On March 17th we'll be holding our sixth, monthly meeting of the GlobalNet21 and Africa group so it makes sense to review progress so far and share possible future directions.
For background on how this group came into being see GlobalNet21 and Africa. We're greatly helped by a good relationship with Impact Hub Westminster - see Impact HubW and International Development (Africa) - and will be able to hold more meetings there during 2014.
Our meetings have alternated between small "special interest" meetings, and larger meetings with a more general appeal. The larger ones:
- November 2013 - Challenges and opportunities for innovation with John Dada
- January 2014 - Doing and Learning - with Guy Cowley and Margaret Thorli
- March 21014 - Speakers Corner - speakers to be confirmed nearer the date. (Let me know via the Dadamac contact us form if you want to contribute).
The small "special interest" meetings are open to anyone in GlobalNet21 who has a special interest related to Africa. Left to myself I will naturally organise meetings that reflect my own interests and emphasise projects that are familiar to me (i.e. the ways that the use of the Internet alters the possibilities we have for working together and learning from each other, with special emphasis on the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa).
The small meetings enable other people to bring their interests to the table and influence the future direction that the group takes.
Learning and doing
GlobalNet21 and Africa is a learning and doing group, not a talking shop. Although people who only have a passing interest are welcome, my main objective is to develop a core group of people within the group who have a long term interest in Africa. They will be a mixture of people, some of whom are already "changemakers" (doing something on the ground), others who are interested in learning from changemakers, and others who are interested in getting involved in some way.
A 21st century group
I will try to make this a group which reflects the new opportunities afforded to us through living in the 21st century. I don't mean that we'll chase every latest Internet fad or shiny gadget. However we will work in ways that explore possibilities to connect with people at a distance. We will try to get a good balance between face-to-face meetings and "spilling out" into online spaces. The exploration of online spaces will be part of our learning and doing. It will happen gradually and naturally, as we have a need for it.
Communication and convergence.
One of the benefits of 21st century communications is the way we can easily connect with other people. By communicating we find shared interests. When our interests converge then we can flow along in the same direction for a while, helping each other along the way. This is true for people and for groups. For example, I'm hoping that before long the GlobalNet21 and Africa group will find areas of shared interest with the First Thursday Group which meets online, and which includes members from Africa (see First Thursday Meeting Updates).
The wisdom in the room
It takes time for people in a group to get to know each other. There is no compulsion to speak at GlobalNet21 and Africa meetings, but I want to give people every opportunity to do so. We're experimenting with ways to do that. I want to build a culture in the group that recognises the "wisdom in the room" and enables that wisdom to be shared. That gets easier once we know each others interests.
At the January meeting our two main speakers were group members. Before their presentations we took some time for people to speak to each other about their reasons for attending. Then I invited anyone who wanted to do so to come out the front for "just a minute" to share their interests. I expect to give plenty of opportunities for one minute introductions at our meetings, and for informal discussions at the end.
Some of our one minute speakers agreed to contribute to our speakers corner event in March. Maybe some of those speakers will come back later for longer presentations of their work. Our main speakers so far have all had a close connection with the group, or with people in the group, and I hope this will continue and develop.
Collecting and sharing the wisdom
One of my hopes for the group is that the knowledge and wisdom shared at our meetings will be captured and made available for easy reference and for sharing with people who weren't at the meetings. I don't have the structures in place for that yet. But if anyone is interested in helping with that, or any other aspect of developing and nurturing the group please let me know via the Dadamac contact us form.