My Dadamac work belongs in an environment that seems unfamiliar to many people. That is why I was so pleased to discover an excellent explanation of “my world” in Jon Husband’s description of “wirearchy”. (See Wonderful word – “Wirearchy” – Thank you Jon Husband).
With the idea of “wirearchy” I have a starting point for a whole range of conversations that I’ve struggled to have in the past. Someone who does understand wirearchy will be well on the way to understanding me and Dadamac. This post is to make some initial connections between what Jon Husband writes about the “wirearchical world” and what I do there.
Jon Husband defines “wirearchy” as “a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority based on knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected people and technology.” (my emphasis).
This idea of flows enabled by interconnected people and technology is an important idea for people to grasp in order to understand Dadamac’s UK-Africa collaborations. Technology (the Internet) is important to us, but it is the enabler of the work, not the focus. I mention the Internet frequently and that is because the work that I have done with projects in Africa has been built on our use of the Internet from the very beginning. The reason I can honestly claim that our work demonstrates a new approach to International Development is because our approach was impossible before the Internet. This contrasts with any long-established institutions in “International Development” which, by definition, have been around for a long time, and have therefore existed longer than the Internet. To established institutions the Internet has been something to add on (or integrate into) pre-existing structures. To us To us the Internet is what enabled us to come into being. It is “where we belong” and our relationships and “ways of being” reflect that reality.
The exploratory work that I have been doing since 2000 has been based equally in three locations:
- London (where I live)
- Other specific locations, especially in Africa (such as the locations where John Dada implements the Fantsuam Foundation projects)
- “On the Internet” (or “in the cloud”) because that is the natural and only possible “meeting place” for the people involved.
In my work the technology is interconnected with the people and with what we are doing together. It enables us to collaborate as interconnected people despite usually being separated by distance. The human connection element is what drives everything.
My involvement with projects in Africa began simply through friends helping friends. My desire to contribute to their projects was based on knowledge of the kind of people my friends in Africa were, and what they were doing to help the people in their communities, and beyond. Both the late Peter Oyawale and John Dada invited me to be involved in their work because of specific knowledge and skills that I had. I knew that they were knowledgeable about what they were doing, and what they wanted to do, and that they were living sacrificial lives in order to achieve the results they had on their hearts. My work in their projects led to my friendships with Elfneh Bariso (working in Ethiopia) and later with Julliet Makhapela (working in Kenya) and realisations of how we could help each other. From the start knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on results were solid.
Over the years more people have got involved and the roles in our collaborations have emerged through a dynamic two-way flow of information with neither “side” having any power or authority over the other. Mutual respect and emerging collaborations are natural to us.
We belong naturally in the flat, online “wirearchy’ world, not in the “heirarchy” world. We are intensely local and yet scattered globally. For example the first online group that I ever set up, back in 2004, had over a dozen active participants from four continents less that two weeks after I sent out the first invitations.
Dadamac’s UK-Africa work operates in similar areas of need to those officially targeted by traditional top-down International Development “interventions”, but not in similar ways. The starting points are different, the drivers are different and, crucially, our use of disruptive technology, the Internet, is different. This is why our work to date is like a prototype or proof-of-concept for something that, once it reaches a critical mass, could dramatically alter the way that International Development is done.