Hi Brent. Regarding evolutionary purpose you asked for our thoughts on the final sentence in this quote:
“For organizations like Fitzii, the purpose of the company isn’t dictated from above, or ever set in stone. Rather, the purpose is considered to be evolving as the organization evolves. In this view, no one “creates” the purpose. It changes as people’s own callings, beliefs and passions changes, and at any point people can “listen” in and try their best to document it”
I relate to this strongly in Dadamac, the organisation I’m concerned with. It that has been emerging over many years, and I’m currently working towards launching it as a Holacracy, so that it will have the “organisational behaviours” to enable it to grow freely in a “Dadamac way”. By that I means that it will be free to continue emerging, but will nonetheless maintain its “Dadamac DNA” (which I could explain more about some other time).
For now I want to flag up the fact that the quote makes perfect sense to me, and give you an idea of how that is true.
“Dadamac” has emerged from an informal collaboration between John Dada and me. The collaboration began gradually between 2000 and 2004. John is director of Fantsuam Foundation (FF), an amazing integrated community development organisations in North Central Nigeria. I discovered John when I was looking online for help for a project I was involved in. That project was OOCD 2000+ (Oke-Ogun Community Development Agenda 2000 Plus) in South West Nigeria. I visited the OOCD 2000+ team now and again on working holidays, but my involvement was mostly from a distance from my home in London. I had got involved with OOCD 2000+through the late Peter Adetunji Oyawale and when he died my role expanded.
John’s organisation, FF, had been around much longer than OOCD 2000+, and became a source of great help and support to it. I was able to help FF in the same ways I was helping OOCD 2000+. I had cheap, reliable 24/7 access to the Internet, I was close to various events in London, I knew what OOCD 2000+ and FF were trying to do. I could use my knowledge and initiative to make myself useful, so I did.
Structure and purpose(s)
If there had been a formal organisational structure to describe what was emerging at that early stage then perhaps it would have been that FF was acting as an umbrella for OOCD 2000+ and I, working in my own time from my home computer in the UK, would have been their “UK office”.
Regarding purpose, both OOCD 2000+ and FF had clear purposes regarding serving the needs of the local community, within a vision for greater systemic change. Peter’s project in Oke-Ogun was to have been a pilot for a bigger programme of his Committee for African Welfare and Development. FF was (and is) not only serving its local community by it also aims to be a leading model of integrated community development. As John says “At FF we learn twice, once by learning and once by sharing what we learn.”
I was attracted to Peter’s work and John’s work because of my interest in education, including distance education, and the new opportunities for formal and informal learning offered by the disruptive nature of computers and the Internet. My work with them was my apprenticeship into the realities of rural Nigeria. My work online was part of my induction into the establishment perspectives on International Development, research into ICT4D (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) and such like.
My emerging purpose came from a mixture of a desire to help my friends in Nigeria in their community development work, my previous interest in education and ICT, and a growing curiosity about how ICT was affecting our ability to collaborate. So in a way my emerging purpose was to do with informal research into ICT for Education and Development.
This non-formal, self-funded research took me into a variety of online communities which influenced my thinking, both through the content of our discussions and through the processes involved. The processes were interesting to me partly for the technicalities (the platforms used etc) and partly for the human aspects i.e. the people and cross-cultural issues of interaction and (mis)understanding. I have a unique perspective and purpose because I have been driven by curiosity, emerging interests, and responses to the energies or needs of people in my large and varied network.
A new emerging purpose and a failure
The purpose changed when I reached a certain point of frustration around issues of the gap between the reality I knew on the ground and the information I got online. This frustration was increased by something I had heard described as “hit and run” research (i.e. research which benefits the researcher but damages the projects they research) which I knew of directly and indirectly. I decided to act on John’s behalf in a new way. I started to represent his interest not just by acting as his eyes and ears when I was active online and in London, but also by acting as his voice. That is when I started using the name Dadamac, to describe things that John Dada and I were of one mind about. Things that, together, we knew about, were already doing, or could action in the future. I thought we had something of value, see Dadamac – the Internet-enabled alternative to top-down development but I failed to convince anyone. Maybe it was my failure to “market us” effectively. Maybe we simply didn’t have anything of value.
I don’t really believe that we have nothing of value to offer. That hard to define value is why I am still here, still investing my time and effort on this “thing” and its emerging purpose.
An energy of its own and a charity
I couldn’t give up on what we’d be doing even if I couldn’t see a way to make it pay. There was something about it that seemed to need to continue – either that, or I was just on some stubborn, crazy, ego-trip. I didn’t know which.
When I started making John more visible, in the belief that Dadamac had something valuable to offer ,I added someone else, Nikki Fishman, to the team. By the time I had given up on Dadamac earning any money Nikki had developed some impressive skills through working at a distance on various pro-bono UK-Africa collaborative projects. She had also influenced me to rescue and rename an about-to-be closed charity that I was connected with. This meant that the Dadamac network had come to include a UK registered charity. It’s most notable achievement was the “Fast Tractor” project, but mostly it did very little as it had no fundraiser and no donor base. It had its roots in Peter Oyawale’s work, which means it has huge overlap with all we do with John Dada and the Fantsuam Foundation team.
Another emerging purpose and a new approach
Even when Nikki had gone, and Dadamac wasn’t “doing” anything, John and his team still liked to meet online with me each week. Part of Nikki’s work when she was “serving her apprenticeship” with Dadamac, was to work with John and his team online, harvest fragments of information about various projects during the online meetings she and I had with FF, and put the fragments together into accurate blogs that told the ongoing stories of the projects.
I once pointed out that the FF meeting with me were no longer making them visible, nor doing anything to assist their access to funding ,so although I still appreciated a weekly catch up, I didn’t think they had anything to gain from the meetings any more. I was amazed, by the response by John and other core members of the team. Never mind the lack of visibility or lack of help with getting funding, the meetings were valued for their own sake. There was something we were doing, by meeting together and looking at things from their perspective and mine that had value of its own.
I set about trying to discover what it was, and how to offer it more effectively.
The story continues, and a wider purpose emerges
I hope to continue the story later for you. Key points are that in 2015 Nikki and I put some effort into (re)launching the charity in order to do more of what it was that FF valued, and to do it better, and to serve other people in the diaspora who were also doing amazing projects “back home” in Africa. This short video of an event we organised last year gives a flavour. (We didn’t write the enthusiastic sound track, it was created by the video team from comments made by participants.)
The purpose continues to emerge. There is now a Big Vision – see Practical 21st Century “Big Vision” and #Dadamac and that is why I’m trying to put in place structures appropriate for growth using Holacracy and Teal ideas – see #Dadamac and Synergy with Teal