As friends around the world are thinking about planning their own Campaign Bootcamps, we had a chat with Campaign Bootcamp Germany Founder Anne Isakowitsch, who was also part of the inaugural Bootcamp in the UK. We love Anne’s passion, drive and her amazing sense of humour. A big thanks to her for sharing this wisdom!
Casper ter Kuile: Can you describe running Bootcamp in one sentence?
Anne Isakowitsch: The most emotional, amazing and stressful time of my life - and totally worth it.
CtK: What’s the first thing people need to think of?
AI: To begin with – and this was hardest for me – you need to find a team of 5-6 committed people who carry this process through with you. At the beginning you might have more – half way through you might need to look for new people. Also, you can be liberal at the beginning about who joins your meetings and not exclude anyone. At some point later in time you are going to have to have some tough telephone conversations where you give people the choice of going all in or missing out on the experience of their lifetime.
CtK: How did you fundraise for Bootcamp? Not every country has the UK’s funding system.
AI: The most important thing are the contacts that you as a team have. There is a lot of goodwill out there in the campaigning world for Bootcamps to happen and this will carry you halfway. Find a financing model that suits your needs but also attracts the applicants you want. Think early about what people can afford and how many scholarships you want to offer.
The Campaign Bootcamp Germany organizing team (and our own Gen!)
CtK: What did you do to recruit Bootcampers? And was there politics involved in the process?
AI: Before you even decide what the process for applying to Bootcamp looks like, you have to make sure that the right people hear about Bootcamp. So this means intensive outreach in the weeks before applications kick off. Use your networks but also reach out to those who are not in your immediate circles. Think of churches, trade unions, local civil society groups. The further away they are from your networks, the longer it takes to build trust and understanding for Bootcamp and what it’s trying to do. Always useful – find organisations who are doing similar work and ask them for advice – this way you will make sure you are not re-creating something that already exists and you can profit from their experience. Always be humble when reaching out to people but also accept that you will step on some toes. There will totally be people (especially those working in the similar field of education) who will try to convince you that you can absolutely not do it or what you are doing is shit. Don’t listen to them – what you are doing is trying to revolutionise the sector. Be prepared that it will make people feel uncomfortable.
Finding the right people to attend Bootcamp is a hardcore amount of work, but you can do it. Don’t freak out if you only have 13 applicants half way through the process. Most applications will come on the last day. A third of our applications came in the last hour. The best ones always apply last. Don’t tell your team this though – they need to get freaked out a little bit in order to get really active on finding the right people.
CtK: In the final weeks before the Bootcamp, what should organizers expect?
AI: It will be a bit frantic. Lots of things will go wrong, someone in your organizing team will cancel last minute, a funder might fall through, the location will give you trouble. There is no way to get around it – just close your eyes and whether the shit and have one-two people who will happily listen to your rants. That could be a partner, a friend, or me! Giving up is no longer an option. Keep your eyes on the prize – it will all be amazing once you see the Bootcampers for the first time and it will totally be worth it.
CtK: Finally, what’s your advice during the week itself?
AI: Leading up in the last days to Bootcamp, I hadn’t slept properly in about a week and was a bundle of nerves. Then on the day before Bootcamp I got your email and at the time it made all the difference! It was everything I needed to hear. You wrote:
“Bootcamp will be like a party. If you are stressed, annoyed and totally work-focused, everyone else will pick up that environment. If you are flexible, passionate and honest - everyone else will be too. You set the tone, so make sure you are paying attention to how you are feeling - and be honest if things are getting too much.”
After that I leaned back and enjoyed the party. Because really, all the stress and shit and hard work happened in the past months. Once Bootcamp kicks off, it is mostly fun. You can’t really screw up from here on – you’ve got amazing trainers and motivated, talented young people in one room. What could go wrong!?
During camp we of course had to also deal with sickness, minor crises, arguments. You can do it all. Remember to take time for yourself to enjoy what you created. Don’t forget –this wouldn’t have happened without you. When you feel low and out of energy (and there will be moments like that) – I recommend talking to some Bootcampers. They will invariably tell you how you are changing their lives – which you are. I’m so excited for you!! Go and do it and kick some ass!!