Source Camp Structure   view as chat

On this page you find the basics of how Source Camps are structured, including some notes on content, the different roles and responsibilities of the people running the event, and a few words on how important it is to find good partners to organise a Camp.


Source Camp agendas are built around a few core themes (called tracks), which are tailored to the needs of a specific region. In the past these have included migration to Free/Open Source Software; alternative ways to provide access; information handling and advocacy. In addition to the tracks, Source Camps have a range of events and sessions that cover smaller topics and encourage skills-sharing between participants. Spaces in which debate and exchange around FLOSSophy are also created and especially encouraged.

Practical sessions cover issues ranging from "How to set up a NGO office using free/open source software and provide on-going maintenance and support", to specific "screwdriver sessions": hands-on, practical sessions where participants build something together. For example, constructing wireless antennas or setting up thin-client open labs. Conceptual sessions look at issues ranging from the benefits and intricacies of localisation, to discussions about the challenges of FOSS implementation and advocacy.

Further topics are added depending on participants' needs and regionally relevant issues. For example, during Asia Source, extra sessions were added on FOSS and disaster relief in response to the recent Tsunami, and a whole track was designed on free and open source video and audio for those working with community projects, independent media and advocacy groups.

In their application forms, participants pick a track around which core learning is organised. They follow these tracks in morning sessions throughout the week. In the afternoons, participants choose from a range of sessions according to their interests.

Additional information:

  • See the Running the Programme page for more background on the different types of sessions and how to structure the content.

Roles and responsibilities

While Campers usually cringe at the thought of hierarchical
organisation, there are very different roles and responsibilities that individuals take on during Source Camps. It is interesting to observe how over the course of a Camp the roles shift, as participants are taking on more and more of the facilitation and organisers have to work less and less (just kidding!).

  • Participants - Undoubtedly the most important group of each Camp. Previous events have brought together more than 100 participants with diverse background and interests.
  • Facilitators - Finding the right facilitators is crucial. Please have a look at Facilitation Source Camp-Style for more information on their role. A typical Source Camp will have about 4-6 facilitators for each content track and a few other experts. All in all, Africa Source 2 had about 25 facilitators for roughly 120 participants. At the end of the Camp it was more like 50 facilitators as many participants were starting to teach and share their skills. Facilitators also take on different roles:
    • Content track leaders - Each content track needs one or two individuals who are responsible for compiling a draft outline and working with the other facilitators in their track to plan and implement the track.
    • Afternoon session facilitators - Usually afternoon sessions are facilitated by about 10-15 people, often these are also facilitating content tracks, but they might include participants with special expertise.
  • Camp leader - The role of the camp leader is above all to create a sense and spirit of community. This is a difficult task and requires a unique individual. At previous events, Allen 'Gunner' Gunn has fulfilled this role with bravado. He has worked with other facilitators to pass on some of his skills and expertise. The Camp leader runs most of the sessions that happen in the whole group, and in the case of Allen, takes responsibility for the important wake-up call routing.
  • Organisers - This has in the past been the role of the Tactical Tech crew. Responsibilities include managing finances and logistics during the camp, dealing with emergencies, keeping overall direction. Usually 3-4 organisers are at the Camp and split responsibilities

What is the right size of a Source Camp?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. The size of a Source Camp is determined by:

  • The number of participants your organisation has the capacity to manage and organise
  • The number of people the venue can hold
  • The available budget
  • The number of facilitators available

It is useful to keep in mind that smaller-scale events are easier to implement for organisations with less experience in workshop design and management. Smaller groups develop community spirit more easily and the logistics of managing a large Camp are very demanding. Camps of 100 - 120 people have worked well in the past - they are small enough to have a real sense of community, yet large enough to be very diverse and bring together different groups of participants who benefit from interacting with each other.

Strong partnerships

Source Camps are usually organised collaboratively by a small number of organisations. Generally, it is best to form partnerships with organisations that share a history of working on the ground to promote and realise the use of new technologies within the non-profit sector. A good mix of partners usually bring together diverse experiences, perspectives, skills and regional contacts, as well as complimentary expertise and interests. In a way, these collaborations are like friendships and it is just as difficult to describe what makes a good partner organisations, as it is to answer how one chooses friends.

Difficulties of implementing and replicating Source Camps

The challenges or funning a Source Camp are always surprising. Things that can go wrong, will go wrong, but somehow the difficulties are mastered and in the process community spirit and confidence emerge.

Some of Marek's horror stories on what can happen at Source Camps:

Asia Source - Running the Camp in Bangalore during the dry season (no history of rain for decades at that period of the year) we encounter heavy one hour rain that destroys the bazaar structure, which we spent almost two days building.

Foss road - The most dramatic so far, we had to change the venue few days before the event ... the ceiling in the computer lab collapsed from heavy rain fall, flooding the lab ... etc.

Africa Source 2 - A month and a half before the Camp we find out that one of the donors is not able to contribute. All of a sudden, we have a 35% hole in the budget and realistically 2 weeks for fixing it ... which we managed, but then the bank transfer from Europe gets lost for 5 weeks in between banking wires ... the expected four hours of travel from Kampala to the Camp on Kalangala island takes in some cases up to 12 hours of uncomfortable travel.

In addition, there are a number of challenges that apply in particular to organisations aiming to replicate Source Camps. Some of these are listed on the Replication Challenges and Solutions page, which will hopefully become a place to exchange experiences and support.

Last edited by: phi