This is the start of a Dadamac Learners LearnByDoing project which Vijay and Pam are going to do by writing open letters
It's been only three days since I got in touch with you (courtesy www.km4dev.org) and have already exchanged more than three long mails with you, and become a member of the Dadamac community.
I am a journalist and communications professional based in Delhi.
I have worked for top-of-the-line Indian publications (such as India Today and BusinessWorld); researched and covered news /features for television; implemented communication strategies for an international environmental NGO (the World Wide Fund for Nature--India); and developed/managed content for several websites.
I have now taken a sabbatical to look for consulting assignments in the development sector -- specifically in areas such as environment, climate change, water, food security and public health.
I started my correspondence with you by asking you a question: Is Dadamac open to the idea of outsourcing some of its work (to people not on its radar, so to say) as it goes about building its superstructure on the web? And you said you would be happy to see me come aboard and contribute my skills and time. You also agreed with me that the world today is getting more and more flat, and there are a lot of 'impossible' things that could be done through the Net.
Well, three days later, I can say I am feeling energized after whatever I have seen so far on the site (sorry to say, it has been down whenever I have tried to browse). But in the few minutes I got to see Dadamac.net, I feel it has all the makings of a pioneering collaborative model that is high on innovative networking, vibrant conversations and shared knowledge.
For some months now, I have been looking for a vehicle to reach out to a world community that shares my interest in issues dealing with development. I have talked to many international NGOs, world bodies and Indian organizations active in this field—from public health to poverty alleviation, from gender issues to water and climate change. All I sought was a platform where I could talk to people on the field and the experts…a platform where I could share my views with them and be heard.
But I am sorry to say that I haven’t been able to strike a conversation with any of them so far. The response has usually been cold if not indifferent.
Dadamac.net sounds different and looks different. Led by John Dada and you, it has already done a lot of good work in the past so many years. What it needs now is to put all that work and knowledge into the site in a form that is easily accessible and understood by users. The aim of putting content on the site, as I think, should be to inform and inspire…to create an interface where people walk in, learn something, take away a few goodies and come back again to tell others what they are thinking and learning as they go about changing the lives of the poor and underprivileged.
Dadamac should not become Didactic.net like most websites of development organizations, which spew only their point of view. It should allow people to talk, to listen and to share. And much of it will come from content that breathes freshness and feelings.
I always wondered what makes Facebook a site that I want to visit everyday. I think it has a lot to do with the way it pulls me to see how my friends are spending their lives everyday (even if it shows me only glimpse)..
Dadamac need not become a Facebook for development professionals, but it can definitely become a site that I and many others around the world want to visit once in two days, if not everyday, to get a feel of what’s happening at the grassroots and how people are fighting their struggles.
What Dadamac needs now is a combination of content offerings like blogs, videos, audios, interviews of those who are doing great work on the ground (and not just reports and findings). Globally, people want to see and hear success stories and solutions more than they want to read about analyses and studies. And nobody wants to be given teach-me-down lessons. They want to be a part of the unfolding story.
The way I see it, Dadamac has the internet firmly embedded in its DNA. The people working in your team are keen to start developmental conversations and take it to a wider community, in various ways possible. All that the site needs is a way to package it for the delight of the user.
To take this beginning forward, I need to know a few things:
1) What is Dadamac thinking about the site, and how does it want to grow from here?
2) Is it happy being a social network for Africa or is it thinking beyond this continent?
3) And, most importantly, is it looking at a market-based approach to development?
4) Does it want to move and expand within the broad areas it has already charted out--foundation, limited, open knowldge and learners. Or is it open to new avenues?
5) How does it propose to make money out of its commercial wing?
What do you think?