Saturday, April 10, 2010

I quit my day job and went to SI Camp...

... and both decisions were probably the best things I’ve ever done in my life.

And the great thing is I’m still here.

Over 70 ideas submitted, only 6 selected, and only 40 participants (out of 150 that applied), Social Innovation Camp Caucasus, taking place from April 8–10 in Tbilisi, Georgia, is not a conference, not a bar camp, and most definitely not for the faint of heart.

A group of mainly youth, from Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia (with a few expats, mostly American, and one repat, me ;) working on ideas that address issues we find in our countries using social media tools.

For more on Social Innovation Camp, go here. To see the six ideas selected, go here.

I’m working on “No Problem!” with Karine Mkrtchyan, Ali Resh (Reshad) and Aleksey Chalabyan, a great idea submitted by Karine that seeks to uncover and report on all those problems which government officials say don’t exist and mainstream media don’t report on.

We’re mainly journalists in our group, but we’re lucky to have Aleksey, a whiz at Drupal, the content management system we’ve decided to use to execute our idea. Like with most of the other groups at SI Camp Caucasus, we were lacking a web designer (though Reshad graciously filled that role in the interim, providing wonderful ideas on layout and design).

At 8 pm last night, just before we left Cultural Center Muza to head back to our hotel, Nodar Davituri appeared like magic (recruited by Anna Keshelashvili, I think — thank you!) and announced that he would design our site. We gave him our sketch for the layout and explained the various elements. He said he would begin working on it at 10 pm (poor guy, I think he was running around and probably had his plate full, doing more than what most of us do on a Friday night ;)

I’ll have more to report on SI Camp Caucasus after it wraps up tonight. But I will mention one thing: getting a group of Azerbaijani, Armenian, Georgian youth together in one room is no easy task. We tend to stick with our own, with the people we came with. But I’m so happy to see that our 6 groups are mixed: there are Azerbaijani guys working on an idea envisioned by an Armenian woman that, initially anyway, focuses on an issue in Armenia. There’s an Armenian guy and girl working on an idea created by an Azerbaijani woman about an issue that she’s found in Azerbaijan (and for a website — or I should say, “online platform” — that will be in Azerbaijani). There’s a couple of American expats working on an idea submitted by a Georgian journalist. It’s a good mix of people.

And with a good mix of people, you can’t go wrong. Something amazing is bound to happen ;) More to come on that later.