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.