31 March 2009

Ideas on involving grassroots levels in Africa

After writing An Inclusive World, on the inclusion and empowerment of African engineers in the world wide developments, which content was subject in IEEE GOLDRush magazine March 2008, a lot of developments have taken place. Unfortunately, also a lot of development did not take place. After writing nice words and witnessing nodding heads in agreement, we run the risk of celebrating words and avoid the sweat that action brings. As the proof is in the eating, we continue getting our hands out of the sleeves, and take action.

Meetings on the needs in Africa are mostly done in convenient settings in the West. It might also be helpful, even more effective to get out here. Possibly meetings on rural development should be done in the rural areas themselves. Participants will be exposed to new experiences and issues, and one is prone to see and understand at a different level. Also, it helps for sustainability, as relationships are build and deposits in the relationship accounts are being made.

Let us think out of the box. My contribution on Innovating and Learning versus Reporting deals also with that, and the issues are real. Sustainable progress activities in dis advanced places can be pin pointed. It is also time for (social) venturing onto new roads. Such can be done with more cooperation, across expertise, geographical and cultural areas. As an example, see our list of partnerships, growing by the day. Partnerships are productive as we accumulating knowledge and understanding in a continuously accelerated manner, and - for the first time ever - we are really able to partner because we are connected! We embrace the challenges, agree that change is a constant, and seek to establish and maintain new equilibrium.

Africa's intelligentsia, like engineers, can be involved (and get back to Africa!). It would be great to assess how many resources for projects in Africa are actually remaining in the West. Donor syndrome can be countered by engendering and soliciting innovative proposals from Africa. We need to think from African user perspectives and might need to find ways as how to empower users. And African providers must gain access to wholesale pricing. Then social venturing is a good vehicle to assure plowing back of margin and results into the communities.

Current trends are think big, however grassroots level now has a voice, is empowered, and testing ideas. Connected communities explore ideas, and report findings. Initiatives are starting at grassroots levels, and ideas on solving issues at hand should be valued and allowed to be explored. Ways of interacting between the grassroots level and big, institutionalized bodies can be found, certainly now with the development of connectivity, and the Internet. Possibly definition of Internet's NET4.0 could come from grassroots level in Africa! The social networks for grassroots level interaction, utilizing the multitude of technologies and possibilities available, are empowering interaction across geographical and cultural divides.

30 March 2009

Africa is really large

Following up on my observations in "Africa is large", I recently noticed this drawing, which explains it well:

13 March 2009

A Triangle of Partnerships

A triangle of networking and relationships for progress and development of the Western World, South Africa and Southern Africa can be recognized to benefit all corners of the triangle. The following benefits result:
  1. Southern Africa can execute indigenous ways of developing, which includes breeding new developments from within existing communities in an culturally adapt manner;
  2. South Africa can support neighboring communities with resources and understanding of the African environment, being able to build and facilitate bridges between first and third world environments, relational and rational environments, and horizontal and vertical development approaches.
  3. The Western World can support in culturally adapt development; visit African settings in an appropriate manners, and report on progress in a western culture adapt fashion.

Recognized issues of availability of empowered local leadership, holistic/horizontal approaches including aspects of health (hiv/aids), education, and communities play pivotal roles. Cross pollination of all parties by building multicultural (electronic) community exchange of mature concepts and ideas between the corners of the triangle grows mutual respect and understanding.

Focus on Getting It Done
Africa and the development world has seen many meetings, conferences, and other well-meant discussions passing without them leading to sustainable actions and progress. Now we can build upon a number of exiting and existing projects that are alive and kicking today, often build up in adverse circumstances, having stand the test of time and often well regarded in their respective communities.

Currently we witness a unique time of opportunities. South Africa can show an impressive list of practical work done in township and rural communities, over a period of many decennia in South Africa. Such has been done using indigenous South African resources, often aided with funding from oversees donors over an extended period of time.

Secondly, a large array of relationships are developed and developing with great potential for further growth. These relationships contain those focussed on using resources to getting the job done, and those with focus on participating and empowering those who get the job done, which often are the people in the areas of development themselves.

Developments in Macha, in the rural area of Southern Province in Zambia, have been interesting to national and foreign visitors. Zambia’s Vice-President opened Vision Community Center that did boast over 10 interdependent units, acting as an innovation hub in the rural area. Infrastructure development like those transport, communications, and energy are tackled in a manner empowering all in the local rural community, and supporting multiplication and growth beyond the rural Macha area, and is recognized by national government and the regulator. One of the projects, LinkNet – empowering rural communities including health and education institutions, by building and maintaining internet service provisioning - has branched out to other rural communities. A change process is defined, and a large and growing multifaceted array of partners in these developments is established.

In the West a conglomerate of institutions, private individuals recognize the unique situation at hand. Social venturing investments are made cautiously, with donor organizations empowering projects to grow beyond their current status, which ironically were most often implemented without institutional donor funding. Professional organizations in the West and South Africa are becoming aware of their own capabilities and resource for supporting developments in Africa, in their strive for global social responsibility and study of emerging markets.

All these developments are more and more supported by visionary, holistic, and inspired leadership on grassroot and national level, which is striving for culturally adapt management of programs, projects and resources. With the further emerging of transport and communication possibilities and resources at all corners of the triangle new ways of interaction and cross pollination of leadership is available.

It needs to be recognized that change in the developed world will emerge mainly from urban areas, while in the (Southern) African setting real change can emanate out of rural areas. Thus activities on several levels must take place.

First of all, on grass root level, projects have to emerge that show the feasibility and sustainability of progress in Africa. Concepts and activities as shown in Macha and (sub urban) South Africa must be guarded, nurtured and multiplied, going from ‘proof of concept’ via ‘proof of reproduction’ to ‘proof of production’.

Funding, Research, and Organization
In all corners of the triangle there is a growing understanding that current mechanisms of funding often do not align with the realities at grassroots level. African knowledge and growing understanding of the value of cultural diversity must lead to consideration of proposals for trust-based funding schemes, including output target funding.

Reviewing actual and sustainable projects established on the ground in Zambia and South Africa will show feasibility of a new approach, closely guided by experts from many nations. Existing and new relationships will act in benchmarking and active monitoring of the program and projects taking into account ethical and managerial frameworks.

Applied and fundamental research is encouraged in further understanding the ethical and African paradigms, cultural ingredients, and actual physics needed in African (rural) environments.

10 March 2009

Greet and Smile

The penguins in Madagascar movie got is almost right "Smile and Wave" is actually in Africa "Greet and Smile". Again this morning, while moving to and fro MICS to bring the children to school I met lots of people walking and on bicycles. With each one greetings were exchanged, and I was greeted with kind words and a Smile. How nice to start the day good words, recognition of each other existence, and broad smiles!