This is my Reply to Vijay's last letter
I am excited about our open-letter, learn-by-doing, project. Thank you for agreeing to give it a go - and welcome to your new role in the Dadamac Community.
Maybe, like you, I should start by giving my impression of our initial exchange of emails.
I was glad to hear from you. You have skills that we really need here. You are a professional communicator - and interested in effective use of websites and such like. I am an information bottle-neck trying to make Dadamac visible and understandable through this website. It seemed to me that somehow you and I should be able to work together in a way that is win-win, even if I cannot employ you in the way that a traditional organisation would do.
As well as introducing yourself you raised some interesting questions and had some ideas that you wanted to pursue. I realised I had some relevant information and contacts but did not really have time to share everything with you on a one-to-one basis. It struck me that perhaps if we wrote in an open way, to the website, we could both benefit (because I need to develop content here and need help to do so). I suggested the open letter and you agreed to give it a go.
I think, from your first open letter, that you have understood exceedingly well what I am trying to do through the Dadamac website. I love how you are describing it. I know exactly what you mean about allowing people to talk, to listen and to share.
When things are working well this website should give people the kind of welcome to Dadamac that you say you got by exchanging emails with me. I think of the website as a virtual reception area, which will then lead people as far into the projects and groups as they want to go.
You know how it is when you go into the reception area of a physical organisation, you immediately get a feeling for the place. Then, while you are waiting, there is more information to be gleaned, maybe a big shiny annual report, or newsletters, or miscellaneous notice boards and photos. Sometime the organisation is exactly what you expected, but other times there are surprises, and you want to know a bit more about what is going on, other than what you originally came in for. From the reception area of course you go further into the building in some way depending on the purpose of your visit.
There is a lot going on within Dadamac, and much more that we want to do in future. I expect people to arrive at the website with some idea of what Dadamac is, and as they come in I want them to realise there are all sort of other interests and possibilites, so they can imagine how they might like to connect with us, in a win-win way. If they are active members of the community then they will quickly go past the public "reception area" of the website, to get into their various project groups, virtual offices and so on.
We can pull together other pieces of information in whatever way makes good sense. We don't have to get the structure right from the very beginning. We can see what emerges and let that gradually dictate the form.
I have chosen Drupal for the creation of this website because I understand that it is a good platform for creating groups, and I am intending to gradually make the "reception area" link up with other things that are happening elsewhere in Dadamac's various "back offices". It is hard to describe what I mean, but it will make more sense as it emerges. I am simply mentioning it you now so that you do not feel constrained by any other examples of websites.
I am sorry this is so long. It will get easier once all the background "induction" information is out of the way and we are simply focusing on content.
I hope that what I have written above helps to answer your first question which was
1) What is Dadamac thinking about the site, and how does it want to grow from here?
Now for the other questions:
2) Is it happy being a social network for Africa or is it thinking beyond this continent?
Dadamac is a community, which will I hope will grow. As you rightly said "Dadamac has the internet firmly embedded in its DNA". Dadamac's true home is the Internet, not any particular continent. It has locations where it does practical things, but it gathers around interests, as much as physical locations.
Dadamac OK and Dadamac Learners are our vehicles for sharing what we know. I do not want to exclude anyone who geuninely wants to learn or to share knowledge and experience. Let us see where the energy and interests of the community take us.
3) And, most importantly, is it looking at a market-based approach to development?
I am not sure I have understood that question. We are needs lead. We are concerned with sustainable approaches. We are concerned with developing things that work and serve needs, and with sharing knowledge about them and about other things we know. We will share the knowledge and networks that we have, and we will help others to find out what they need to find out through practical projects.
4) Does it want to move and expand within the broad areas it has already charted out--foundation, limited, open knowledge and learners. Or is it open to new avenues?
Please explain what you have in mind. The idea behind the four expressions of Dadamac is that they will cover everything, but perhaps they don't (or perhaps they do and I haven't explained them clearly enough). Do you have any particular examples in mind?
5) How does it propose to make money out of its commercial wing?
That is an excellent question, which I can answer in a serious or flippant way (I can also encourage you to see what is on the website about Dadamac Limited - I hope the glitches you have suffered were tempoarary, please let me know it you are still having problems accessign the site).
Perhaps I will throw the question back at you. You have started to connect with the Dadamac Community. Dadamac is born of the Internet and could not have existed in an earlier age. We belong in the 21st century. You say that you have found various established organisations still acting in top-down didactic ways. I suggest they are typical of 20th century structures and attitudes, and have only "got ICT" as an add-on. (I believe people will lose patience with the existing ways of doing things and the layers of middle men, and consultants who came in from outside instead of telling what they know first hand. I believe we will have a great competitive advantage when people realise we can fast track them to accurate grass roots knowledge, networks, field testing, and so on - but I am biased.) What do you think about our potential to add value?
I loved your letter. I am delighted that you have found Dadamac to be a welcoming community, not a more traditional website. With your help I hope to make it more welcoming. Together I hope we will fill it with answers to all the kinds of questions that people might first ask when they find us.
Looking forward to your reply