Thanks to Andrius Kulikauskas and Minciu Sodas, Pamela McLean is usually “at home” (on the Internet) once a month, logged in for an hour, and wondering if any of her contacts will arrive for a catch-up chat (or to discuss some topic that has been agreed before-hand). The chats are held in the Minciu Sodas Worknets chatroom.This means that anyone with an Internet connection can join in – no need to log-in with some special ID, and no need to download any extra software as might be needed for Yahoo or Skype.
Meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month starting 13:00 Nigerian time, 15:00 Kenyan time, 13:00 British Summer time, 12:00 GMT. The meeting is nominally for an hour, but sometimes goes on much longer. It all depends who turns up. Unfortunately the timing is rather early for American contacts, but some of our contacts in East Africa come online from cyber cafes, and it is best if they can go home before dark.
A reminder usually goes out via the LearningFromEachOther yahoo group, which is a Minciu Sodas group that Pam leads. Sometimes people send an email beforehand to say they will be dropping in, and mentioning a special interest.
Water problem and idea in Kenya
It looks like this month there will be a couple of people (in Kenya and UK) discussing a water supply problem in Kenya, and an enterprising idea related to it. Certainly they both plan to be in the chat-room on August 6th, but if there is a glitch it won't matter too much, as we can always try again the following month. The discussion is likely to at least touch on issues of:
- The local water supply situation (poor local supply – more expensive centrally, cheaper further out)
- Collecting and transporting water (the practicalities)
- The enterprise idea (if I collect water for myself, to save money, how about doing it as a service for others)
- Business planning (would it be worth doing – I'd need a handcart)
- Handcart construction designs (practicalities of making an affordable robust handcart, what are the best designs)
- Investment/finance (how much will it cost, and how can the money be raised)
- Is it worth taking further?
- What next?
These meetings are nothing formal. They are fairly small gatherings of people who, on the whole, already know each other. Some have met face-to-face. Most have been involved in various overlapping discussions (mostly through Mincui Sodas online groups) for a considerable period of time. The locations most likely to be represented are within UK, Eastern Europe, Nigeria and East Africa, but sometimes the reach is wider (especially if meetings run late, and people from USA or Canada join in).
Usually the meeting is small enough for people to chat as they choose, and have several parallel conversations without too much confusion. Now and again, if there is a set topic (or more than a handful of people, and too many conversations going on) then someone gets chosen to be chairman. The chairman can decide which conversations should be continued and which dropped for the time being. This isn't as dictatorial as it may sound. People can organise themselves into a breakaway group, and “pop out side” to use some other online chat space.
There are more details about using the chatroom at http://learnbydoinguk.blogspot.com/2008/12/using-worknets-chatroom.html
People who are not part of Minciu Sodas are welcome to join the chat, but it is helpful if you have introduced yourself beforehand to Pam, or someone else who will be there. This is simply to make you feel more welcome (and in case there is a glitch and your connection is interrupted). There is not usually much time during the meetings for detailed introductions, so if you come “with a friend” or already knowing people it can be a better experience.