Dadamac Foundation is a registered charity and we used to think it only had "something to report" if it had raised some money (such as in 2012 when we supported the "Fast Tractor" appeal). We were wrong to think that, and now we know better.
We (the three current trustees) considered what would be lost if we wound up Dadamac Foundation and stopped all the related things we're doing. We recognised that what we do is more about information and communication than raising money - but at present the "non-financial" work doesn't show up under Dadamac Foundation, despite its value, so we've been investigating.
The activities that happen under the wider heading of "Dadamac" have grown up around people that I know, the things we do and the information we share. (The name reflects that fact that many of the activities I've done for Dadamac have had John Dada and me - Pamela McLean - at the heart of them). There was never a plan for Dadamac and its related "community". It's the result of years of putting in my time and resources to do what I found interesting and worthwhile, and other people joining in or not.
The registered charity, Dadamac Foundation, was created along the way for a wide range of welfare, development and educational purposes, but it has only been used occasionally, when some fundraiser in our midst has been raising money for a specific project.
Am I crazy, or is this worth doing?
The question I've been looking at over the last twelve months (since the last Dadamac Foundation Annual General Meeting) is "How much of 'Dadamac' is just my crazy, self-indulgent, addictive hobby of connecting with my contacts, and how much of it should come under the umbrella of Dadamac Foundation?"
If I stopped doing 'Dadamac stuff' would anybody miss it? If so which bits would they miss and why? If those bits do have value, and if I stopped doing them, would it be right for Dadamac Foundation to do them instead - and if so would it be able to? These are the answers I've come up with so far.
John Dada and the Fantsuam Foundation team would miss Dadamac
I discovered that John Dada and the Fantsuam Foundation team would miss Dadamac - and for reasons that I hadn't realised.
We've been holding weekly online UK-Nigeria Dadamac team meetings for years (John and I, and other people working with us at various times). From around 2008 until the end of 2012 Nikki Fishman was harvesting information from the meetings, posting Nikki's blog and writing other details about the initiatives of Fantsuam Foundation (FF). We knew that John found this online information helpful for FF's general credibility and visibility, especially when he was writing bids, and for giving feedback to funders.
When Nikki stopped posting blogs I thought perhaps the weekly meetings should stop too. When I suggested that, I was surprised how vehemently people on the FF side maintained that they valued being part of Dadamac and appreciated what they got from attending the meetings. They said we should carry on meeting, so we did. We share information and exchange ideas. Outside the meetings there are also some informal one-to-one teaching sessions at a distance from time to time, which have ranged from helping John to get the new FF website sorted, to introducing team members to use twitter, and training members of the FF team to add content to Drupal based websites.
In Dadamac we've also made other opportunities to raise the visibility of FF. When John was in the UK we arranged an event for him in London (Dadamac Day 2013) We arranged to interview him the neixt day (see 5 minute video), and there was also a video of the whole event (Dadamac Day 2013 - The video)
Proof of concept
I came to the conclusion that the work we've been doing with John could be seen as a proof of concept for Dadamac Foundation's future focus and structure.
We should be:
Helping John, and other exceptional changemakers, to tell their stories.
Collecting and curating their knowledge and helping to share it.
Providing them with knowledge and information that they need.
Enabling learning and collaborations based on practical grass roots knowledge and initiatives embedded in local communities.
Connecting the local and the global
Enabling good practice to flourish and be replicated.
New models - based on communication and collaboration.
As our work grows, its example should be challenging the traditional top-down models of "development" which are trapped in organisational structures that were set up when two-way communication between UK and Africa was slow and expensive or impossible.
The fact that people can communicate with each other at a distance also means we can challenge the traditional top-down model of a UK-African charity, with its separation between "donors" in the UK and "beneficiaries" in Africa.
It's time for equal-respect collaborations. It's possible for people who are united in a shared purpose to communicate, even if we are separated by physical distance. We can join together to co-create solutions, with people playing different roles and all being appreciated for their contributions.
This will be the new version of Dadamac Foundation:
Some contributors (we call them sponsors) will bring money and other resources, but little knowledge about the best way to use them.
Some contributors (we call them changemakers i.e. people like John ) will bring knowledge of what needs to be done (and what they are already doing) but little in the way of financial resources and little time to share their knowledge.
Some changemakers will have already have affordable access to digital information channels, but some will need help with costs to get online and send photos etc.
Some contributors (we call them information agents) will have the skills and time to harvest information from the changemakers, to share information and knowledge in easy-to-access ways, and to enable collaborative things to happen.
Some information agents will volunteer (in return for such things as the interest, skill-building, connections, experience and satisfaction of being part of the Dadamac community). Others will need financial reward. It takes money to run a website, and structure information in attractive and easy to access ways, making the most of multi media.
Some information agents will work in London, others will work online from anywhere, and some will work alongside changemakers in Africa.
Some contributors will be a mixture of two of the above roles (or all three) but most people will be recognisable as mainly a sponsor, or a changemaker, or an information agent.
Once Dadamac Foundation starts to emphasise its work of information harvesting and knowledge creation then a virtuous circle begins. Our various contributors will work together to create a "knowledge commons" i.e. a resource that is freely available to all comers. Anyone with an interest in community welfare and development in Africa will benefit (and not only in Africa, some of our information will be relevant in other locations as well).
We will harvest and share more and more unfolding stories, and will weave them together in themes (according to locations, problems addressed, challenges met, opportunities taken etc). Their value will increase as they are combined into an information commons. As we use all the social media tools available to increase visibility and maximise impact our information commons will attract more changemakers, more information, and more resources, to the benefit of everyone.
Changemakers, philanthropists, policy makers, academics, journalists, entrepreneurs, health professionals, educators, climate scientists, agriculturalists, all kinds of people will benfit from our information commons as it grows, and they will be able to work more effectively as a result of using it.
We know from our work with John, and others, that the changemakers can expect to see direct and indirect benefits including increased visibility, useful information, a global perspective, a wider supportive and responsive network, practical collaborative problem solving, financial benefit and increased influence.
Not just relying on sponsors
The information commons will help to fund itself. Although it will be freely available (to outsiders as well as contributors) some people may appreciate help in finding what they need. If anyone wants to fast-track a search for information, or have a special report drawn up, that will be possible for a fee. There will be a separate financial entity, ("Dadamac Trading" prehaps), to provide bespoke information services.
It's also possible that some sponsors may want to give direct support to the work of individual changemakers, or set up new collaborative arrangements with them. This can be done independently by the people involved, or they can pay "Dadamac Trading" to facilitate their collaboration and help information to flow.
The profits of "Dadamac Trading" will help to fund the creation of the information commons and will reduce the need for sponsors.
Dadamac Foundation isn't just built on the UK-Fantsuam Foundation collaboration
Fantsuam Foundation isn't our only information source and proof of concept. The Dadamac community ranges more widely.
We have our monthly "First Thursday Group" which has met online several hundreds of times, since around 2006.
In London, since October 2013, I've been running a monthly face-to-face Africa and Change themed group within GlobalNet21 (see Six months of GN21 and Africa group March 2014)
There are other people in my Dadamac network in London and online (connecting through online groups, emails, facebook, twitter, skype or google chat).
At present it is chickens and eggs. Like other changemakers in the Dadamac community I'm busy with my practical work and so I need the help of information agents to tell my story. It is the story of the new Dadamac Foundation, the UK-Africa charity that belongs firmly in the 21st century, understands the value of information as well as money, and demonstrates practical communication, community and collaboration.
Once that story is told and is attracting support then we can accelerate and improve the work of telling the unfolding stories of changemaking in Africa and start the virtuous circle of creating the new information commons. It will appear over on what is now the holding page for our new website www.dadamac.org. If you want to help make it happen contact me.