10 Things I’ve Learned From Building Bootcamp

Campaign Bootcamp would be nothing without the volunteer organisers, trainers and coaches, the sponsors, the tech support, the encouragement and the scenario response list.

Casper ter Kuile, one of the Bootcamp founding team shares his thoughts as he embarks on new adventures.

1. The campaigning community is extraordinarily generous.

Campaign Bootcamp would be nothing without the volunteer organisers, trainers and coaches, the sponsors, the tech support, the encouragement, the scenario response list, the connections and the massive doses of love that we have received. Thank you to each and every one of you – we are so grateful.

2. Pubs are good places to found organisations.

On August 5th 2012, when Kat, Weldon, Tom, Johnny, Dan and I met in the Rose and Crown in Stoke Newington with our pal Charlotte, we knew we wanted to mirror some of the great work that the New Organizing Institute had done in the USA, but we had no idea if it would work. Must have been good beer and tonic water…

The Rose and Crown Pub, Stoke Newington

3. The scenario rocks.

No doubt about it, the Campaign Bootcamp scenario is my favourite part of the week. It’s a chance to put into practice what Bootcampers have learned, but it’s also a great chance to explore the difficulties of teamwork, leadership, pressure – and invent some hilarious red herrings for the Bootcampers to figure out. Thanks to everyone for indulging me with some fun costumes and outrageous issue briefings.

4. When we invest in the diversity of our communities, our communities become stronger.

We knew our sector wasn’t representative of our country – and that this meant we were being less effective than we could be. We believe in efficacy and excellence, so that meant we had to get serious about diversity. From our amazing Bootcampers, mentors, partners and funders we’ve learned a lot about how to build a strong, diverse community so that at Bootcamp 4, we had the most diverse Bootcamp yet in terms of age, race, experience and geography. And it was awesome.

5. We have to be serious about pedagogy.

None of the founding team were training experts – we just had an idea that we wanted to make happen. One of the best things to happen for our work was the hiring of Anna Collins, our Training Manager, who brings her expertise from the world of direct education. Updating our syllabus meant adding time for reflection, generalisation and application – not just time for experiencing new tools. I’m more confident than ever in the efficacy of our training and that is absolutely thanks to Anna.

6. In campaigning, we need friends more than colleagues.

Campaign Bootcamp has always been about friendship for me. I believe that the long-term capacity of any activist is directly correlated with the strength of the relationships they maintain with other people working to make the world a better place. We’ve always designed for friendships within in our program, our training team, and our professional staff. Good colleagues are wonderful, but good friends are even better.

7.  We all have something to learn, we all have something to teach.

In every session there’s something new that I learn – on media tactics, how to win an argument, the latest online tools. In fact, the more Bootcamps I’m part of, the more humble I feel in the face of the incredible expertise in the room. And every time I end up sharing something that I didn’t realise that I knew about. Perhaps there’s a lesson for life in here…

8. The work never ends, that’s why we have to rest.

One of the best things we’ve done at Bootcamp is open up space to talk about mental health explicitly. Most of us become campaigners because we’ve had some experience of injustice, and it can be exhausting, difficult work in the face of great opposition. I’ve loved sharing stories of struggle and practices that keep me going, as well as hearing from fantastic trainers on how each of us can strengthen our wellbeing.

9. Good things spread faster than we think.

When Anne Isakowitsch came to the first Bootcamp, she hadn’t expected to leave with the idea of setting up our German sister organisation. But she did! Bootcamps have now taken place in Germany, India and Switzerland – with more coming in New Zealand, Latin America and South East Asia. We can’t wait to see how they innovate, improve and contextualise what we’ve done so far.

10. This work isn’t a marathon, it’s a relay race.

We started Bootcamp because each of us had benefited from investment and training at the start of our campaigning journeys and we wanted to pay it forward. I’ve loved seeing Bootcampers become trainers, organisers and staff members – and I hope all of us will find ways of passing on what we’ve learned. If our campaign opponents have money-power, we must cultivate our people-power and that means investing in the next wave of leaders.


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