Joining a global group of now more than 800 organizations, TechCamps Tel Aviv and Ramallah represented the eighth and ninth TechCamps coordinated under Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's Civil Society 2.0 initiative. These TechCamps brought together three areas of focus for Secretary Clinton: strengthening civil society, innovation, and empowering women and girls. American and international trainers from companies, such as Facebook, Meetup, and Yahoo!, teamed together with the State Department's Office of Innovation and eDiplomacy to help raise the digital literacy of civil society organizations focused on women's empowerment though separate, intensive two-day workshops.
Each TechCamp focused on how to help ensure women and girls have the know-how and education to harness new digital tools that will help them advance their organizations in Israel and the Palestinian Territories in the 21st century. Participants focused on some of the unique challenges faced by both Israeli and Palestinian women civil society organizations that deliver important services that women and youth rely on for education, health, social justice, and business development. A key priority for Secretary Clinton and the State Department is to harness digital tools for good, and TechCamps over the past year have educated civil society organizations on the transformative impact of putting new technologies in the hands of people seeking change.
TechCamp Tel Aviv brought together more than 80 civil society organizations and paired them with both international and local technology experts. Hosted April 30-May 1, the event was made possible by the incredible support and leadership of the U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv and Appleseeds Academy, a local non-governmental organization (NGO) partner. TechCamp Tel Aviv kicked off with an icebreaking exercise led by world-renowned artist Hanoch Piven, who had participants choosing random objects that represented aspects of themselves to then create images representing the 21st century woman. You can see photographs of the images the groups created on the TechCamp Flickr photostream.
For TechCamp Ramallah, the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem partnered with local Palestinian organization Ellam Tam to bring together more than 80 Palestinian women-focused NGOs from Gaza City, Hebron, Nablus, Jerusalem, and along with many more from Ramallah.
In Tel Aviv, one group identified illegal waste dumping and its negative effects as a continuing issue in their community, and worked with technology trainer, Gregory Asmolov, a crowdsourcing and mapping expert to dramatically improve their shared understanding of these sites by setting up a "crowdmap" to better track and allow witnesses to report activities at these illegal dumping sites. In another group, Iris Stern Levi of "Turning the Tables," a new organization that helps former prostitutes enter into society and provides them with life skills, worked with Merrill Beth Ferguson from Meetup to help Iris set up a crowdfunding site to generate the resources necessary to have an actual facility and training center.
In Ramallah, a group worked with Elizabeth Linder from Facebook to connect their high school curriculum with social media exercises in order to more fully engage their students. A second group set out to create a map of the blogger community that would give visual representation of where Palestinian bloggers are working and how they could come together to build better methods for communication.
There were a number of problems and related solutions that were tackled at both TechCamps. For example, Tel Aviv and Ramallah both brought together women's organizations working to combat domestic violence. The approaches to address this important issue in both TechCamps reiterated the importance of raising awareness among women for personal empowerment, and also addressed ways to help educate men to change the perception of what is socially accepted. Both TechCamps also actively discussed ways to empower women bloggers, both to increase their visibility and credibility. Both TechCamps looked at means to connect NGOs working on women's issues, and how they could form larger networks engaging even more groups who are not yet working or connected to each other online. Finally, both TechCamps raised the need for women NGOs to find innovative funding solutions to help better execute their missions.
Both TechCamps were extremely successful in raising the digital literacy of the participants, in developing low-cost, easy to implement solutions to their problems, and in connecting them with a larger network of NGOs and technologists internationally and within their respective communities.
One of our trainer's summed up TechCamp best: "TechCamp is an excellent opportunity for participants to gain world-class training on the latest technological methods that will be invaluable to their work. This workshop offered benefits to the trainers and participants alike, providing everyone with the unique chance to expand their network to include international experts as well as a wide range of great...organizations and projects."
You can learn more about TechCamps by visiting www.TechCampGlobal.org.