Ecampaigning Forum: Karina Brisby (Oxfam)

Karina Brisby For the next couple of days I’m at the ecampaigning forum in Oxford and am going to attempt to live blog the main sessions as far as possible. These notes are largely unedited, so they’re likely to be a bit sketchy. For context, feel free to post a comment and I’ll catch up with them when I can.

Karina Brisby – Interactive Campaigns Manager – Oxfam

She’s the Campaigning Manager at Oxfam UK. The past 12 months have been “a whirlwind of change”. Gone from team of 1 to team of 4 working on “interactive campaigning”. You know a change when senior managers ask to be your friend on facebook. Second Life stories generated a real buzz because of the media coverage.

Going to talk about two projects from the past 12 months.

UN Climate Change Conference

Few supporters saw Oxfam as a climate change organisation. Why is someone who works on poverty working on this? Also already a very crowded space, how to get message in there.

Not about getting people to the blog or bring in lots of people. It’s about setting out Oxfam’s cart and getting Oxfam into the debate. Tried to write a blog not focussed on supporters, talking to general public about why Oxfam were there. Trying to get video stories out there about what they’re doing. Two videos a day looking at what was going on, other organisations, Oxfam staff and partners. Approached other orgs and agreed to link to each other. Want people to trust us and respect that we link to other good sources. If you offer good links people will keep coming back to you. RSS feeds “worked amazingly” for syndication to affiliates. Connecting blog with other content built legitimacy.

Beth Kanter at wrote about the blog. picked it up and wrote a story on it. From wired it was picked up in US newspapers.


Fairtrade Woman. Eats nothing but fairtrade food for a fortnight. Set up space on facebook, myspace and corporate site. Most traffic on facebook. Emailed supporters and found 2/3rds went to facebook vs. myspace. About 2000 people followed this. Oxfam facebook group took a long time to hit 2000 people. This got there in two weeks.

Level of conversations on facebook was good. Lots of supporters helping supporters without much facilitation. They set up some discussion, but lots were started by others. Detailed conversation on topics like fair trade clothing.

Videos, etc.

Videos are really good way to engage people on issues, to warm them up for actions. More people watched climate change conference videos than read blog.

Mashups are the way to go. “It’s all about the mashup and the widget.” Can be hard to convince people to accept user generated content or content from other peoples’ sites. Keep trying new things, be that radical new ideas or simple shifts of tone. By trying six types of messaging for emails and tracking that they were able to massively improve returns.

Talked about mashup to show violence in Kenya. Tried to make sure information getting out there was accurate. Was happening inside Kenya during the crisis. Those working on human rights and crisis support can learn a lot from sites like that. Audience member says it’s connected with people like White African.

“Support the Monks’ Protests” Burma Facebook group a good example of something happening very quickly. Rapidly picked up hundreds of thousands of people. Avaaz picked up on it and helped turn it into actions. Brought new audience to actions of groups like avaaz. “The Swarm” (people congregated around groups like this) very powerful. Don’t be afraid to reach out to groups like this. example of Google Earth app to let users enter their zip code and work out if their power was coming from mountaintop removal “mining”. Gave people a reason to care. (ed: still not sure what would drive people there?)

Custom social networks: interesting attempt to connect readers with news gathering/discussion. about whether we build our own or go to the existing social networking sites. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Let people do what they want to do.

Seven (five?) Things I’ve Learned

  1. Always focus on audience. If they don’t want to use podcasts, don’t make them. Don’t just use technology because you’ve invested in it.
  2. Test and trial things. Won’t know what works unless you give them different options
  3. spent 20% time looing at what other people are doing. talk to people in othe orgs
  4. don’t feel pushed into doing something unless you’re ready to do it. need to be able to support what you build or risk disappointing supporters
  5. make use of existing resources in organisation

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