Recently, someone sent a message to the Barcamp Koforidua page asking – “What do you do at the (bar)camp and for how long and how much?” This article addresses his and others’ questions. The Barcamp Ghana program is a GhanaThink Foundation initiative. This program is building a network of young changemakers, doers and entrepreneurs. At Barcamps in Ghana, there is learning, sharing and networking. The aim is to bring people together to learn from each other, share with each other and network. A lot of the conversations are broadly around entrepreneurship, leadership and technology.
What is a Barcamp? A Barcamp is an ad-hoc informal gathering of people. Barcamps in Ghana are an evolution of what regular Barcamps are and a revolution around which certain goals are being met. Barcamps in Ghana have become “networking forums”. Events where serious discussions happen in an informal and open environment. So yes, it’s liking to camping in a bar without the loud music and the alcohol. Attendees must leave the Barcamps highly motivated, inspired and enterprising. It’s that “can-do” attitude. There are 3 main sections of each Barcamp in Ghana as described below.
There is one session that centers around the theme for the Barcamp and its location – town, etc. This session can be done in the form of a keynote speaker who speaks or presents on the theme, or an interview with this keynote person on the theme. We can also have a panel of people discussing the theme. In some cases, we have had open discussions on the theme, as one group or broken into separate groups. The latter session gives Barcampers the opportunity to figure out – who is in the room – that they can network or connect with easily.
The second main session is that of speed mentoring. It’s like speed dating, but one person is a mentor the other a mentee. It’s normally a one-on-one 10 minute session or sometimes with a couple of people to a mentor. If there are too few mentors for the large participant number or many participants are unable to see mentors, we’ll switch to group mentoring with longer times in each round. The aim of these chats is for the mentee to gain insight and get advice from the mentor. It’s also for them to network, discuss something peculiar to them, gain information, etc. It’s arguably the most popular session at Barcamps.
The third session consists of breakout sessions organized by various participants. Some are organized by Barcamp Ghana partners, other organizations, etc. A Barcamper can literally hear about the Barcamp on Friday, attend on Saturday morning and by Saturday afternoon, organize a breakout session on a topic of their choice. It makes our participants further drive the agenda of the Barcamp. Some use these sessions to drive adoption of tools and products (example Google), others to get local content online (like Wikimedia User Groups), and others engaging users on their programs (like Reach for Change). Blogcamp Ghana, Ghana Makers group, and various groups around the subject of some of these breakout sessions have been created after breakout sessions at Barcamps in Ghana.
Barcamps in Ghana have mostly attracted the youth, especially the aspirational types. They have always been free, since the first Barcamp Ghana event. They target mostly tertiary students and working professionals. The numbers at each event vary from 100 to 400, depending on the location, timing, and yes, budget. Barcamps in Ghana normally run from 9am to 3 or 5pm. The first hour is for registration and networking, and breakfast too. I also call the let’s wait for people to come hour”. Many Ghanaians are tardy with time and we use the first hour to build a quorum of people and do some networking before the Barcamp actually starts. At about 1 or 2, lunch is served, for free as well.
A lot of the mentors are also young. We believe in the power of peer mentoring. Horizontal inspiration comes when colleagues drive their age mates to do better because they have taken the lead and are achieving. What are Barcamps for? Quite simply, we are building a movement of Ghanaian changemakers, doers and entrepreneurs who all know each other. Check out 5 things somebody learnt after one event.
We have had Barcamp Ghana events – in Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi, Tamale, Cape Coast, Ho, Sunyani, Tema, Koforidua, Kasoa, Bolga, Wa and counting. I earlier called it a “morevim movement”, a number of people who are interested in Ghana’s development as well as their own and won’t leave that in the hands of the government or others. The movement is moving across the length and breadth of Ghana and multiplying outside of its borders and catching up to the next of kin in the Diaspora.
This post was written by Ato Ulzen-Appiah, Director of GhanaThink Foundation and co-founder of Barcamp Ghana.