When I received an email from our editor asking me to write an article about what happened behind the scenes in planning and preparing for the 2009 SANGONeT "Social Media for NGOs" Conference, I thought, ‘what exactly is there to write?’. Well, here’s my take on how our events unfolded…
While SANGONeT staff knew the annual conference was coming up, it only became real once the first announcement inviting participants was distributed. The flurry of responses to attend the conference made it evident that this event was a date marked on the calendars of many civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Attendance at our conferences had become a trend for many who are always ready to learn new tools for improving their work. What made it more exciting was that those in Cape Town would also have the opportunity to be a part of it this year.
Taking our conference to Cape Town posed a challenge for us, as we decided not to use an events management company, but to do it ourselves!. With a staff of 13, achieving this was definitely doable. Our task team allocated roles to every staff member. It was going to be a great learning curve for all of us as registrations had to be done, payments were to be made, content had to be generated, sponsorship proposals were to be written, technical duties were assigned, conference venues and logistics had to be established – phew!. All staff were tasked with applying their area of expertise. All of this while still performing our daily tasks. After all, SANGONeT operations had to carry on as normal. At some point we were doing so many things at once – we found ourselves asking each other “what was I doing again?” Working together this way has added value to the work we do – it has enhanced our team spirit.
It took this amazing small SANGONeT team - David Barnard, Matthew de Gale, Neila Pillay, Jan Moolman, Nomsa Nxumalo, Nicolle Beeby, Butjwana Seokoma, Adam Mukendi, Botswang Kgeledi, Khanyisa Ngxabazi, Emmah Ramudzulu, Kiesse Major, Isaac Mnguni and myself of course(!) to put it all together.
All SANGONeT staff members were available to provide assistance and in so doing, new relationships were formed and most people were kept happy. I can recall one such telephone call with Ahmed Ismael (Smiley) from Siyafunda Community Technology Centre. It gave me much pleasure to realise that there are still many people who have a flair for learning. For me this confirmed that there is still more work to be done and that us as civil society are all a big family. It is great to know that we managed to reach other countries as well, as we are always looking to expand our network.
Organising such an event meant remaining calm, being patient and understanding. However, for us as staff it was all about the participants and providing them with valuable new knowledge. Feedback since the conference has been positive and much appreciated as this feedback always sets the tone for what we do in the next year.
Running around in our SANGONeT soccer jerseys already created the soccer fever mood for the World Cup 2010 in South Africa.
See you all at next year's SANGONeT annual conference!
- Nhlanhla Kunene is the SANGOTeCH Programme Assistant at SANGONeT