Central Asian SICamp Redux: smaller, more wired, and with beer smuggling

Jun 6, 2012
One Comment

The second Social innovation camp was held 31 May – 3 June in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Although smaller than its predecessor in 2011 on the Kyrgyz Issyk Kul, it has had some changes that made it a great event.

First of all, the coverage of the event was really good. New reporter, the media lab of Internews KZ, and several papers featured the camp. In addition, all of the major events (such as the inauguration ceremony, the fundraising and social media seminar by the Internews, and the final presentation and award ceremony) were broadcast using Twitter and U-Stream, the streaming application for iPads. What is more, participants themselves also contribute to posting to the camp’s website, making it a real crowd-broadcasted event.

Second, the camp saw a great mix of people from different professional backgrounds. There were designers, programmers, and activists. Olga Kaplina also invited the creative director of one of Kazakhstan’s advertising agencies to guide the teams in how to monetize and sustain their ideas. Saule Meirmanova and Marzhan Elshibaeva were a brilliant organizing team.


All materials from the camp are offered on the sicamp2012.info website. From a personal perspective, I just want to note the following:

1. No one says that the projects will take off immediately or will all be successful. As Jaro Valuch said, the most important thing is that people get together in such platforms to see that they are not alone.

2. There were plenty of ideas and concepts that didn’t make it through to the camp because they were too commercial. Guys, please remember that the SICamp is not a grant competition; SICamp is an opportunity to take advantage of a synergistic environment to launch the projects. People who come for money are not coming to the SICamps – they should go directly to donors. Those coming to SIcamp really want to start their projets despite all and need the camaraderie and minimum financial support.

The projects that made it to the finals are:

1. An electronic school diary (third place) – although not so much a social one. It was well developed, making the jury believe the team will be able to launch it.
2. A portal for the people leaving foster care – a site and a social network to make people who are leaving foster care find jobs, places for studies, and to socialize and rise in the social hierarchy.
3. Enabled.kg – a portal for disabled people to get training in web programming and design and thus find high-paying jobs. As far as we understood, this means attending  online trainings- in the form of webinars and online classes. However, the professionals in these fields will be at the disposal of students for consulting and mentoring. It is also necessary to note that the project developers are aiming to make its target professionals in web and design; for the beginning it rather is going about basic tasks so that they are able to meet the requirements of media and NGOs in development and start their first jobs. Then, they could advance in their proficiency.

Anyway, the story doesn’t end here. The team will be monitoring the projects’ progress. If everything goes well, we won’t exclude doing another SICamp next year. However, everything depends on the success of the winners.

But even if these projects don’t materialize and these teams start completely new ones, then this will also be a success because it means that volunteering and social innovation are not alien to this region.

And yes – we have had a lot of fun, and some beer smuggling and guitar playing (at first on an iPad until we found a real guitar). Thank you all!

About the Author

Alaksiej Lavoncyk

Alaksiej Lavonczyk is a media activist and social media expert from Minsk, Belarus. He had been in charge of the training projects for the NGOs and media on building their capacity in online campaigning and end-user security. Alaksiej had also acted as a consulting and technical expert for NGOs and media in Belarus and four countries of Central Asia (except Turkmenistan) on upgrading media/NGO websites to meet contemporary standards, and on their promotion online. Alaksiej is also running an online training centre for the Central Asians preparing the specialists in SMO promotion.
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