Spark Camp is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. It was started by five journalists: Amy Webb, Amanda Michel, Jenny 8. Lee, Matt Thompson and Andy Pergam. A few years ago, the five of us attended NewsFoo, which was an O’Reilly unconference. NewsFoo was such a great experience that we wanted to find a way to continue those discussions throughout the year. With the blessings and initial support of of O’Reilly and funding via Knight Foundation and Webbmedia Group, we worked for six months to launch what has become Spark Camp.
We envisioned Spark Camp as an intimate gathering of smart people who could each come together around a central theme. But we didn’t want to create just another conference. Instead, we conceptualized working groups, where peers would gather in virtual spaces and in real life to identify critical problems around that theme and work together to identify and craft solutions for the greater good. We would spark projects and research together that would continue to pay dividends throughout the year and, hopefully, for many years to come.
Conferences and meetings are one of the defining ways that the journalism industry organizes itself around new ideas. Rather than assembling the usual suspects, Spark Camp takes a unique approach to provide participants with access to other creative, brilliant minds. Though the conference format that we created, participants are able to focus on a single topic, but to explore it in-depth from multiple perspectives. There are no panel sessions or keynote speeches. Each Spark Camp session is a focused discussion, where all participants come to the table as equals, with equal amounts to learn from each other. We founded Spark Camp with the belief that conferences can be re-imagined as efficient, waste-free gatherings that further innovation and spark practical solutions to the challenges the industry faces. What happens during conferences must be continued throughout the year — too often, people get together to present and talk, but then nothing results after the conference has ended.
We have no full time employees and are an all-volunteer organization. We receive administrative and logistics support via an in-kind donation from Webbmedia Group.
Spark Camp is made possible through the generous contributions of the Knight Foundation, Google, Open Society Institute and Webbmedia Group. Our previous university partners have included City University of New York and the University of Texas at Austin.