Posts in this category relate to connections – but the connections may not be made obvious in the post.

Death Cafes and Soul Midwives

I’ve always danced between theory and practice.

When life gets complicated, uncertain or difficult in practice, I like to think that someone somewhere has been there before. I hope to scamper back from the practicalities of “life as it is” for a quick helping of “what other people already know”. I hope to find some kind of theoretical framework and established wisdom to help me dive back into the confusion of practical living and working it out as I go along.

Now I’m getting older I’ve got my antennae out for some theory around what happens now and next.  Today I came across Death Cafes  and  Soul Midwives via an excellent post called  It can be difficult to think about death which I found in the newsletter from the Centre for Ageing Better

I think It’s a great idea to have a place where it’s okay to think aloud in an informal way about getting my affairs in order and miscellaneous options. Knowing I’d got all that stuff tidied up in advance would be one less thing to think about in future, making it so much easier to get on with living life to the full in the meantime.

Sep 22, 2016 by pamela | Categories: Connections

FASST – Organising for Collaborative Development

FASST has a vision, and a practical plan, to overcome the barriers that prevent us working in collaborative ways. I won’t describe the plan in detail here. Like many innovations FASST will be easier to share once the protoype is working. It is starting in a small way (which is another way of saying we are currently working on the prototype, or demonstrator stage). The plan behind FASST is fairly simple, but is based on some assumptions that are not yet mainstream. If you are interested in getting involved in the early stages please contact me.

Through effective collaboration we can all play our parts better in order to tackle the complex problems of our time. We can more effectively develop solutions on a hyper-local scale or a global scale or anything in between. If we also share what we learn as we go along, we can help others to learn more quickly, to the benefit of all of us.

I’m the initiator of FASST. Three others are already committed to developing the prototype, with others exploring their preferred roles.

Collaborating across cultures and across distance

Experience during the past fifteen years or so, has taught me that people can connect, communicate and collaborate in wonderful ways despite being scattered across the globe. It has also taught me lessons about the need to “hold assumptions lightly” especially if people have different perspectives and various cultural backgrounds. Over the years I’ve been involved in many collaborative projects through online communities of interest – some that I’ve initiated, some initiated by others. There have been notable successes, which have excited and inspired the people involved. There have also been problems and confusions where some painful lessons have been learned.

Meanwhile the technology that enables us to collaborate at a distance has been getting increasingly powerful, cheaper for many users, and more widely available. But technology alone isn’t sufficient. Collaboration at a distance is a mixture of technical and human aspects of communication. It isn’t just the technical side that needs robust operating systems. People need effective inter-personal “operating systems” too – and that is where FASST is working.

Rapid change, complex problems and the need to escape from silos

I won’t start naming all the complex, inter-related problems that currently face humankind. I’m simply pointing to the fact that we all know about them to a greater or lesser degree. We can hide from them and hope “someone else” is taking responsibility and will sort them out, or we can each explore how to play our part. Playing our part effectively often involves working with others.

If there is one thing that many people do agree on, regarding solving complex problems, it is the need for more joined up thinking and less activity in separate silos, be they organisational departments, academic disciplines, or even social ghettos demarcated by age, sex, ethnicity, faith or anything else. However, simply wanting to collaborate is seldom enough. There are challenges when people from different silos or cultures try to collaborate. Good will is seldom sufficient for complex collaboration. We need to know how to work together effectively – and that’s where it’s useful if we’re all easily able to use the same interpersonal operating system, which is where FASST comes in.

Creating a shared culture

From my side the vision for FASST has emerged from years of practical collaboration on other initiatives, and from reflection, discussion and related theoretical work (described in The long version of : “My Why” and FASST )

FASST has been taking shape this year, with input from various friends and contacts who have been challenging me in different ways, asking useful questions and making suggestions (which I have sometimes responded to through open letters which are linked to on the initiatives page in the FASST section).

FASST isn’t based only on my own ideas and experience, Below are some links to theory which relates to key ideas in FASST :

FASST is starting small, but we’ll grow. In time we may even “go viral”.

We are committed to a more collaborative future.

Within FASST we are consciously doing two things in parallel. We are collaborating in order to progress various future-focussed initiatives, and we are also creating a shared culture for collaboration – a culture which we can actively spread.

The stages

We anticipate various stages, which may well alter as we learn more about how things are emerging:

  • Core group formation and early collaborative work
  • Launch as a Holacracy
  • Continuation of early collaborative work, enabling learning-by-doing of Holacracy, and sharing of lessons learned (the start of an information commons, which continually grows)
  • Expansion of collaborative projects, by offering “outsiders and newbies” opportunities for involvement with the core group.
  • These new people get involved through energising roles the core group need filled to progress their projects
  • Newbies who become acclimatised to “FASST culture” through energising these roles can then express a willingness to energise additional roles currently “outside FASST”
  • This is the point at which FASST starts to offer collaborative support to innovators and project leaders operating outside of FASST, thus “infecting them” with FASST culture.
  • Regarding the “interpersonal operating system”, organisations that have been “infested with FASST culture” are attracted to collaborate with other organisations who share that culture, because they already share the ability to “go about things” in the same way.
  • Regarding the FASST information commons, it grows with every stage of FASST projects, thus showcasing the innovative projects FASST people are delivering.
  • The information commons serves two purposes :
    • It will be a freely available, information resource for anyone who wants to use it.
    • It will be an attractor for potential clients who will prefer  FASST to provide them with “bespoke knowledge services”.

There is no fixed timetable for these stages. That kind of detail will emerge gradually, depending on the energy, interest and initial collaborations that FASST attracts.

Aug 28, 2016 by pamela | Categories: Connections | Tags: , , ,

Learning together through online collaboration: 2000 to the present

A comment in a facebook group got me thinking. It said  “One of the things that makes a difference to the formation of any team is where you form it. Slack would encourage some people, Facebook encourages others, at a bar is a preference for others… there is no “one size fits all”.

I’ve experienced various online collaborative groups since I began working at a distance in 2000, starting with a need to communicate from London with people in rural Nigeria, so the comment struck a chord. I thought I’d trawl back through some of my archives to remind myself what platforms we’d used, and why. It’s proving to be a longer job than I’d hoped, so this isn’t a polished post, and it only covers four areas of collaboration,but it will give me a good starting point for a shorter version some other time.


  1. OOCD 2000+ and Yahoo chat
  2. Fantsuam Foundation: typed group chats on Yahoo and Skype (Google chat and WhatsApp as backups)
  3. Teachers Talking Anniversaries and Dadamac Days: Yahoo chats, Minciu Sodas chatroom, Skype, audio and visual fragments, Meetups, Webinar, storytelling.
  4. Minciu Sodas and First Thursdays,  From 2007 in chatroom via Skype, Etherpad, and Kabissa Forum to 2016 on Facebook.

1 – OOCD 2000+ and Yahoo chat

One time, probably around 2002 or 2003, when I was in Ibadan someone took me to a cyber cafe to get a new email address, one that would be easier to use while I was in Nigeria. This was in connection with Oke-Ogun Community Development Agenda 2000 Plus (OOCD 2000+) All my OOCD 2000+ online contacts in Nigeria had  hotmail or yahoo addresses. For no particular reason we tried to register me for a hotmail address but there was some kind of glitch so I finished up with a yahoo one instead.

Later, back home in the UK, I was taught how to use Yahoo chat, by David Mutua, the OOCD 2000+ project manager. He was based in Ago-Are and had to travel to Ibadan to use a cyber cafe there. Travelling to Ibadan from Ago-Are can take the best part of a day, once you factor in all the waiting time down at the motor park. There is no knowing how many hours you’ll need to wait until the taxi driver will be satisfied that he’s got enough people to pile into his taxi to make his journey worthwhile. When it comes to the return journey no-one really wants to risk travelling on the road between Ibadan and Ago-Are after dark, so going back and forth to send an email was a two day task. Once in Ibadan David would  try to find a cyber cafe that offered “night browsing” – the cheapest rate. If I knew in advance the date when he’d be trying to get to the cyber cafe then I’d stay online until very late that night in the hope that he’d turn up and we might exchange several emails before a power outage brought his over-night browsing session to a sudden end.

On one such session David used our to-ing  and fro-ing of emails to tell me about Yahoo chat and to teach me how to get set up for it. That kind of learning (David in Ibadan teaching me in London on a one-to-one basis) is what I usually think of when I refer to my learning online and teaching (rather than “doing online courses”) From then on, for several years, yahoo chat was our preferred communication channel. David would do several yahoo chats in parallel. Given the slow download speeds available to him in Nigeria at the time he found chats (preferably several in parallel) much more effective than downloading a series of emails and replying to them.

2 – Fantsuam Foundation: typed group chats on Yahoo and Skype

Google chat and WhatsApp as backups

When Nikki Fishman and I started to connect regularly (on a weekly basis) with the team at Fantsuam Foundation we used Yahoo group chats.  That was around 2007. I forget how soon we started to use Skype as well. Usually we started on Yahoo, but if it let us down for some reason then we’d reconvene on Skype. Gradually we moved away from Yahoo to use Skype all the time. We have used google chat a couple of times when Skype let us down, but now we use WhatsApp if we need an alternative. (More about the UK-Nigeria weekly meetings )

We never use an audio or visual channel for our regular meetings. The bandwidth on the Nigerian side couldn’t cope with it. We always used typed chat.  We get through a lot in an hour by typing, and afterwards there is always a full archive for reference. Over the years we’ve developed effective strategies to make the most of our time together. The possibility of getting photos has completely changed now too, with the advent of smart phones.

The dynamics of typed meetings are unlike meetings using speech. For a start there is no need to take turns. When we hit an agenda item then everyone can type their contributions at the same time.  Questions can be addressed to specific people – and there is no need to wait while they find a reference or whatever.

People can also drop out of a meeting and and back in without causing disruption. When they come back they can quickly read the archive to catch up with what they’ve missed This is an important benefit. The need to drop out of a meeting for a while often happens in Nigeria, where visitors tend to arrive unexpectedly and need to be greeted courteously. Emergencies may also happen than need immediate attention. Even if we did have the bandwidth for speech I doubt if we’d use it given the dynamics and cultural context of our meetings.

Skype used to present problems if anyone needed to join the weekly meeting from a cyber cafe, because Skype wasn’t available at cyber cafes.  This is less of a problem now that people can access Skype on their phones.

3 – Teachers Talking Anniversaries and Dadamac Days:

Yahoo chats, Minciu Sodas chatroom, Skype, audio and visual fragments, Meetups, Webinar, storytelling.

Dadamac Days are celebrated each November, usually onlne. They grew from an annual celebration of Teachers Talking

The first celebration was in 2005, a year after the first Teachers Talking course. We had a last-minute idea of having an online re-union to celebrate the anniversary of TT by having a yahoo chat linking some of the participants in Nigeria with a couple of us in the UK. There was no way to send  invitations by SMS or email to the TT participants scattered around Fanstuam – and there was no reliable postal service there either. On the Fasntusam Foundation side it took a volunteer two days of driving around on a motor-cycle to contact the people who had participated and deliver their invitations. Amazingly some managed to turn up and to participate in a UK-Nigeria yahoo chat.

Over the years our annual reunions have developed. See Dadamac Days on 2008 and 2009. By 2009  we were using the Minciu Sodas chat room for the interactions between the particpants, and at the same time we were having a private skype chat between the UK and Fantsuam Foundation (FF) event hosts to keep things running smoothly. At FF the participants were contributing via a “group scribe”, and were watching on a large display thanks to a projector, instead of being huddled round a small screen. These early Dadamac Days usually consisted of an online get-together of the Dadamac virtual community (scattered far and wide) connecting with people at an on-the-ground group celebration at Fantsuam.

The write up fpr Dadamac Day  2010 was on posterous, a platform that is no longer supported. Fortunately we were able to move our posterous archive to Tumblr but that’s not so easy to search so I have yet to read what I wrote fro Dadamac Day 2010. I wonder if it was the year we did Dadamac day as a fringe event at Africa Gathering. Whichever year that happened the Africa Gathering Fringe event was a special Dadamac Day. The main connection was via the Minciu Sodas chatroom, We also managed a brief audio and video link (probably thanks to Skype).  There was a prize winning choir singing at FF and we were able to hear part of their performance. We also managed to do some waving and smiling, with all the excitement of seeing familiar faces, but we couldn’t do that at the same time as having the audio channel open. The bandwidth wasn’t up to it. (Although I think probably all of the bandwidth of the FF VSAT was being committed to Dadamac Day at the time).

Dadamac Day celebrations in 2013 and 2015 were unusual because they were Face-to-Face celebrations held in London, and sponsored by Impact Hub Westminster. The 2013 event was held in collaboration with GlobalNet21 and was an opportunity for John Dada to meet some of the people that Nikki and I were connecting with here in London- See Globalnet21 meetup Changemakers GlobalNet21 and Africa: Challenges and Opportunities for Innovation (see the comments too – which include links to video comments, and to blogs that attendees wrote following the event).

The connection with GlobalNet21, and with meetups, and our first face-to-face celebration demonstrates other unusual features of my online collaborative journey. Going online was never done as an “add-on” to an existing organisational structure. It was always essential aspect of who we are as a collaborative community and how we are developing. The starting point for the network was Nigeria, not the UK. Connections in the UK developed slowly and on a one-to-one basis, not within the community of formal International Development and large NGOs .

2014 was with GlobalNet21 again – this time it was a webinar – Africa & Change Group Webinar

Dadamac Day 2015 was a collaboration with Academy of Oratory bringing together several UK-based African changemkers to explore the practicalities and importance of telling their ongoing stories. (Video of Dadamac Day 2015)

Dadamac days are a celebration of friendships and collaborations, and of people working and learning together, in ways that were never possible before the Internet.

4 – Minciu Sodas and First Thursdays

From 2007 in chatroom via Skype, Etherpad, and Kabissa Forum to 2016 on Facebook.

The Minciu Sodas (Orchard of Thoughts) chatroom was the first online home for the First Thursday Group. See Start here for First Thursdays

It was ideal because it could be accessed from a url – so there was no need for any software download before hand, and it was therefore accessible  at any cyber cafe. I particularly liked the way that different contributors could choose their own colour for typing. This meant that several conversations could be going on in parallel and it was comparatively  easy to pick them out from each other. Given that people used to join First Thursday from some African locations that were poorly served by the communication infrastructure, there were often considerable time  delays. This meant there were mismatches between the pace of the “main conversation” and the input from poorly served contributors.  Different colours were especially helpful then.

Another benefit of the chatroom was its link to the MInciu Sodas wiki. Andrius Kulikauskas regularly encouraged new First Thursday contributors to do an introductory write up about themselves on the wiki . This served to make it easier for people to introduce themselves to each other in subsequent meetings.

Sadly the chatroom closed.

Over the years First Thursday has had various online homes – see  First Thursdays which covers our move from the chatroom to Skype (typed) and then etherpads. Some of the archives survive. This one  First Thursday August 1st 2013 – full chat archive was posted up for a particular reason, but can also serve to give a flavour of the informality of First Thursday  meetings and their role in keeping different people in touch with each other.

Last year we were trying something completely different for First Thursday in collaboration with Kabissa. This worked well for some people but there were access problems for others and so we didn’t do a full move over to that space.

In a recent Skype call Fola suggested we should restart First Thursdays on Facebook and we are just beginning to do so (currently a closed group). For more about Fola see

For more about First Thursdays see One day between Christmas and New Year sets the direction for 2013

sections on:

  • Fola popped in through google chat
  • Patience, evidence, visibility and collaboration
  • Gerry Gleason and First Thursdays
  • Sasha, bee-keeping in Serbia and New Zealand, and January’s First Thursday
  • Jullliet, Kenya and ICT4D

That post ends: So – at the end of the day –  no blog post with a great over-arching plan for 2013. Just more of the ongoing story of people in the Dadamac community, as we go forward into the New Year, learning from each other, and sharing what we know.

I never know how to explain what I do, other than – “I’m learning” – and what I mean by that is the kind of “learning from each other and sharing what we know” that I’ve described here with people in my online network..

Aug 05, 2016 by pamela | Categories: Connections | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Golf, bluebells and yet another example of the democratic disconnect

Hop on a train from Victoria in the spring time and half an hour later you can be losing yourself in an ancient bluebell wood in Beckenham Place Park. Alternatively you can enjoy a round of golf on the only public golf course in London. No need for membership – just turn up and play – but hurry, the golf course is fighting for its survival and faces closure at the end of October 2016.

Ideally this park could be appreciated as a resource for London, but sadly it is another example of the “democracy disconnect” and narrow political interest. The park isn’t seen as a resource for London. Instead it is the focus of a long running battle between local interest groups.   There is a lack of joined-up-thinking. Decisions are being taken on narrow measurements of facts and figures (chosen to suit the decision makers). The will of people who use the facilities is being ignored.

Users of the golf-course and other amenities of the park are disillusioned about the political process. Skewed question can achieve wondrous results.  “Consultation” seems to be a process of gathering “evidence” to support the desires of the decision makers. Comments in agreement with the policy makers are publicised and the rest seem to be ignored.

The park could be  wonderful resource for Londoners, instead it is suffering from local politics. It is on the boundary between Lewisham and Bromley. It is administered by Lewisham but, for the past ten years or so, the Lewisham mayor and council seem to have a policy of actively running down the park (and keeping its facilities a well kept secret from Lewisham residents).  The facilities are used mainly by people on the Bromley borough side of the park – and why should Lewisham pay them any heed? Maybe if the whole sorry situation was moved beyond local politics to London-wide, political decision-making there would be hope of something approaching a decision that had the welfare of citizens at the heart of it. Remember this is only a 21 minute train journey from Victoria and then about a ten minute walk.

On Tuesday July 19th the Parliamentary Golf Group is visiting the park. It is to be hoped that they do care about democracy and the disconnect between”ordinary people” and the decisions makers in our current far-from genuinely democratic system. Current “consultation’ is a joke – but, sadly, not a funny one.






Jul 19, 2016 by pamela | Categories: Connections

Response to “Machine Money and People Money”

I like it when a down-to-earth article addresses issues that some people would otherwise find hard to take seriously. It gives me a credible jumping off point for some of the  conversations I want to have. “Machine Money and People Money” offers a useful perspective on work and employment, and how they are not necessarily the same thing. The article addresses issues including the changing nature of work when increasingly robots and AI replace people.

The quote below gives a taster of Machine Money and People Money – A Conversation about Universal Basic Income with John Maynard Keynes and Paul Buchheit (most of the italics are mine):

At the outset of the Great Depression, John Maynard Keynes penned a remarkable economic prognostication: that despite the ominous storm that was then enfolding the world, mankind was in fact on the brink of solving “the economic problem” — that is, the quest for daily subsistence.

The world of his grandchildren — the world of those of us living today  — would, “for the first time…be faced with [mankind’s] real, his permanent problem — how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.”

It didn’t turn out quite as Keynes imagined. Sure enough, after a punishing Depression and a great World War, the economy entered a period of unparalleled prosperity. But in recent decades, despite all the remarkable progress of business and technology, that prosperity has been very unevenly distributed. Around the world, the average standard of living has increased enormously, but in modern developed economies, the middle class has stagnated, and for the first time in generations, our children may be worse off than we are. Once again, we face what Keynes called “the enormous anomaly of unemployment in a world full of wants,” with consequent political instability and uncertain business prospects.


“The enormous anomaly of unemployment in a world full of wants.” I love that phrase! As Nick Hanauer has said to me, “Technology is the solution to human problems. As long as we haven’t run out of problems, we won’t run out of work.


Note that Nick said “we won’t run out of work,” not “we won’t run out of jobs.” Part of the problem is that “the job” is an artificial construct, in which work is managed and parceled out by corporations and other institutions, to which individuals must apply to participate in doing the work. Financial markets are supposed to reward corporations to pursue work that needs doing. But as Rana Foroohar has noted in her excellent new book Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Decline of American Industry, there is a growing divergence today between what financial markets reward and what the economy really needs.

More at It makes sense of many of the confusions related to the current world of work.

Thanks to Sasha Mrkailof for directing me to this article by posting it, with his comments, in P2P.

Jul 13, 2016 by pamela | Categories: Connections | Tags: , ,

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