Dadamac Foundation is a small organisation with a big vision. It has emerged from various interrelated initiatives and collaborations stretching back 15 years and more, and is taking a new shape in 2016 based on what it has learned in the past. There is a strong possibility that 2016 will be a year of organisational growth. Nikki Fishman and I are currently “the core team” of Dadamac Foundation, hence our interest in Teal Organisations, and how Dadamac Foundation might grow according to what we understand to be Teal principles and practices. See Teal Organisations and Teal for Start-ups for our relationship to Teal. I have joined the Teal for Startups – Working Group
Structure of this page
The headings for this part of the page are taken from the Teal for Startups Development Map. I’m a Teal beginner so my answers won’t be “Strictly Teal”, and they won’t go into the depth of detail that the development map encourages.
One of the present benefits of putting effort into Dadamac Foundation is the amount of new learning, experience and connections that result. I believe that as we improve our structures (so that we enable people to define their own roles and accountabilities) the opportunities for personal development will increase. Personally I also hope my contribution will develop positively as I learn to adopt the practices I’ve met through U.Lab (see initiatives notes on U.Lab ).
The organisation’s purpose has emerged gradually so some history is helpful. It came about through previous work that Nikki Fishman, John Dada and I did together and separately (some of it under the name of Dadamac). The work Nikki and I did for John and his team at Fantsuam Foundation (FF) has become a prototype of a service that we are now trying to provide more widely for people who are changemakers in Africa..
John is a Nigerian who leads a community development organisation in Kaduna State. I helped him there during various working holidays between 2004 and 2008, and knew him from a previous collaboration in Nigeria.
Between 2007 and 2012 Nikki joined me in some initiatives we did with John and his team at Fantsuam Foundation “at a distance”. A blog written by Nikki gives a flavour of what we were doing together back in 2009. It is called Connect, Communicate, Collaborate and those three words are key to all our UK-Africa work. More of the work we did together is archived elsewhere on the Dadamac.net website.
In 2013 I suggested to John and the FF team that we should stop having our weekly online meetings because Nikki was no longer available to blog about FF’s work, nor to help me to find useful information for the FF team so I was working alone (in my spare time). I knew that Nikki’s work as an “information agent” had been useful in raising FF’s visibilty online and adding to its credibility in various ways, and I was aware that, without her, the meetings were no longer serving that important purpose. To my surprise the FF team were insistent that the UK connection should continue, if only to enable the local team to look beyond the immediate and local and to see their work from a more global perspective.
Their response caused me to reflect deeply on what our collaborative network had become. I considered “what it knew” about international development locally and globally, what skills it had in collaborating at a distance, and what value it offered to FF stakeholders and beyond. I sought advice from various people in my network about future direction.
The conclusion was that rather than stopping the UK-Africa collaboration with Fantsuam Foundation we should view that initial work as a prototype of the support that changemakers in Africa need. We should aim to create a sustainable organisation that could extend similar support to other changemakers. It is support that goes beyond simple fundraising. It is support related to how information flows and can be presented. It is support that can be provided in London or elsewhere in the “connected world”, once the supporters understand what is needed and how to go about it.
We know that our collaborative work is only possible because of mobile phones and the Internet, and therefore represents completely new possibilities for how “International development” can be approached. For more on that theme see It’s time to end this development disconnect. We decided to try to extend the work under the umbrella of Dadamac Foundation, a registered charity, which was more or less dormant and likely to be wound up. In January 2015 Nikki and I organised an event to see if our ideas struck a chord with other people connected with Africa and change, and were encouraged by the response that we got – video of event.
That is why we are doing what we are doing – and why I see it as being part of U.Lab and Teal and other initiatives that are leaning into the future.
We recognise something we call “Dadamac DNA” – but we’re not yet good at describing it. At the heart of it are connections between people, much effort to achieve effective two-way communication at a distance and across cultures, and genuinely collaborative relationships that are based on mutual respect.
On the UK side we try to recognise our ignorance and to hold our assumptions lightly, ready to replace them with more accurate ones as we learn more. Our values and culture have emerged from an early history of being a kind of “UK outpost” (serving roles of ambassador, networker, researcher and affordable link to the internet) for some inspirational locally developed projects in Nigeria.
Dadamac Foundation culture has also been influenced by various people and organisations that we describe as pioneers in the landscape of change. They have influenced us regarding approaches to sharing information, online culture and behaviour, collaboration and so on – See Landscape of Change and What’s the Good of Landscape of Change?
We are developing support services for local changemakers in Africa (currently limited to locations in English-speaking sub-Saharan Africa but could extend to other locations later).
We help changemakers to:
- Tell their stories.
- Share their knowledge.
- Connect with supporters.
- Increase their influence – individually and as a group.
Our changemakers are people who are leading development projects of some kind in response to local needs. They are Africans who have strong local connections in Africa and also have connections with the UK.
Typically these changemakers are too busy “doing what they do” on a local level to have time to tell other people about their work. They lack the impressive online presence that many lesser, but better funded, projects enjoy.
This lack of information sharing has two equally important negative results:
- The knowledge that they have of development challenges, opportunities and “what works on the ground” remains with them and does not get shared more widely.
- Their work is less known than it deserves to be, so it tends to be poorly supported financially.
The changemakers are in positions of leadership, but they are not connected with each other, so they tend to shoulder many burdens in isolation without the support of their peers. Our services are more than information provision, we also provide a group identity for the changemakers when they need it and a supportive community.
I’ll limit this to Dadamac Foundation 2015 and to what is most formal and visible, based on an event we organised in November. The November event was mainly for people already connected with us in some way but not with each other. It was teaching all of us about more effective true storytelling and why that needs to be our emphasis – see short video . Some key people who are easy to see are:
- Changemakers connected with Dadamac who are at the front with microphones: in order of appearance – Julliet Makhapela (Kenya), Elfneh Bariso (Ethiopia), Joyce Elemson (Nigeria)
- Then Nikki Fishman out the front with them also speaking into a microphone.
- John Dada – seen speaking near the end – is the original Dadamac changemaker
- While John is speaking I’m also shown talking into a microphone.
- Dil Green, who is seen making closing remarks, joined us after seeing the January video. From his first connection with us he has been recognising overlaps between his interests and the work of Dadamac Foundation, and taking useful initiatives regarding the development of his role. I believe he will welcome Teal practices. He is also a pattern language advocate.
- Giles Abbott (he’s captioned) and Leon Conrad (wearing a poppy, and with notable dark hair, moustache and beard), both of the Academy of Oratory, have supported us generously with their time and expertise on stories and story telling.
The ecosystem is complicated and includes various networks we are part of (and many we are not) and various actors in the international development landscape.
We recognise that our most valuable work involves networks, collaboration and the free flow of information, so that change can happen in a viral way, learning from each other and adapting what works to new locations.
- The development of a supportive network for changemakers.
- Information services – two way flows – local and global.
- Increasing the visibility of changemakers and their work, individually and as a group, to increase their impact and attract support.
- The gradual creation of an information commons about local development projects, based on genuine needs and local realities, which will serve as a resource for new projects.
For 2016 – I anticipate growing our network of supporters through social media. One of my contacts at the Escape School has volunteered to organise the first ever “Dadamac Sprint” early in 2016 – see Dadamackathon Idea. I’m hoping that Dadamac Sprints will be the start of growing active support here in London, and giving greater visibility to Dadamac Foundation and its changemakers through social media.
If that happens then we could grow rapidly, which is why we need to be ready with Teal practices and processes.
As we grow we also need to put stronger governance structures in place, so we need to attract more people to our advisory board and and so on. The current committe, Janet Whitehouse, Nikki and I, are learning more about charity structures and governance for ourselves, but look forward to attracting people with more experience and knowledge.
I hope Dadamac Foundation will be able to offer some paid positions (probably part-time) before long, as I believe this will provide stability at the core and will allow me to step back from some of the roles which I currently fill and “are not my strengths”. I hope Nikki will be available to fill one of those paid roles as she has unparalleled knowledge and experience related to the DNA of Dadamac and the people in the Dadamac Foundation network.
Judging from previous experience things will emerge depending on what happens and where there is the right mixture of energy and need.
Most of our wealth and value is related to information-sharing and networks (rather than material things).
We believe that we offer many intrinsic rewards to people who work with us (certainly that is my personal experience through my voluntary work for Dadamac Foundation).
Unusually for a charity, while providing our support and services to the changemakers we serve, we are also creating a valuable resource for general use, an information commons built on the experiences and knowledge of our changemakers.
The Teal factor
We believe that if we are ready with Teal consciousness, practices and processes then Dadamac Foundation will be ready to grow and enable people to get actively involved in positive changemaking, in roles they define for themselves which are appropriate to their ideals, aptitudes and readiness for personal development.
Our first challenge is to see if Nikki, Dil and I can “be Teal” ourselves – and how we do that.
If you would like to develop a role for yourself within Dadamac Foundation please get in touch using our contact form