Loomio in GN21 and First Thursday

I'm experimenting with loomio. Here's the story so far:

1 - GlobalNet21 and loomio

2 - More about online spaces

3 - GlobalNet21 Africa and Change group and loomio

4 - First experiment - is anyone actively using loomio in Africa and Change group?

5 - GN21 Africa and Change online - ideally in collaboration with F2F meetups

6 - Can I create an interconnected GN21 Africa and Change group F2F and online?

7 - Connecting GN21 Africa and Change to other UK-Africa initiatives

8 - Mark, GN21 online and loomio

9 - First Thursday Group linking to GN21 group and loomio

10 - The influence of Teachers Talking (TT)

11 - Working on the "I" the "C" and the "T"

12 - Reason for this post

 

1 - GlobalNet21 and loomio

Francis Sealey of GlobalNet21(GN21) introduced me to loomio when he started to experiment with it for GN21Themed Groups Co-ordination. I lead the Africa and Change themed group in GlobalNet21. I'm also interested in "online spaces" and how they serve the needs of groups, so I was glad to be included.

2 - More about online spaces

I've used "online spaces" for much of my UK-Africa work. At the start I relied on email to keep in touch with my contacts in Nigeria when I was in UK. Later we were able to add yahoo chat to email. That was an exciting leap forward to communication in real time. When we progressed from one-to-one chats to group chats (typed) even more opportunities for communicating and collaborating opened up.

I use the idea of meeting in "online spaces" to try to remind myself that when I go online we are meeting somewhere which is not where I am in UK (nor is it in the places in Africa that I can imagine, nor in any of the other geographical locations that some people are when they join me online). We are in fact "meeting" in some culturally-mixed space "in the cloud" - and as far as possible we all need to be aware of that.

Many people in high bandwidth countries are familiar with "online spaces" that use audio and video channels, but within Dadamac typing remains our only option for group meetings because of bandwidth constraints. (However typing might also be our preferred option if other choices were available to us - see Online collaboration - the blessings of low bandwidth)

3 - GlobalNet21 Africa and Change group and loomio

So, back to loomio, Francis also set up individual themed groups, for the group co-ordinators who were happy to experiment with loomio, hence the Africa and Change group.

I started the GN21 Africa and Change meetup group in October 2013. It is still finding its identity in many ways, but I'm very encouraged by the people who have attended (more at Six months of GN21 and Africa group),

For the loomio exploration I invited half a dozen people from the GN21Africa and Change London Meetup group to join me. I'd previoulsy been in contact with all of them by email, as they'd  helped in various ways. I was pleased to see the invitations getting a response and people registering to use loomio. If you would like to be included please contact me.

Loomio is special because it is designed to make group decision-making easy, which should make it ideal for practical planning and agreeing administrative tasks. The first thing we used it for was to agree that the London Meetup group (which has gone under various titles) should be called "Africa and Change" (four people joined in the decision making).

4 - First experiment - is anyone actively using loomio in Africa and Change group?

Five days before the April meetup I set up a discussion in the Africa and Change loomio group to see if that would work better than emailing people to get the help I need. This is what I wrote:

Admin help experiment

When I started the Africa and Change group I didn’t realise just how many little (and larger) admin tasks would be involved.

I’m not sure the best way of getting help for them. I think I’ll write what needs to be done. If anyone offers to do something for me great, if not I’ll say when I’ve done it. That way the pattern of what happens will be visible to everyone, and I may gradually shed some tasks (and start getting some neglected ones covered as well).

April meeting

> Have done: The meetup announcement
> Have done: Requested HubW venue and got confirmation
> Have done: Filled in HubW event announcement form
> Have done and doing: Responding to comments on Meetup page (even if only with a “Like”)
> Must do (around mid-day on meet-up day): Prepare 2 printed lists of attendees - one for me, one for reception.
> Failing to do: send a welcome message to new people who say they are coming to the meetup
> Failing to do: going back to people who showed interest in previous Africa meetups and making them aware of this one.
> Doing: Telling people outside GN21 about the meeting.

Immediate priorities for May and June meetings

> Request HubW venue and get confirmation (shouldn’t be a problem as only asking for “roundtable” space).
> Put initial information on Meetup holding pages, to update as plans get clearer.

My experiment hasn't worked so far (no one replied so I was back to using email to ask for specific, last- minute help) but I'll keep experimenting and hope to "learn by doing".

First step should be to check with the people who registered with loomio in response to my invitations, to find out if they saw my loomio post. I seem to be getting some notifications from loomio, but not for everything, I need to learn how loomio notifications work.

5 - GN21 Africa and Change online - ideally in collaboration with F2F meetups

Some people have expressed difficulty in getting to face to face (F2F) meetups in London, others come to F2F meetups, but are interested in something more than just attending F2F.

I want to explore ways for the GN21 Africa and Change F2F meetups to "leak out into online spaces" and for the group to meet online as well as F2F in London.

There are various online spaces already in use by GN21 (Facebook, twitter, website, blog and more) but I don't want the Africa and Change group to get spread too widely, so I'm moving forward slowly. I'm trying to find who in the F2F group will come online in loomio to do some decision making (if I could find such people that would be useful as they'd be people interested in helping who meet F2F and are also active online).

From there I hope we can decide together how we'll move forward with growing an online group.

6 - Can I create an interconnected GN21 Africa and Change group F2F and online?

I want to develop on online GN21 Africa and Change group which has as much overlap as possible with the London F2F group.

I don't want to find that I set up two separate Africa and Change groups - one meeting F2F and one joining in online events, with no overlapping core interests, and few people in common.

If we run webinars or google hangouts or whatever, online, for GN21 Africa and Change it will be fine for us to bring in additional people who will never come to F2F meetings, but I want the F2F and online people to feel part of the same group, so I want a core of people involved in both.

My present approach is to try and create as a small team, using loomio, to help develop the GN21 Africa and Change group in London and F2F. Then they will be part of both groups. However, given the present lack of success in growing an active admin support group via loomio, I may need to try a different approach.

I don't know if I'll find enough people, from the F2F group to take an active interest in using loomio. Perhaps my Africa and Change loomio group will grow more naturally from people who can't get to many F2F meetings, but are interested in online connection. I'll find out as I do it.

7 - Connecting GN21 Africa and Change to other UK-Africa initiatives

I want the GN21 Africa and Change group to connect with other aspects of my UK-Africa work, such as people in the First Thursday group, and people from the UK-Nigeria Dadamac meetings. I also want to build on what I've learned through the experiments in Dadamac.net, through Teachers Talking and other collaborations, and on current work for Dadamac Foundation 2014 (More on some of those at Flowing together and separately - Dadamac 2014)

8 - Mark, GN21 online and loomio

I have already added one person to the GN21 Africa and Change group who does not attend the F2F London meetings. He is Mark, an online member of GN21 who has connections with Africa. I thought it would be good to get him exploring loomio, ready to help the admin team  when we plan online events, even though he won't be attending London meetings (as he lives in USA). He is a systems thinker and so he's interested in the big picture.

Mark is also active in the First Thursday group, so will be ready to help me build bridges between that group and GN21.

9 - First Thursday Group linking to GN21 group and loomio

I've been looking for a way for the FIrst Thursday Group to "exist" outside of the one hour chat that we have online once a month. Loomio could help.

At the April FIrst Thursday Meeting I mentioned loomio to the handful of people who were there. They liked the idea so I invited them to a First Thursday loomio group, and we did some experimenting. Since then, as often happens, a few more people have contacted me, who would have liked to be at First Thursday but couldn't make it. I've invited them to loomio as well. If you would like to be included please contact me. It will take time to develop this group as people are at a distance and they are mostly busy people who are struggling with poor connectivity.

One of the problems we have in First Thursday meetings is that we can't be sure what overlapping interests people will have until they turn up. If we can meet between times through loomio we may be able to decide on special topic First Thursday Group meetings. We could also continue to share information in other, asynchronous, ways. Most excitingly we could do combined planning with the GN21 people who have become familiar with having discussions and making decisions (or collecting precise opinions) through loomio.

10 - The influence of Teachers Talking (TT)

My vision for this combined GN21 and First Thursday group is influenced by the old Teachers Talking (TT) online community. The TT community involved some people with specialist skills and knowledge relevant to teaching and ICT but with no knowledge of rural Africa, and some people with specialist knowledge of teaching in rural Africa (i.e. local teachers) but with no knowledge of ICT, and some other people (like John Dada and me) connecting across the two groups.

In a GN21 Africa and Change group combined with the FIrst Thursday group, there would be elements of outside interest but lack of local knowledge, elements of local expertise but lack of outside knowledge, plus a combination of both.

This new combined group will have a much wider choice of local knowledge to cluster around than either groups have in isolation. It will also have a wider range of overlapping interests than the TT group had.

11 - Working on the "I" the "C" and the "T"

Any initiative related to ICT (Information and Communication Technology) for development is a mixture of "I=Information/Interest", "C=Communication/Community of people with a reason to communicate with each other" and "T=Technology".

In Teachers Talking the TT group members (the "C=Communication/Community) used the "T=Technology" of yahoo groups. We had different cultural backgrounds but a shared "I=Information/Interest" and purpose, which was ICT for teachers.

Here the "T=Technology" is loomio. It is asynchronous, only uses text (so low bandwidth), and enables discussion and decision making (or gathering opinions and reaching agreement).

What of the "C=Communication/Community"? There are two loomio groups at present. One is being drawn from a community of people who connect with me F2F through GN21 Africa and Change group (and have helped me, via email, with the organisation of that group). The other group connect with me online through First Thursday (and additionally connect with me outside First Thursday through email or other channels).

What of the "I=Information/Interest". At present the F2F and online communities have two different interests. The GN21 Africa and Change group was set up by Francis, as one of several themed groups for better co-ordination and collaboration between GN21 themed groups, and to bring in admin support for organisers. All the people in my group have some interest in Africa and Change. The First Thursday group are people who know me online and (and some also know me F2F) and they like to keep in touch now and again with me and other people I know to exchange news and expertise. A good proportion are Africans living in Africa.

The only definite overlapping points are that both groups have some connection with Africa, and the people involved have some connection with me. 

I often introduce people to each other online, but this is the first time I've tried to introduce two very different groups to each other. First I need to create an online space where both are comfortable, then I'll need to define a shared interest, then I can start to bring members of the two communities together around the shared interest in an online space which is familiar to everyone. 

12 - Reason for this post

There are several reasons for this post.

Last week at the London Meetup someone came along who was only briefly visiting London. If I already had an online version of the Africa and Change group I could have invited him to join, but I don't have one yet. Perhaps he'll help me to start one. Or maybe he'd prefer to keep in touch via the First Thursday group, or if he can't get to the First Thursday real time meetings perhaps he's like to be part of the First Thursday loomio group. I didn't have any explanation of what they are, or how they fit together, so I started to write this.

Also, for general interest as there are some people who like to keep up to date with what I'm doing, and it's possible that I may want this explanation for other newcomers in the future.

I'm also doing some theoretical work related to 21st century lifestyles, learning and livelihoods. My supervisor, Andrius Kulikauskas, likes all our work to be done in the public domain. This post, reporting on some of my current practical work, will serve as part of my "homework" for him.