Partnership, from the ground up.

December 11, 2006 § Leave a comment

Porto Novo, Benin – November 27 – December 2, 2006. While the primary point of is promote grassroots networking, it is also a very interesting experiment in collaboration amongst social investors (aka ‘donors’). IDRC, SDC and Microsoft all take a slightly different angle on telecentres and community technology. Yet, we all believe that networks are key to the success of grassroots tech initiatives. We also think that other social investors should be thinking about networks, both as a way to increase the impact of their investments and to help to coordinate with their peers.


This kind of collaboration really comes to life an event like the Africa Telecentre Leaders Forum, offering a chance to work with both existing and emerging partners in a very hands on way. Some highlights from the Benin trip include:

  • Getting to know Ntutule Tshenye, the Microsoft community affairs lead for sub-Saharan Africa. I was blown away by Ntutule’s sophistication and practical approach to the telecentre movement in Africa. The 10 years he has spent in this space shows.
  • Working with SDC’s Veronika Roos, who fit in immediately as one of the team (which she is, really). Veronika was particularly amazing as a set of engaged eyes and ears, offering us real time feedback on where key groups of participants were headed.
  • Hanging with Ian Pringle from UNESCO. Ian is a bit of a visionary, trying to bring together that large number of (often disconnected) community media and access initiatives spread far and wide within UNESCO. He also brings a tremendous commitment to networks and collaboration, and an amazing sense of fun.
  • Meeting IICD’s Francois Laureys, who heads up their knowledge networking initiatives in West Africa. Francois provided both insight into the work of IICD partners and invaluable insights into the ICT4D terrain in the region. He also did an amazing job pushing forward key networking conversations during the Forum.

Spending time with these people not only helped build relationships, it also gave us the chance to discover and define new opportunities to work together. There is a great deal of synergy between our thinking and Ntutlue’s thinking on social enterprise. Francois has an interest in expanding networks in Burkina and other parts of West Africa. Ian wants to integrate networking and collaboration with outside initiatives into UNESCO’s community media work. All of this will lead to new and very concrete collaborative activities with these partners.

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