3 min read
Earlier today, I found out Monsanto - yes, that Monsanto - is sponsoring EdCamp St. Louis. This makes perfect sense for Monsanto, and is part of Monsanto's corporate strategy, but it raises some questions about whether it makes sense for EdCamp.
What does it mean for an organization like EdCamp - that explicitly references a distributed model with respect for local control - when local camps agree to take money from an organization that has made billions destroying local agricuture?
What does it mean for an organization like EdCamp - which is the most visible face of the locally run events - to have local chapters preparing co-branded materials with companies that are, at best, ethically challenged? While this specific instance is about Monsanto, I imagine an EdCamp sponsored by Altria, with the EdCamp logo smoking a cigarette. Or maybe EdCamp Boulder can get sponsorship from a dispensary?
Can an organization like EdCamp claim to be about global connections when local EdCamps can create co-branded sponsor relationships that completely ignore the global connections and misdeeds of sponsors?
Given that EdCamps grew to prominence via small, non-corporate, locally run events, can they retain their authenticity if they are increasingly sponsored and co-branded by large multinational companies? What does it mean for the future of EdCamps if the rhetoric of their events drifts from the sponsorship of their events?
The EdCamp foundation can help by providing publicly accessible sponsorship guidelines. The following two changes would help dispel some of the confusion.
- Clarify that sponsorships should favor local small businesses (potentially defined by numbers of employees, for example, 50 or under) first. If EdCamps are about elevating local voices, that should extend to sponsorships as well. The camps can have a process for handling exceptions that documents if and why an exception to these sponsorships get made.
- Define what sponsors get. Do they get access to attendee contact info? Do they get to display a logo at the event? If they are buying lunch, do they get the chance to pitch and hand out swag during lunch? Right now, these guidelines appear to be nonexistent, which leaves local sponsors exposed to, at the least, cranks on twitter sounding off.
Now that EdCamp has a foundation and some funding, they should fill in this infrastructure. They will be facing some obvious tensions as they attempt to grow EdCamp in a way that doesn't sell out or destroy the locally developed feel that made EdCamps work in the first place.