technologies that underpin it.

We are living in the middle of the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race.

Clay Shirky: “Here Comes Everybody”, p.106

What is ChangeCamp?

ChangeCamp is both a platform (online and face-to-face) and a community.

ChangeCamp is a platform for citizens to convene other citizens in order to transform their communities and help create change. It is a third-space commons for collaboration that sits outside government, private and institutional structures. ChangeCamp activates and engages what community member David Eaves dubbed the Long Tail of Public Policy.

Long Tail of Public Policy, David Eaves
Long Tail of Public Policy, David Eaves

Methods: Open Space + Social Media + Open Innovation

Embedded within ChangeCamp are three primary memes and methods.

  1. Citizen-led large group participatory gatherings similar to Open Space (“ChangeCamps”)
  2. Online participation and collaboration using social web technology; same time/place and different time/place
  3. Open innovation approaches to value creation: open source, open data, open access, creative commons

A Community of Values and Interests

ChangeCamp is a post-partisan community of citizens interested in using these methods to create change. As a community, we are interested in open government, social innovation, citizen engagement, participatory democracy and public sector renewal. We are interested in exploring the use of social web technology and open innovation approaches as enablers of of positive social change. The ChangeCamp community is both local and national/global, and comprises a network of networks at a variety of scales.

David Eaves began an important conversation on the values driving many in the so-called “open movement” with his recent post dubbed A Neo-Progressive Manifesto. While some of the specific values he proposes may be debatable, the themes of human-scale, sustainable, participatory, open, community values and vibrant, creative, remixable and hybrid solutions to public/social problems outside traditional institutions seem to resonate for many drawn to ChangeCamp.

Further work and dialogue on these values is important and of interest, but our action does not depend upon a final and definitive exposition of community values.

ChangeCamp Purpose

Given all of the above observations of the context, values and methods emerging within the ChangeCamp platform and community, I would like to propose this statement of purpose for discussion by our community:

ChangeCamp spreads the emerging ideas, tools and methods of a networked society and builds social capital to accelerate community transformation. ChangeCamp is both a platform and a community of action.

The fundamental work of restoring community and facilitating a shift from industrial age to network age institutional structures is the core work that binds together the disparate threads of the ChangeCamp community. That work is focused on making positive social change happen and transforming our communities in line with our values.

A Goal Designed for Action

Enable the organization of 100 ChangeCamps in communities across Canada in September 2010.

This goal is something that Daniel Rose suggested to me in conversation as a useful tool for designing an approach to the future of ChangeCamp. It is intended to be big, bold, actionable and useful for the purposes of creating action and a direction for ChangeCamp.

I converted this initial goal into very rough estimates about reach and impact. Assuming 100 participant co-creators at face-to-face events and an online participation platform for ongoing engagement that follows the online community 90-9-1 rule, we can see how achieving such a goal might translate into 1 million Canadians aware and engaged in the activities of community transformation.

A Set of Activities to Achieve this Goal

In order to scale the ChangeCamp platform and community to this level, a program of work to create the enabling framework would be necessary. The actual work in local communities would be undertaken by groups of community organizers, but those organizers need tools and support. An initial scope of activity might include:

  • Identify and provide tools, support and training for local organizers
  • Develop and publish design patterns for events, both large-scale and small
  • Design and develop an integrated online organization and collaboration platform at
  • Build partnerships with organizations with shared interests: citizen engagement, public sector renewal and social innovation
  • Deploy social media analytics tools to translate unstructured content into useful information and to measure community engagement and action

Thinking Big

While this vision is large and daunting, I believe that it is achievable. Within our community, we have the talent, networks, methods, skills and capabilities to deliver something truly transformative. I am encouraging us all to think bigger than we normally allow ourselves, to imagine possibility and to bring that imagination of the possible to others.

My questions are:

  1. Is this vision attractive to you?
  2. Can you imagine yourself within it?
  3. Is the purpose and goal described worth pursuing?

I look forward to our conversation. You can leave a comment on this post, join the Google Group to discuss, reach me on Twitter (@remarkk) where we are using the hashtag #ChangeCamp or email me at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *