Posted by & filed under Continuing Conversations.

Hi Folks

This post relates to conversations of the “First Thursday” group, These online conversations began some time in 2006 or 2007. They continued once a month until part way through 2015, when we needed to relocate. A few months ago Folabi Sunday encouraged me to restart the group, this time on Facebook. We have needed to relocate several times in our history, and each time there have been advantages and disadvantages. We recognise that Facebook is a good solution for some people, but excludes some others.

This update is partly for the people who used to join us, but won’t do so on Facebook, and partly for people who simply have some curiosity about the group. I’m not sure how many people it had at its peak, but in restarting it I decided to simply invite a few people who I thought would be most likely to turn up, and then gradually build up the numbers again.

The invitation

This is only the third time we have met on Facebook so I sent out a reminder (and added a PS later):

Hi Everyone – This is a reminder that Thursday 3rd is the First Thursday of November, so please drop into the group and share your updates and greetings.

By The Way – I think of November as a special month because November 2004 was the first time that I visited John DDada and his team at Fantsuam Foundation. It was the start of a project called “Teachers Talking” (TT). TT led to more collaborative initiatives. These initiatives involved John Dada and me (Pamela “Mac” McLean) and others in our networks – including many of you. We began to use the name “Dadamac” for linking the various initiatives and the people involved.

Each year in November we recognise that another year has passed. We try to connect in some way to celebrate the continuation of Dadamac. It is also a celebration of all kinds of connections between people made possible by the Internet. I encourage us all to think and write about ways the Internet has affected our lives. If you have memories of TT or other Dadamac initiatives please share those too. I look forward to reconnecting on Thursday 3rd November.

PS (written on Nov 5th)
> To readers of this page: There are many hidden gems here this month. Please click on the links to comments and replies to discover them.
> To everyone who contributed: Thank you all for your updates, memories and all the lively conversations.

The people

The best way to give you a flavour of the present group is to introduce the people who joined in and explain how we connect, plus some bits of our conversation. We were: Folarin Folabi Sunday, Nzainga Mutua David, Julliet Makhapila, John DDada, Gbade Adejumo, Kennedy Owino, Dan Andrew Otedo, Mercy Isaac, Florence Bale and me, Pamela McLean. We are originally from Nigeria, Kenya and UK, now currently living in Nigeria, Kenya, USA, Denmark and UK.

It’s a while since we’ve all been in contact, so the conversation had the flavour of a family reunion, and given the “anniversary flavour” we were revisiting some shared memories. You may be able to imagine it better if I explain how we all connect with each other. I’ll work through the list in an order that reflects how we met.

Chief Gbade Adejumo

I have known Chief Gbade Adejumo the longest. He was a founder member of the “Oke-Ogun Community Development Agenda 2000 Plus” committee (OOCD 2000+) which later became Oke-Ogun Community Development Network (OCDN). I first met Gbade face to face in 2001 at the funeral of Peter Adetunji Oyawale. Peter was the visionary behind Oke-Ogun Community Development Agenda 2000 Plus.  If I’m with Chief then I’m part of his formal and informal networks. He knows who I should meet, and how and when. My “cultural blunders” and ignorance are absorbed by the fact that I’m with him.

Thanks to the work of Gbade (who is called “Chief” in NIgeria) and other OOCD 2000+ members we were able to attract a VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) volunteer to manage Peter’s project for two years, based in Ago-Are.

Nzainga Mutua David

Nzainga Mutua David was the VSO volunteer for OOCD 2000+, so he and Chief worked closely together. David came from Kenya. I met him face-to-face in Ibadan, in August 2002, soon after he completed his VSO induction in Abuja. Subsequently Chief would take responsibility for me when I first arrived in Nigeria, and then hand me over to the care of David Mutua and Peter’s uncle, Mr Timothy,  when I got to Ago-Are.

John Dada

I first came across the work of John DDada and Kazanka Comfort at Fantsuam Foundation (FF) when I was doing research online. The only way I could help David and the OCDN 2000+ committee when I was home in the UK was to go on the Internet, and try to be useful on their behalf. Most of my efforts to find relevant information, advice and support were fruitless, but finding FF was completely different. FF was Nigerian and in rural Nigeria. John Dada understood us, and he understood the importance of the Internet. Despite FF’s overstretched resources John was ready to help us in whatever way he could.

For a short video of John talking about FF and its Internet history see – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajY1fJxGH3s.

In my work on the Internet I was also making the work of OOCD 2000+ visible in various ways. So it was that Gbade AdejumoNzainga Mutua David and I were invited to a pan-African conference in Abuja in 2003 to give a presentation about our project, sharing a platform with FF. We were all there to add some “rural reality” to the proceedings, as a balance to the urban hype about access to the Internet.  It was the first time that I met John DDada and Kazanka Comfort Face to Face.  That conference was the start of deep friendships, and close collaboration between OODC 2000+ and FF. It also led to David working at FF for a while after his time with VSO ended, and to John asking me to design and present “Teachers Talking” (TT) – an introduction to Information and Communication Technologies which was needed at FF.

It was the start of all the things mentioned in the invitation above regarding the focus of  November’s First Thursday.

Florence Bale and Mercy Isaac

I met Florence Bale when she was working at FF and I was presenting TT.  She repeatedly amazed me by anticipating what I would need and having it ready in advance. After Florence left FF Mercy Isaac came to fill a similar position and she also helped me in wonderful ways. If you join our Facebook group you’ll be able to see the detailed descriptions that Mercy posted about those times in this month’s conversation.

Folarin Folabi Sunday

I met Fola (Folarin Folabi Sunday) down at the OOCD 2000+ Information Centre at Ago-Are (so of course Fola and David know each other well). It is thanks to Fola’s influence that First Thursdays has restarted, using Facebook. After Fola and I met we kept in touch through the LearningTogether yahoo group. It was one of a cluster of yahoo groups set up by Andrius Kulikauskas as part of Minciu Sodas (which is Lithuanian for Orchard of Thoughts). In 2006 Fola came up to FF to participate in one of the TT courses, Gbade and others from OCDN 2000+ have also visited FF, and the FF team have visited Ago-Are, so there are close personal ties.

Kennedy Owino

Kennedy (Ken) Owino and I met online through Minciu Sodas. Later, thanks to Andrius Kulikasukas we met face to face at a MInciu Sodas event in Lithuania. Later still in 2007, we met in Nairobi, while I was there to present a TT course that David had arranged.

A few months later Kenyan post-election violence erupted with Ken, David, Andrius and other friends playing active roles in conflict resolution on the ground and online through the Pyramid of Peace initiative.

You can see Ken in this Kenyan Acrobats for Peace video in his role as leader of the Nafsi Acrobats. They were, demonstrating for peace with physical “pyramids of peace”, created by acrobats of the different tribes. Ken is the acrobat waving the peace flag, and is the first adult speaker in the video. Ken included a reference to this on Thursday.

Dan Andrew Otedo

Dan Andrew Otedo and I met through Minciu Sodas. He is also a friend of David and they have a shared interest in ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in Education, which is the interest that originally got me involved in Peter’s work.

Dan has recently moved back to his home village to support his recently widowed mother,. He was writing about adjusting to rural life and the work he is starting to do with local teachers and pupils related to brining ICT to the area. This strikes a chord with many of us, given the work in Ago-Are and at Fantsuam.

Julliet Makhapila

Julliet Makhapila and I met in London a couple of years ago. She has lived in the UK since she was about 13, and (as a UK tax payer and Kenyan) is intrigued by the International Aid and Development budgets, and what they actually achieve. She is working on initiatives in Kenya, in the Rift Valley. Julliet has been to previous First Thursdays and is getting to know the people there. She has met John face to face in London through Dadamac events.

Building the First Thursday group on Facebook

I’m optimistic about the future of First Thursday in its new Facebook home.  At the moment I am simply inviting people who I know well and who are used to meeting each other online through the previous First Thursday conversations. The fact that people have long shared histories helps to give the First Thursday group its special quality. Once a few of us re-build the habit of meeting once a month, and establish the way we like the conversations to happen in our new “online home” on Facebook, then we can gradually include new people.

With our Facebook group we can post messages at any time. This is a bit different from our old “chatroom” approach.

With the old First Thursday group it was a “chat” that happened during a real-time burst of messaging. It was always on the First Thursday, although there was sometimes confusion about what time it was starting. This confusion was because people were joining in from different time zones, mostly in East Africa, West Africa, Eastern Europe, and UK. When we attracted some people from North America it got more difficult to find a time to suit everyone.

On Facebook the monthly conversations are tending to spill over into the days before and after Thursday, but with Thursday as the highest possibility for a real time conversation happening. This means we are “talking” (text messaging) to each other on several days – not just the First Thursday – so we may adopt a new name.

Whatever we call the group it remains what it has always been. It is a group where people who connect in some way come together to chat, catch up with each other, and discover new shared interests. Then having discovered those interests we share information, explore our different experiences, and thus help and encourage each other.

The only thing everyone had in common in the original group was that everyone had some connection with me. I used to describe the time that we met as the online equivalent of me being officially “at home” for a couple of hours and inviting people to drop in for a chat, have a catchup, and maybe meet someone they hadn’t met before. Given the rural location of many in the group we often discussed details of agricultural work, appropriate technology, and the challenges of getting online.

It is because we know each other that topics can emerge naturally. The topic of what we call ourselves will come up at some point and then I will explain why I have suggested the name “FASST Talking” and how it could connects the First Thursday group to other conversations.