On September 12 and 13 in Kyiv, Ukraine, the U.S. Department of State hosted the 13th TechCamp, a program initiated to build the digital literacy of civil society organizations around the world. TechCamp Kyiv, themed "Creating a Global Citizen: Building Schools without Walls," brought together over 80 civil society organizations comprised of educators, youth advocates, and community organizers from Ukraine and Belarus to work together and examine how social challenges can be addressed using effective, low cost, easy-to-implement technology solutions. TechCamps raise the digital literacy for civil society organizations by bringing in local and regional technology experts to educate, train, and work with civil society groups over the course of two days. The core of Secretary Clinton's Civil Society 2.0 Initiative, TechCamp Kyiv took place in the heart of the city at the Master Klass Cultural center, focusing on issues throughout the region ranging from engagement of youth, to encouraging participation in social responsibility projects, to building the school of the future, to creating equal access to information among outlying areas.
Ambassador John F. Tefft kicked off day one with remarks expressing the commitment of the United States to youth development. Ambassador Tefft said that technology in the hands of teachers, librarians, and youth advocates "gives hope for the future." Technology experts such as Samantha Barry from the BBC, Josephine Dorado, The New School / Kidz Connect, and Angela Odour from Ushahidi sprang to action offering five minute "speed-geeking sessions" aiming to expose participants to quick case studies of what is possible in the realm of new technology use. Trainers told stories such as "Getting the Message Out Using Online Tools in Burma,""Mapping Famine Data to Advocate for Change," and "Using a Mobile App to Rate Schools in Moldova" to peak interest. Eighty-minute dedicated training sessions followed, providing the civil society groups a "deep dive" into the specific application of technologies.
Participants learned how to put together effective social media engagement campaigns to mobilize youth to action, discovered new ways to map educational data, and brainstormed ways to identify schools online that need improvements, among other topics. Participants developed a working knowledge of new technologies easily, learning on the spot how to effectively tell a story using online video, relay a message using blogging and podcasting, and use online sharing resources to provide education across distances. At the end of the first day, discussion groups, led primarily by NGOs, focused on brainstorming the biggest challenges currently facing their organizations that might be solved using technology. Participants talked about the need to address problems such as "better education about the danger of alcohol use" and "passive citizenship among youth," and came up with problems in the form of questions to be solved the following day.
Having learned what was possible in terms of technology implementation, the groups worked on the second day to pair these challenges up with technological solutions and develop detailed project action plans for future sustainability. In total, participants responded with a great deal of enthusiasm, creating 17 detailed action plans with other Ukrainian and Belarusian group members, technologists and tech trainers. Civil society worked closely with technologists to map out strategies for these projects, forming working teams for future development across organizations.
One of the interesting projects, led by civil society participants Olga Yaroshenko and Olga Kotvytska, focused on forming a community of learning surrounding the creation and implementation of online gaming as a tool for teachers to connect with students. Another project, "Sevastopol Schools Interactive Map," developed and deployed an online map to display extra curriculum opportunities offered in secondary schools for a particular city. Other projects included the development of an online platform for citizen journalists to network with each other, building a place online for people to report dilapidated houses to the local authorities, and providing a resource for existing opportunities to invest in local resources.
Following the two-day formal TechCamp Kyiv event, were two "mini TechCamps." Three international trainers traveled to both Donetsk and Kharkiv in Eastern Ukraine and engaged with over 40 additional civil society organizations and librarians throughout the Eastern Ukrainian region where they offered training sessions on mobile, gaming, and online engagement. We hope that this is event propels participants' efforts to educate and build capacity among the next generation of Ukrainians and Belarusians so that they can become true global citizens.