Ein Schild mit der Aufschrift "Himmel" mit Flügeln von einer Tür.
1. Januar 2024

Angels at Cha­os – about vol­un­tee­ring and fit­ting in

Von tomate
Lese­dau­er 5 Minu­ten

After three years of invol­un­t­a­ry break the Cha­os Com­pu­ter Club final­ly could invi­te to the 37th Cha­os Com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on Con­gress (37C3) in Ham­burg at the CCH. I was not atten­ding but I was as part of the lea­der­ship of a team invol­ved in some pre­pa­ra­ti­on. In the Call for Angels (vol­un­teers hel­ping out run­ning the event) we asked for new peo­p­le to join our team. As expec­ted we got some emails from seve­ral folks asking to join. But we got more: Emails with a CV and a moti­va­ti­on let­ter. Tho­se maps were by peo­p­le atten­ding the Con­gress for the first time and eager­ly try­ing to con­tri­bu­te to the com­mu­ni­ty. With some of them I wro­te emails back and forth becau­se I wan­ted to under­stand why they sent emails which read like app­ly­ing for a job. After all the­se con­ver­sa­ti­ons I wro­te the pre­sent text in which I try to lay out my under­stan­ding of vol­un­teer work at a CCC event. The text could work as a gene­ral text for first time vol­un­teers at an event from the wider Cha­os family

Words of advice to new Angels at the Cha­os Com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on (Congress|Camp)

Wel­co­me new Angel. Wit­hout our hundreds or even thou­sands of hel­ping folks it would not be pos­si­ble to make Con­gress or Camp hap­pen. Thanks for joi­ning our ranks! 

As you might have seen the­re are many dif­fe­rent shifts and roles for Angels of which some sound­ing more appe­al­ing than others. The­re are shifts whe­re you need to have some know­ledge befo­re you can take them. This know­ledge is given in intro­duc­tion mee­tings or by taking an unrest­ric­ted shift in the team and get­ting trai­ned on the fly. Hea­ven and the teams try to make sure that the­re are only rest­ric­tions for shifts in place whe­re they are abso­lut­e­ly nee­ded. Most rest­ric­tions real­ly only need a mee­ting or some unrest­ric­ted shifts at the team to get lifted. Har­der rest­ric­tions are in place whe­re vol­un­teers need to have spe­cial cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on, get access to cer­tain sys­tems with a huge amount of data (e.g. mail-queu­es with emails from par­ti­ci­pan­ts) or hand­ling big piles of money. 

I know espe­ci­al­ly the rest­ric­ted shifts are temp­ting becau­se after all we want to get the event run­ning and do as much inte­res­t­ing stuff at the same time, aren’t we? From my per­so­nal expe­ri­ence what gets the event run­ning are the most com­mon things: Guar­ding a door, coll­ec­ting bottle/trash, washing dis­hes in the Angel kit­chen, being on stand­by to hop in when spon­ta­neous help is nee­ded or check the wrist bands at the entrance. 

In 2023 I got many mails from folks app­ly­ing as a first time Angel in my team. Most times just a few lines asking if it would be pos­si­ble to join. I read some lines about their moti­va­ti­on and why they want to join the team. I read things like »I am curious about the­se tasks« or »I was some years in ano­ther team and just want to try out new things«. I lik­ed the­se. I read about giving back to the com­mu­ni­ty and hel­ping out to make this event which feels like home get­ting done. 

Bild: CC BY NC SA phako78 auf Flickr

And I had some mails with an atta­ched CV lying out com­pu­ter skills (which most teams do not care about), pri­or and actu­al job and some cor­po­ra­te bull­shit about per­so­nal growth and sup­port­ing the mis­si­on. I felt like an HR mana­ger loo­king for the next working dro­ne and got a litt­le bit upset about this. Most of tho­se appli­ca­ti­ons came from folks atten­ding the first time. Sud­den­ly it got me: They just want to find a place in our com­mu­ni­ty and want to  give back (wha­te­ver that means).

I took my time to wri­te back to the­se folks tel­ling about how I see the vol­un­teer work as an Angel and tried to give advice wit­hout kil­ling their enthu­si­asm to help out. Dis­clai­mer: other folks working at con­gress or camp may have other views on this topic.

My first advice: do not try to fit into spe­cial roles at your first event. The roles will find you – not the other way around. Our com­mu­ni­ty is not about per­so­nal gro­wing but about con­tri­bu­ting to each other and gro­wing by doing this. 

I star­ted as an angel wat­ching a par­king lot at CCCamp back in 2011. I did not think about how the event is run befo­re and I cer­tain­ly did not in this moment. From my point of view it was just right to help out becau­se this com­mu­ni­ty wel­co­med me just a few months ago warm hear­ted and hel­ped me out more than one time (which is more than I could have ever thought taking in account what kind of per­son I was). I got a war­ning vest and a radio and some intro­duc­tion to the job (gui­de arri­ving cars to the nea­rest emp­ty space, gui­de lea­ving cars to the cor­rect exit). it were the most bor­ing two hours I had in a long time becau­se no car was ente­ring or lea­ving this lot. I did not know about the con­cept of Angels or any­thing about the Engel­sys­tem, I just got hija­cked by the per­son respon­si­ble for the par­king lot. I made some bar shifts as well becau­se I wan­ted to. I still knew not­hing about the Engel­sys­tem or Angel shirts for a cer­tain amount of time helping. 

I was a spea­k­er at 28C3 and after che­cking in and get­ting my wrist­band I was asked to help out at the Spea­k­ers’ Desk (back then it just had the Ger­man name »Refe­ren­ten­be­treu­ung«). I hel­ped out guar­ding a door as well which was quite fun becau­se peo­p­le always tried to take this door and I met more nice peo­p­le in this two hours having good chats than every befo­re in this small amount of time. At/right after this Con­gress my role found me and I joi­n­ed the Spea­k­ers’ Desk as a regu­lar angel.

Not­hing of the things I did and still do as an Angel is about per­so­nal growth, for me it is about being part of some­thing big­ger as ones­elf. It is about living uto­pia, hack­ing tech­no­lo­gy, thin­king and socie­ty. It is about sha­ring com­mon values, arguing some­ti­mes for years about tho­se values and still bring a varie­ty of peo­p­le together. 

My second advice: Be hum­ble about the angel shifts you do and be proud about all the other things. The­re is no »who work­ed most hours«-contest. The­re is no glo­ry in having 40 hours vol­un­tee­ring shifts in four days. But the­re is glo­ry in giving 2 or 4 or a litt­le bit more hours a day as an Angel and having time to make new fri­ends, look at all the cool stuff that is hap­pe­ning, all the mar­vels and won­der crea­ted for a few days. We are at the Cha­os Com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on Congress|Camp and some­ti­mes I suspect that espe­ci­al­ly first time atten­de­es do not reco­gni­ze the word »com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on« in the name of the event. It is hard to com­mu­ni­ca­te when doing 10hours shifts per day.

My third advice: the com­mu­ni­ty is about con­tri­bu­ting the things that are nee­ded – not con­tri­bu­ting what bene­fits me. We need com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on. We need your thoughts and ide­as even if some may say other­wi­se. May­be you think by yours­elf »what do I have to con­tri­bu­te? I am not a hacker and I do not do spe­cial things«. Let me assu­re you: Hack­ing is more than doing com­pu­ter stuff. Being a hacker is not being able to wri­te code but to have a cer­tain sta­te of mind. 

Con­tri­bu­ting to this com­mu­ni­ty is more than doing vol­un­teer work. Con­tri­bu­ting is loo­king with open eyes, lis­tening with an open heart and thin­king with an open mind to reco­gni­ze all the asto­nis­hing things this world could offer to us if we would let it and tal­king about them to others. 

I ask you to be yours­elf and try some­thing new: guard a door or coll­ect some bot­t­les, emp­ty the trash bins, gui­de peo­p­le to the next toi­let or help out in the Angel kit­chen chop­ping vege­ta­bles. The­se ordi­na­ry work is giving more to com­mu­ni­ty than my vol­un­teer work could ever do. Thank you for being an Angel making this event possible.

Titel­bild CC BY NC Karol Rol­ler auf Flickr.