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BWB NEWS 06/25/2019

Smart Aid Gatherings: BWB 2018 Community Grant Update

One of our 2018 Community Micro Grant Recipients is Smart Aid Gatherings from Campfire Innovation, in Greece!

Project leader Joanna Maria Theodorou describes the project:

The funds are used for the expenses of organising regular events in Athens that bring together a diverse community of volunteers, aid workers, social entrepreneurs and volunteers to discuss innovative and impactful approaches to humanitarian aid. The discussion is based on real life examples invited as speakers. We are also planning to use a portion of the funds to cover a visit to Lesvos or Northern Greece and host a similar event in this non-Athens location to spread the concept of effective aid beyond our immediate community.

The events are organised by the Field Team (2-3 people) and supported by the Media Team (2-3 people). On average, every month 5-6 people work on each event with attendance between 40-60 people per event.

Participation, Civic Responsibility, Communal Effort, and Radical Inclusion were demonstrated in the following ways:

We invite anyone to join this open event to learn more about citizen-led humanitarian aid, regardless of their background. We also find ways to encourage participation before and during the event by collecting questions and moderating a discussion that includes the audience and inviting them to collaborate.

Civic Responsibility
Smart Aid Gatherings and Campfire Innovation are focused on a social mission and are specifically looking to highlight the work of citizens in humanitarian aid and mobilise others to join and support it. One of our key messages is that it is our responsibility to act as citizens and that it is crucial for citizen initiatives to be supported.

Communal Effort
First of all, the Gatherings are an activity that mobilise the whole of Campfire Innovation’s volunteer team (10+ people).
But while our role is that of organisers, the content is solely generated by participants. The discussion is completely participatory and we have increasingly found ways to make the content generation led by participants (collecting questions in advance, polling our community to choose the topic of the event, serving food from local refugee initiatives etc.).
The quality and value of the event has grown by making it a community-led event.

Radical Inclusion
We want our audience to be as diverse as possible and have increasingly opened up the events to aid workers from all backgrounds and reach out to established actors as well as our grassroots community. This has extended to having larger INGOs as speakers (last month we had the IRC as a speaker). We also make a point of including refugee-led initiatives and inviting the refugee community, as they are the main stakeholders of humanitarian aid. They come as participants but we also want them to present as speakers to reduce the aid worker/beneficiary separation in an effort to reduce the notion of humanitarian aid as charity.

Our focus is specifically on refugee aid and how it can be reinvented for the 21st century as it shapes up to be one of the biggest challenge of this generation.
Additionally, we are approaching it from a grassroots perspective. The Smart Aid Gatherings are the only platform right now where smaller organisations can discuss best practices. It’s also the only place where citizen-led humanitarian aid is presented to the wider humanitarian community in an effort to increase collaboration between citizen initiatives and established actors. We’ve seen an increase in collaboration between grassroots initiatives as they interact through our event. Additionally, we are receiving more requests from established actors (Municipality, UNHCR etc.) to connect with citizen and community-led organisations because they are beginning to see the impact that can be achieved by smaller actors. Finally, we are noticing that smaller organisations are showing an increased focus on developing more effective operational structures, a key message that we are constantly communicating in our events.

The regularity of the Gatherings are crucial for building community among citizen-led projects and creating a platform to champion them and their practices. We are therefore 100% committed to continuing this event. It is one of the key activities we are fundraising for the rest of 2019. We would also love to share some of our findings: best practices in aid, innovative approaches to refugee response etc. with the rest of the community. By July, we will have featured over 15+ speakers at BWB -funded Gatherings. It would be awesome to share the effective solutions they are developing with the rest of the BWB community. Finally, one of our outcomes will be a “How To Organise a Smart Aid Gathering” guide. If there is interest from organisations within your network from countries dealing with refugee influxes, we would be very excited to disseminate the guide through the network.

To learn more about Smart Aid Gatherings or Campfire Innovation, find them here.

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