Camp Life and Logistics   view as chat

Logistically speaking, Source Camps require acute attention to detail. This section covers various issues, from getting everyone to the camp to keeping to time. It includes lessons learned, and tips and ideas for addressing the things that come up during the camp.

Additional resources:

  • Choosing a good location is the first step and discussed in more detail in the Booting Up section
  • A checklist for the crucial things you have to organise and take along to your Camp is at Camp Logistics Check-List
  • A description of layout and technology is on the Camp Layout page (and an example map at Camp Map)
  • Take a look at the extensive At The Camp FAQ (frequently asked questions)
  • The Welcome Pack provides the most important information to arriving participants

The remote challenge

The logicstics of getting everything and everyone to the camp on time can be very difficult if transport is challenging. Anything forgotten or left behind might be difficult to get at short notice. Plan carefully, and double-check that you have all essential equipment.

Camp preparation

About 1.5 weeks before the event, a small team travels to the location to start preparations.

  • Check local resources and amenities and organise delivery of needed equipment
  • Gather resources for the event (materials for bazaar, office, resources not available locally, first aid, music, walkie-talkie)
  • Set up venue (See Camp Layout for more on this)
  • Finalise logistics for evening sessions, side sessions and the outing day
  • Prepare Welcome Pack (venue, agenda, participant list with bio's, badge, ...)
  • Prepare invoices for registration/arrivals
  • Ensure that facilitators have all the equipment they need for their sessions
  • Conduct an intro meeting with facilitators. Facilitators usually arrive at least one day before the camp starts
  • Each space in the camp needs to be named, and a map created (see Camp Map for an example map)

Additional resources:

Getting to the Camp

A number of things can go wrong when it comes to participants' travel. Wrong or missing travel logistics information can lead to participants having no-one to meet them them at the airport, or the need for a transit hotel not being identified. It is important to have someone responsible for dealing with travel logistics and related issues such as lost luggage.

Some things to keep and mind and tips for organising travel:

  • Letters for visa applications are often required
  • Ask participants to reserve their own flights (Some may need funding prior to doing so, so be sure to take time lag for wire transfers into account -- see Travel Reimbursement for more information).
  • Ask for confirmation of the track, flight details and arrival times, travel costs and banking details.
  • Prepare a travel schedule, with arrival and departure times of all participants, facilitators etc.
  • Provide detailed instructions on how to get there and what to expect from the trip. Those involved in Africa Source know that a six-hour bus ride on a dusty road is much more manageable if participants know what to expect!
  • Provide information on any travel restrictions or requirements, including vaccinations or visas.
  • Contact lists are important. Emergency contacts for everyone (from participants to organisers) need to be compiled.


"Women from Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Nigeria, Malawi, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Guinea, and Egypt got together to discuss how they might advocate for open source amongst women. Mentoring for school-age girls to get them to consider information technology as a career was seen as a top priority. The openness of the FOSS community was seen as a great opportunity for learning and participation by women." Becky Faith for Pambazuka News
  • Different cultures and religions have different comfort levels regarding the sharing of space between genders. As a general rule, assigning separate sleeping and washing areas for men and women can help avoid problems.
  • Have a strategy for people that want to bring their children. At Asia Source no children were allowed. In order to have women, you probably want to be flexible.
  • It can be useful to have a woman and a man involved in the planning of the camp layout as they will bring very different perspectives and understanding of gender issues.
"A noteworthy dynamic was the percentage of women participants. Afrca Source 2 was more than 35% women, and we'll be striving in future events to achieve a full balance. Groups such as LinuxChix Africa were well-represented, and a good number of facilitators were women." Allen 'Gunner' Gunn


During each Source Camp, a special edition of NGO-in-a-box is created. One organiser needs to be responsible for collecting software and documents that were created during the camp; getting photos and videos that were taken by participants; and then burning them onto CD Roms, and packaging and distributing them to all participants on the last day.

Additional information:

Documenting the event

"The camp journalists are the Open Content crew. Building a weblog and wiki using Plone, they interview and photograph each of the camp's participants. Videographers shoot most of the sessions, editing them on open source video tools (discovering, in the process, that open source video editing is a task for the very brave and very geeky)." Ethan Zuckerman about Asia Source

Documenting the Camp as it is happening has shown to be a great way of putting learned skills to the test (especially if there is a content track that focuses on publishing) as well as building a shared memory of the event.

  • Documentation can take many forms, including photos, movies, recordings, blogging.
  • Facilitators and organisers should actively collect information from participants (mapping, FOSS in your language, software needs, development survey, interviews etc.)
  • Keep an eye out for potential outcomes other noteworthy events, which could also be included in updates you send to funders during the event.
  • Sometimes bandwidth restrictions make documenting the event on a public website (remote from the location) difficult. In this case collect all content locally, but make sure to have at least a regularly updated blog that is available from the outside.

One tool that deserves special mention is the Camp wiki. For each camp a Wiki is created during the planning phase. It is then migrated to a local server at the Camp site to update and manage the agenda and create a community space for participants to store their work. After the Camp, the wikis are made available over the Internet again and they serve as a permanent repository. The best way to find out what the Camp wikis are all about is to have a look:

Additional resources:

Travel Reimbursement

Travel reimbursements take a lot of time and effort and -- because you are dealing with significant amounts of money -- is not without risks and problems. In some countries, bank accounts and wire transfers are not common, which means a large number of participants will need to be reimbused in cash during the camp. This requires careful management of security and logistics.

Additional information:

Take problems in stride!

"Things that can go wrong will go wrong. Someone cut a live wire over the heads of the participants. Sparks were flying all around. Customs officials confiscated power socket strips." -- Gunner

Sometimes things get hot, humid, stressful -- keep your cool and relax. Most problems will be solved some way or other, and projecting your stress on the participants will only create a negative atmosphere that probably makes finding solutions more difficult. Expect to absorb higher levels of stress and solve problems rather than complain about them. It is also useful to have one dedicated technical person, who is in charge of dealing with complex or time-consuming problems - this frees up the other facilitators to focus on running the workshop.

"If things did not go wrong all the time, it would not be the same, and we would not learn as much about using technology in challenging environments. The whole spirit of the event would change. It's a little bit like the army, dealing with all the difficulties and challenges as a group, brings you very closely together." -- Michal

Managing emergencies

There are usually two levels of elevation for dealing with emergencies:

  • Facilitators generally address whatever problems arise, unless they are
  • Serious problems (e.g. medical emergencies) in which case the organisers need to be involved.

Especially medical emergencies require special planning and procedures:

  • Ensure there is someone who can provide first-aid onsite!
  • Make sure you know how to get injured persons to a doctor or hospital and how long the transport will take.
  • Have phone numbers of doctors / hospitals at the camp.

General guidelines for dealing with emergencies:

  • Try to be as familiar as possible with the camp: know where to find things, and how to deal with problems and emergencies.
  • Be prepared to adjust the teaching based on availability of Internet and/or electricity.

The occasional problem

Each Camp is a learning experience and various little ways to do things better are discovered each time. Some are provide here:

  • Be very strict with walk-ins! While there are many reaons why friends, relatives, or strangers might want to join the fun, only admit additional people as an exception. More people means more work and the original list of participants has usually been carefully selected for their abilities and motivations - something that can not easily be guaranteed for last-minute joiners.
  • It is not common, but possible, that one participant or facilitator misbehaves in a way that requires him or her to be "kicked out". This is a serious decision that can only be taken by the organisers and should be reserved for extreme cases, where the presence of that individual lowers the positive impact of the workshop. For example, an individual that offends others based on their gender or religion is probably not a positive element of the camp vibe.

Last edited by: Fran