The inaugural Digital Mobilisation Skillshare was held from 26 February-2 March 2012 in the Netherlands and gathered over 100 people who work deeply in campaigns, digital media, and online or offline mobilisation.

Preparing the skillshare

One of the first and most important challenges in putting together the first ever Digital Mobilisation Skillshare was preparing the agenda. We had several guiding principles for agenda design, including: “pre-event engagement and intentional listening are key to developing an agenda that will serve the community and ensure their participation as co-creators.”

We spoke with Greenpeace staff around the world and other leaders in digital mobilisation about what needed to be discussed, what they wanted to bring to the event, and what they wanted to learn and share.

Several key themes emerged, including the desire to dive into what was happening around the world in terms of digital mobilisation campaigns. Occupy and The Arab Spring were global people-lead movements unfolding at the time and Keystone XL was a substantial organising event in North America. How were these events and Greenpeace campaigns around the world — from Europe to India to South America and beyond — changing the campaigning environment?

“I want to scout new trends, learn best practices, reject bad methods and share/learn existing working strategies and tactics in citizen engagement and digital mobilisation from all the Greenpeace offices and around the world.”

There was also demand to build digital capacity. Greenpeace, like any international organisation, faced unique obstacles to sharing data and experience across languages, cultures and time zones. Social media and other online networking technologies presented  new and often unfamiliar ways of networking with supporters and colleagues. Collaboration might have been more possible, but how do national and regional entities work together in honest, open and real-time ways?

“Greenpeace has always been about innovation, and I would really like to offer our citizens an alternative to thinking nothing can be done, and to contribute to Greenpeace being among the pioneers in digital mobilisation in our country.”

People spoke of interests in several topics, in particular:

  • Power mapping and analysis;
  • Why mobilise and engage;
  • Leadership development;
  • Best practices in organizing;
  • History and future of volunteer engagement at Greenpeace;
  • Tapping cyber volunteers; and
  • Mass civil disobedience as a form of citizen engagement.

“If we’re going to inspire people, to get them to effect change in their own communities, to be global force of activists, we’re going to have to pitch them the right story, in the right voice at the right time. They’re going to have to take on that story, make it their own, and tell it to their peers.”

We also spoke with Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International at the time, about his expectations for the event:

“The skillshare is a critical learning moment for the organization and I hope people feel very free to not only talk about what they’ve done well but where actually things didn’t go well because sometimes you can learn more from looking at the failures.

The skillshare should also be seen as a moment of planning the future of how we’ll get this right. Let’s be honest with ourselves, we don’t have the luxury of a three year process of planning. The world is not where we need it to be to secure the future of our children and grandchildren.

We have to challenge the skillshare to address these issues with a much higher level of urgency and also a sense of being as ambitious as possible so we can move this forward as fast as possible.”

Watch the conversation:


We talked with Pascal Husting and many people at the Digital Mobilisation Skillshare on its first day. Watch the recap:

On the last day, we grabbed people as they were getting ready to go and asked them to recap their time at DMS 2012.

And during the skillshare, Michael Baillie of Greenpeace Africa sat down with us to share thoughts about the event. Listen to what he had to say about getting concrete information from participants, breaking down barriers between digital and the real world, mobile in trains and toilets, storytelling and more.

Several Greenpeace volunteers from around the world joined the skillshare to offer their important perspective. Those of us working in digital campaigning have a lot to learn from volunteers, citizen activists and others that we often rely upon to “take action” and “spread the word.” These are often the key people we hope to engage in our campaigns.

Tamas Eisenbeck (of Hungary) and John Sagum (from the Philippines) are two Greenpeace volunteers that attended:

Accompanying Tamas and John were several other volunteers, including:

  • Anna Kopytova (Russia)
  • Jarren Nylund (Australia)
  • Abigail Rogers (United States)

In the video below, volunteer Abigail shares her story of increased engagement and mobilisation leadership:

SpeedGeek sessions

“SpeedGeek” sessions were held during the skillshare, which gave presenters five minutes each to show off their latest campaign innovations and learnings — like speed dating for projects. Each video features a presenter summarising their innovations and insights in 1-2 minutes.

Salvatore Barbera introduces as it launches:

350 Local: Jon Warnow introduces new, open source local organising tools at the MobLab SpeedGeek:

Green My Apple campaign lessons by Zeina Alhajj:

Tommy Crawford on the Detox campaign:

Green Action: Michael Hopf presents an open campaigning platform in Germany:

Akshey Kaira of Greenpeace India talks about creating their own version of a trending pop song to draw attention to a forest protection campaign. The video led to several thousand new missed call petition signatures:

Heidi Boisvert shares the story of America 2049, the first Facebook game with alternate reality elements. The game, which engages and educates people in human rights and social justice issues, is played over the course of 12 weeks and has literally thousands of elements that support its rich story. Heidi also discusses how the game, narrative and initial player recruitment happened:

Diana Silbergeld from Greenpeace USA talks about the development and use of downloadable activist toolkits. Diana also highlights what they see as best practices in activist toolkits – the elements that make them easy to use, fun, and helpful to the campaign:

Tonee discusses Kytabu, which is a subscription Android app for inexpensive subsidized tablets. Kytabu is meant to help solve the the paradox of textbooks in Africa and other parts of the developing world: they are greatly needed but expensive and difficult to get:


Check out photos from the Digital Mobilisation Skillshare in these Flickr galleries: