Why Dadamac knows where it's going - but can't say where it begins or ends.

Dadamac knows where it's going, but it's hard to say where it begins and ends (which is why the idea of tidying up the organisation in future with Holacracy is so appealing - see Dadamac Holacracy Lite).

To make sense of Dadamac it's simplest to start in the middle, which is easy to find, because I'm at the middle of Dadamac.

Dadamac exists because of the Internet

I'm Pamela McLean. I'm the "mac" of Dadamac, and I live in London. My central role in Dadamac came about not because I live in London, but because I have 24/7 access to a good broadband connection to the Internet.

Since the turn of the century (before I met John Dada and we coined the name Dadamac) I've served as an access point to the Internet for friends in Africa. Think of me as a kind of "London office" for various grass-roots projects.

Being "bandwidth rich" is like having 24/7 access to an information supermarket, where I can wander around at my leisure "filling my information-shopping trolley". For my friends in Africa, who are "bandwidth poor" it's as if they can only rush in now and again to grab a small information-shopping basket and hurriedly drop in a couple of items. I can help them by having things they want easily to hand.  The better I understand their needs and interests the more useful I can be.

Two-way communication

Back in the early years of the century, this was the situation. In my first UK-Africa collaborations it was hard to do more than exchange an occasional email online. The people I was serving had to travel to the nearest city to use a cyber cafe, which would happen at intervals of a month or two.

I couldn't send attachments, because of access costs, slow downloading, and erratic power supplies. It was challenging enough for people to read emails at the cyber cafes.  Additional information was sent on CDs. Lorraine Duff was my helper in the UK for several years, and one of the many responsibilities she willingly shouldered was the sourcing and sending of CDs.

The other approach was to print out "information folders" to be sent by courier (usually a traveller in our network, sometimes an official courier service). Paper-based information was easier for people to access. Computers were few and far between.

It was even harder to get information from Nigeria to the UK. When I needed detailed information (of a special meeting for instance) someone would organise a video recording and, sooner or later, a traveller from Nigeria would bring the precious video cassette to the UK.

About once a year I'd go on a "working holiday". These trips served as "reality checks" for me. I'd help with some of the "computer orientation" training and other formal and informal teaching. I'd be involved in long term planning, and I'd meet people that my friends running the projects thought I should meet. (I was initially horrified to find that some meetings were arranged during my visit simply because it helped my friends if they took along someone with a white skin, but it was a fact of life at the time. We didn't have much in the way of money, so we had to make the most of whatever resources we did have.)  Most importantly, I'd learn all kinds of things, and come back with a better idea of how to be helpful at a distance.

The technology for communication.

Over the years the technology has developed. Two-way communication between Nigeria and UK has got easier, but it's still not as simple as some of the hype would have us believe. (See Distance learning challenges- Teresa from Fantsuam reflects on the technological challenges of being a distance learning student.)

The community I communicate with

My connections have increased. I link with more projects in Africa. I also know people with related interests globally, through the Internet and face-to-face in London. Some of these might describe themselves as part of Dadamac, some might not. That's why I can't say where Dadamac starts and ends and it is why I want to start defining roles in the way that happens with Holacracy .

More at the core

Gradually more people are getting connected with Dadamac, but I won't name many others until their roles are more clearly defined. I will simply name the two most close to the core.

Dadamac gets the other half of its name from John Dada, director of Fantsuam Foundation in Nigeria. John and I have worked together in various ways, in Nigeria and online since 2003, and we have been unpaid.  Our first formal collaboration was Teachers Talking in 2004. One of the reasons the "Dadamac Community" has been such a fluid organisation (or un-organisation) is because John and I are simply working together as friends, trying to do things that we care about, and getting different people involved at different times.

Obviously when it comes to the registered UK Charity called Dadamac Foundation there is careful accounting and defined objectives, but Dadamac Foundation is a small charity in the UK run by Nikki Fishman, Janet Whitehouse and me which helps people like John - see further details about Dadamac Foundation and the new website holding page.

The work John and I have been doing together has been informal. Our work has been about two-way communication and UK-Africa collaboration. There is little need for formal organisation or governance when you are unpaid and covering costs out of your own pocket. That has been the case for most of the work John and I have done together. People don't usually understand that most of our work together in Dadamac has been informal and unfunded.

John and I are strong on vision, and have been completely autonomous regarding our collaboration. This explains our lack of clearly defined goals and targets, and our readiness to let things emerge. Greater clarity of purpose is something I will be addressing as Dadamac embraces Holacracy. Sustainability is also central to the new, 2015, version of Dadamac.

Over in the UK, the person most responsible for shaping Dadamac is Nikki Fishman. You can see evidence of her work in her blogs, but she has also done much more behind the scenes. My hope is that, at some time in the future, I will have the financial resources to coax Nikki away completely from her current day job, to help shape "Dadamac 2015-2030".

London event - January 10th 2015

Nikki is currently helping me to organise the January 10th event Africa-UK Connections in Practice - New Approaches for 2015. We hope it will attract a wide range of people with different perspectives, so we can learn from each other, and maybe develop ways of helping each other as well.

ICT4Ed&D 2000-2015-2030

Dadamac can been seen as a grassroots-driven project in ICT4Ed&D (Information and Communication Technology for Education and Development) running from 2000-2030

Our January event happens at the start of 2015.  2015 is half way between 2000 and 2030. I first got involved in Africa-UK collaborations in 2000.

Looking back at 2000 I would never have imagined the details of the intervening years, but in fact the progress has all been towards the original visions of people involved then. By 2030 I hope those visions will be fully realised and accepted as the norm in UK-Africa collaborations. I have a big vision for 2030 - but that is some time ahead and, as I get older, I will  step aside. Meanwhile I am fully energised to take Dadamac to its next level.

Dadamac is an integrated version of ICT4Ed&D where the ICT is used to enable collaboration and mutual respect between people of good will in UK and Africa.

For me it has been a joy to be involved in this since 2000, and I hope others will get similar interest and satisfaction by being involved in future.

In my mind ICT stands for:

  • "I=Information" - the things I've learned - the "I=Interests" and "I=Initiatives" that I've been involved in.
  • "C=Communication" - which can only happen if people are connecting with each other - so it's really about "C=Community" - the people I've met and the relationships that we've formed.
  • "T=Technology" - the "T=Tools for Talking to each other" - e.g. the hardware and software that we use for our emails, online chats, texts, "pictures that are worth a thousand words" and all the rest.

Looking ahead, I look forward to Dadamac applying all the lesson we've learned so far, working with more people and organisations and, together, making the most of whatever "Tools for Talking" will enable us to rub minds and solve problems collaboratively over the next 15 years and beyond.