How to organize an OFFDEM event?

Introduction: Holding Up Together

Originally, OFFDEM happens at the same time as FOSDEM, being an off festival of the latter in response to corporate takeover of the free software community event. Hopefully, at some point OFFDEM BXL would become a convivial salon and space for collaboration between both entities — given a 180° turn from the FOSDEM organization.

Although this practical guide comes from our own experience with the Brussels’ activist network, it should serve as an inspiration to adapt for any other decentralized OFFDEM event. We welcome and encourage forks of this guide for other cities, based on their own experience.

OFFDEM is a non-profit cash[1] event made in collaboration with the undocumented citizens. All costs are covered by the organization and the participants, and any money that circulates goes to the undocumented citizen groups involved via their venues, businesses, and solidarity network.

As mentioned in the manifesto, OFFDEM vouches for decentralization, smaller events in conviviality, comfort, benevolence and hospitality, with practical achievements giving back to the whole community, beyond the sameness of professional settings.

We want a different kind of event, where people do not come to present what they did over the last year, but bring their experience to the table and focus on practical achievements and concrete possibilities of collaboration over broader topics than their own work, in proximity with resistance networks, on the ground, in order to open up to plural realities, creating alliances.

Among the OFFDEM community channels, chat and forum, the forum helps structure the organization, keep track of progress and facilitates continuity of the common initiatives across the years. The forum is essential to the organization: it alleviates a lot the @team work.

Throughout this guide, we’ll give away pointers to organizations that have been partnering with OFFDEM. They stem from the hacker scene and the local undocumented citizens network, working hand in hand.

How hard can it be? Well, not so much indeed. The harder part is to gather the will to do it, and convince the people in your own network to participate and join forces. Full commitment of the organizational team at least two weeks before the event is required, so as to unlock all the little details that usually come up when you have the least time and attention to give them. Once the doors are open, it’s a matter of confidence and respect and commitment.

OFFDEM Timeline

Let’s split the organization needs across the timeline, so we don’t forget anything.

One Year Ahead

You need to answer the following questions:

  1. Are we doing it next year?
    This seems obvious, but if the answer is yes, then you need people to make sure it happens!
    If the answer is no, you still need people to make sure it happens!

    In both cases, you want an idea of what will be at stake between now and then. Hopefully, you will have figured out working groups and ongoing matters and topics they want to Care for.

  2. Who will be there to take charge of the organization?
    A dedicated organization team is key to the success of the event. Three to five people are enough.

Six Months Ahead

  • Ensure you have an organization team:
    we cannot stress this point enough, these people’s work will cascade on the whole chains of events.
  • Start thinking about a CFP:
    CFP means not a Call for Participation but a Call for Presence, since this is that quality we expect from all people involved with OFFDEM. Which intersectional topics do you want to address? What is going on within and beyond the community that requires most attention? You cannot address everything, and should impulse vectors along specific axes, no more than three. These can be discussed in the chat and formalized in the forum. Create a specific category for the edition, associate the @team and @participants early.

Three Months Ahead

  • Publish the CFP
    • Announce a clear deadline and ensure participation on the forum at least two weeks before the event
    • Emphasize that you do not accept talks and presentations, that we’re here to work together.
    • Ensure that all submissions are done through the forum (i.e., via

Two Months Ahead

  • Start evaluating proposals
    • Try to bring similar proposals together
    • Engage proponents early on the forum so they can co-evolve their proposals
    • Ensure commitment of participants over the week-end — this is not a drive-by show
  • Engage @participants and @supporters
    • Open topics about hospitality and carpooling
  • Activate the network for a venue and food (see Resources)

One Month Ahead

  • Ensure you have a space
  • Order beer!
  • Publish pre-programme
  • At this point, activity on the forum and chat should be lively

Three Weeks Ahead

  • The venue is secured
  • The beer is ordered
  • The food is ordered
  • Order stickers
  • Order prints

Two Weeks Ahead

  • Publish programme

One Week Ahead

  • Call for volunteers


Two days before the event…

  • A handful of people are necessary…
  • Setup tables, benches
  • Put up the posters and decoration
  • Bring in the beer and food and kitchen gear
  • Setup the bar – hackers want coffee and juice
  • Ensure you have enough water bottles and goblets, plates and cutlery
  • Setup cosy places with sofas, lights
  • Ensure electricity and network are working in all rooms
  • Ensure the toilets are operational
  • Ensure you know who has the keys, how to reach out, and how to open and close the venue
  • Distribute responsibilities: keys, bar, kitchen, rooms, electricity, network, decoration, supplies

Production Time!

During the event…

  • Responsibilities:
    • Someone must be at the venue on time everyday to open and close the venue
    • The @infodesk must be set up, knowledgeable and present at all times
    • A must be set up and introduced to the general assembly


After the event…

  • Announce teardown during the last session, so that people who stay over can volunteer.
  • At the end of the last session, invite people to assemble chairs and tables so that teardown can be faster.

Making the Teams Work

  • You don’t need many people, but you need dedicated people.

  1. cash money is the only form of public money that is available to all citizens. It’s guaranteed by the central bank and to the bearer, which means it is also the only private form of money. ↩︎