Phoenix rises in Cape Town

August 26, 2005 § Leave a comment

Cape Town, South Africa

Tuesday’s South African telecentre network meeting started out looking like a fiery disaster. It ended up as most beautiful phoenix rising from the flames.


Before the Cape Town meeting even started, SangoNet executive director David Barnard walked briskly up to me with spurted the words: “the hotel is on fire.” Which hotel? “The St. George’s hotel housing five of our meeting participants!” A fiery start, indeed.

As we gathered news of the fire and confirmed our friends were safely on the pavement outside the hotel, other meeting participants began to wander in. We had people from the Universal Service Agency, the Microsoft Digital Villages project, Open Knowledge Network, school-based telecentres and community media. By all accounts, it was a historic gathering – this mix of people hadn’t been in the room for years.


With the help of genius facilitator Colleen Crawford Cousins, the group quickly put any cautions they brought to the room behind them and dove into the task of envisioning common future for South Africa’s telecentre movement. As described on our event web site, the group moved through an info sharing SpeedGeek, brainstorming on challenges facing the movement and mapping out possible projects the telecentres in South Africa could take on together.

It was in the closing circle that the phoenix rising from the morning fire snapped fully into focus. Almost everyone spoke of the power of being together to share ideas and experiences. There was also a sense of optimism for finding practical, simple, useful ways to work together across the current silos of the movement (see napkin diagram below).


If this optimism and momentum continues, South Africa will certainly have a more powerful and important telecentre movement a year from now. At, we plan to do anything we can to keep feeding this momentum … and to learn from what emerges.

PS. All the people from the fire were safe and most had joined us by mid-morning.

PPS. Huge hugs and kudos to David Barnard, Tracey Naughton and, of course, Collen Crawford Cousins for helping to pull off such an amazing event.

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