Kabissa and Dadamac are exploring areas of overlap and how we might collaborate in 2015.
First connections with Kabissa
Way back in about 2002, when I was trying to find my way on how best to continue the work of the late Peter Adetunji Oyawale, Tobias Eigen (founder of Kabissa) provided support.
Kabissa enabled me to publish a newsletter telling the unfolding story of Oke-Ogun Community Development Agenda 2000 Plus (OOCD 2000+) and the Information Centre at Ago-Are. I felt we'd been given the Kabissa "seal of approval" and I was greatly encouraged.
Learning support online
I remember logging on to Kabissa and being very uncertain of how to set up an account and post my first newsletter. I made mistakes and asked for help. I remember the patient and supportive emails from Tobias as he helped me through the process. (I was somewhat in awe of him because of the reputation of Kabissa, so I was doubly impressed by his help.) That was probably my first experience of one-to-one learning support via the Internet.
When people talk about e-learning my first thought is always about this kind of practical, when-it's-needed, individual support (rather than traditional set courses and the one-to-many approach of MOOCs - "Massive Online Open Courses").
I've benefitted from the personal support of many informal online teachers during my years with OCDN 2000+ and Dadamac. A feature of informal online learning that I enjoy is that sometimes I'm the learner, sometimes I'm helping someone else to learn, and other times I'm simply rubbing minds with others online and we're gaining new insights together. It's like being part of a supportive life-long-learning community.
The role of 'Information agent"
In my first connection with Kabissa I was writing the newsletter from the UK, using information from the OOCD 2000+ team in Nigeria.
That was in the days when sending an email "from Ago-Are" involved difficult journeys to and from Ibadan, the state capital, in order to use a cyber cafe. For our project manager David Mutua that meant a minimum time investment of two days for each cyber cafe visit.
Looking back I realise I was doing what I now see as a core function of Dadamac. I was acting as an "information agent" - helping a local project to become visible online.
However the idea of an information agent role has only emerged slowly, largely through reflecting on Nikki Fishman's work from 2008-2012 as she attended Dadamac's UK-Nigeria online meetings and blogged about them every week.
Support from Kabissa
I couldn't have been effective as a information agent for OCDN 2000+ without the support of Kabissa. We also benefitted from Kabissa's Internet training curriculum for African civil society called Time To Get Online which was delivered through a 100+page manual, end-user training workshops and an in depth training-of-trainers program. David Mutua was one of the participants at the first "Time To Get Online" workshop.
Kabissa was way ahead of me in all kinds of technical things. It still is. That is one reason why closer collaboration with Kabissa would be a benefit to Dadamac.
Kabissa and Dadamac, similarities and differences
The Kabissa website bears witness to the work that it has done over the years, the people supported, and the ICT based services provided now and in the past.
There are many similarities between Kabissa and Dadamac. They both grew from personal experiences in Africa but are based elsewhere. Kabissa, like Tobias, is based in USA. Dadamac, like me, is based in UK.
Tobias founded Kabissa to fill an ICT support gap that he recognised while working in Nigeria using his ICT skills.
I co-founded Dadamac to fill a different kind of gap that can be filled through the effective use of ICT (see Dadamac - the Internet-enabled alternative to top-down development)
The gap Dadamac addresses
I'm concerned with the disconnect I found between, on one side, the community development realities faced by local changemakers in Nigeria and, on the other side, the world of International Development that I found in London and online. I could see that ICT could bridge that gap. After all, the Internet has been an important link in the chain between my contacts (in rural Nigeria) and me (in the UK) since Peter's death in 2000. I am convinced that the Internet should be enabling a similar two-way-communication relationship between the International Development Establishment and grass-roots projects.
A starting point to communication is to make grass-roots project more visible, interesting and accessible to the International Development Establishment. We also need to address the barriers that make if hard for people at the grassroots to come online.
We know that despite the hype about easier access to the Internet and smart phones etc our contacts in Nigeria, and elsewhere, still face barriers. There are bandwidth constraints, cost issues, and electrical power problems. For our changemakers there is also the, often overlooked, fact that people who are busy "doing stuff" seldom have time to tell people about it.
It's not just technical barriers that need to be overcome. There are human issues too. We need appropriate and supportive ways to "harvest information" from the changemakers. That is where Dadamac has been developing expertise.
Kabissa and Dadamac working together.
In different, but complementary, ways Kabissa and Dadamac are addressing issues of ICT and change in Africa, both driven by the needs of our networks in Africa. Tobias and I have recently discovered that we're both looking in depth at our future hopes for our organisations. Kabissa and Dadamac have started sharing ideas informally on our separate strategies for 2015, and that is showing exciting areas of overlapping intentions. I'm delighted that we're now seriously exploring areas for collaboration.