Why I love the ECF conference & mailing list

You know that thing where you talk about one particular thing quite a lot to many different people, and you gradually get very sick of hearing yourself repeat yourself? This has happened to me in regard to the very wonderful Ecampaigning Forum conference that takes place each year in Oxford, and also the associated mailing list that its community uses to keep in touch.  So I’m going to write down all the reasons why both are amazing and why you should get involved with both, and will send people a link to this blog post instead. More reading! Less repeating myself!

The Ecampaigning Forum Conference

What you need to know

  • Keble College

    It’s an annual event that takes place over two days in March / April; current location is Keble College in Oxford

  • It’s organised by ecampaigning guru Duane Raymond of Fairsay, assisted by awesome people like Jess Day
  • You have to apply to attend; they do this to ensure that attendees have a good level of experience and knowledge to share
  • It’s for campaigners, fundraisers and communicators from progressive charities, campaigns and agencies to get together and talk about all things digital
  • It costs about £400-£500 to attend, depending on when you book
  • There’s a sister event in Berlin each year, usually around October/November, which is also great
  • Sign up to the ECF list (more on that below) and you’ll be notified when the 2018 event is open for booking

Reasons why I love it

  • It has the best ever format – a mix of brilliant keynote speakers and ‘open space’ sessions where attendees can propose topics for discussion
  • The level of knowledge among attendees is really exceptional. I’ve learned more from the ECF than any other event or course in my career.
  • It’s also a hugely friendly and open event, where it’s completely fine to be a newbie and you can admit if you know absolutely nothing about a particular topic
  • People are really generous about sharing their knowledge, their results, their advice, their tactics
  • The size is perfect – there’s usually around 120 or so people there. Big enough to find plenty of people with similar interests, not so large that it’s overwhelming and difficult to connect with people.
  • I always learn loads and meet really excellent people, and we have fun times in the pub each evening
  • Oxford is amazing. It’s really easy to get to from Ireland and it’s completely magical. Great excuse to go and check out a beautiful and unique city.

The ECF List

Duane of Fairsay also runs an online community for digital campaigners. It’s grown to over 2,000 members, is email-based, and people discuss campaigning, fundraising, communications, productivity, and much much more.

What you need to know

  • You can sign up here: fairsay.com/networks
  • It has more than 2,000 members, and is very active and busy. You’ll need to filter the messages into a folder or it’ll overwhelm your inbox on busy days.
  • There is a searchable archive so you can look at conversations that happened before you joined. Best to check if a question has already been asked a heap of times before you post it.
  • Generally best, as with all online communities, to listen and read for a bit before posting, but sure you know that anyway…
  • Unsubscribe instructions are at the foot of each email. Don’t reply all and ask to be taken off the list, or you’ll annoy over 2,000 people and you don’t need those kinds of digital bad vibes in your life, right?
  • Don’t spam the list either – there are rules for posting things like job and event listings.

Reasons why I love it

  • The people on the list are so, so knowledgeable and helpful. I recently posted about a problem I was having with Facebook and got 10 really insightful and useful replies.
  • People are also very kind – when someone posted recently about experiencing work-related burnout, lots responded with empathy and shared their own experiences.
  • While the community is kind, they’re also rigorous and have a lot of integrity – and will challenge things that they see as unfair. Organisations have been called out for posting exploitative unpaid internships, for example.
  • There’s a great mix of skills and disciplines on the list – lots of techies, writers, fundraisers, videographers, brilliant communicators.
  • They generally tend to be ahead of the curve – the ECF list is where I’ve had the earliest and best conversations about digital transformation, breaking out of our echo chamber and other issues that are so important to the sector.

So there we have it. A brilliant event where I learn new things every year (I’ve been 10 times now) and a fantastic online community that I would be lost without.  If you work in digital for a charity or a campaign, or if you’re a consultant or with an agency, sign up for the list today. And try to get the budget to go to the event.

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About the Author: Jean

Jean O'Brien is a digital communications expert and designer, who has almost a decade of experience working as an online specialist with Irish charities.

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