Kathelyne very generously gave me several hours of presenting time at Tuesday’s Akvo Track Day in Amsterdam. Peter, standing in the sidelines, tends to think I talk too much as it is, so I was aware I needed to really focus on useful stuff.

My sessions broke down into the three pieces.

Photo: Beautiful baby competition. Butlins, Pwllheli, North Wales. Around 1956-57.

1. The POWER of Communication

I did a 30 minute summary of my thinking on current communication trends. This is basically an evolution of my CharmerVision presentation, a regular slot I get at the all-Akvo team meetings we hold a few times a year. Here I talked about the unprecedented ability people and organisations have to now take control of their own communication now, rather than relying on “media” to pick up scraps of the story. I talked too about the gap between the outdated infrastructure most of us work in (both in terms of embedded technology and organisational practice) versus the new tools we can ourselves bring to work. I explained how I think it’s important to bring communications down to the individual level, to really bring out something from everyone working in your organisation and talked about some of the ways we do that at Akvo. I stressed that in a world that’s so interconnected it’s futile to race to be number 1. You have to work as part of networks of organisations and people who all bring unique talents and colour to your world – in our case the world of international development. In other words, we need a world where “everyone’s a winner baby”.

Photo: Video in Action (Frodo van Oostveen)

2. Really Simple Video

Building on training that I did in La Paz in Bolivia in December, I wanted everyone attending to get a briefing in our philosophy on really simple video techniques. I wrote about this last autumn and I’m currently in the process of creating an iBook about it. To summarise, I wanted everyone to feel much more confident being professional people who shoot simple video during their work that isn’t professionally done. Output is the goal, editing is the enemy. Upload and caption well to a service like YouTube or Vimeo, keep everything to 2-3 minutes and just do simple interviews. Be part of the interview just as much as the person you’re talking to, go much closer up than you think you need to, film people’s name badges if they have them on, and just get everything online fast.

I talked through tips for 30 minutes and then we distributed Flip Video cameras amongst the audience and asked them to all interview eachother for two to three minutes. We then gathered the content back and spent another 30 minutes watching through some examples, looking at good and bad practice.

I was really impressed with the quality, considering that most never shot video and this all happened in 30 minutes.

Here’s everything in a YouTube playlist scroll through the videos here or press play below to watch the whole loop. I’m dead proud of everyone.


Photo: Dive into new communication (Frodo van Oostveen)

3. Communications workshops

I ran two workshops during the afternoon. As we’d covered a lot of ground already, I wanted to give people a chance to ask questions to myself and to others. I really enjoyed these sessions as we dived into areas such as how to approach blogging and use of photography. I took people through how I use Flickr to build online sets of photos and how this acts as a key piece in my workflow that eventually leads to a blog article. We talked about email newsletters – the pros and cons and I showed everyone Mailchimp, which we’ve been really impressed with recently. I was especially grateful for input by Gert de Bruin from WASTE, always an Akvo advocate and critic in equal measure, and Basja Jantowski of Rain Foundation. They suggested I create a place online where I share insights into tools and examples of good communications that I encounter on a regular basis. It’s something I’d not thought of before and will definitely do now, but I realise now how much we’re exposed to as technology people that our partners don’t get to see and filter.

I’m grateful to everyone who joined in, and it was nice to see so many smiling enthusiastic faces as I talked. We should do more Akvo Track Days for sure.

Mark Charmer is a co-founder and communications director at Akvo.