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Lessons: 1 for Kwanzaa from Pyramid of Peace. 2 for practitioners about researchers from #ICTD2010

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  • Pamela McLean
    Hi Andrius I wish you well at the celebration of Kwanzaa, sharing lessons from Pyramid of Peace. I have copied your letter below. I agree that Pyramid of Peace
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 18, 2010
      Hi Andrius

      I wish you well at the celebration of Kwanzaa, sharing lessons from Pyramid of Peace. I have copied your letter below.

      I agree that Pyramid of Peace (PoP) was a wonderful initiative - both for what it did and for how it did it. The archive (of all the emails and the chats and the fund transfers) is outstanding. There are so many lessons to be learned from it - and relevant to so many different disciplines.

      Academics and "us"

      I think PoP should be a topic for serious academic research (and I believe that the value of its archive will be recognised at some future point). There are so many lessons to learn from it. However I seriously wonder how long it will be before the academic community sees the research potential of PoP (and other on the ground initiatives).

      I was at ICTD2010 last week - with a personal agenda of "better links between academics and practitioners". There were interesting discussions there about collaboration - but it seemed that the practitioners were reaching out to academics far more than the other way around. I am learning lessons about this and increasingly recognise that even if academics do wish to engage with practitioners the systemic barriers preventing them from so doing  are considerable.

      Funding mechanisms

      I re-learned what I already knew  - that academics, like many others, are trapped by funding mechanisms that - from my view point - are archaic and which reward people for answering "the wrong kind of questions" and measuring "the wrong outcomes" - far too much support for "Hooray for my thingy" type of work  (ICTD2010 - Research needs from a developing world perspective  and ICTD2010- Let's Bridge Those Divides by Pamela McLean  and Dadamac - the Internet-enabled alternative to top-down development )

      By the way - the "funding mismatch" is why, at an early point I abandoned my own attempts to get any formal direct funding. I decided it would be less frustrating if I just plodded on with no funding but plenty of freedom. Obviously if I saw a funding opportunity for what I do I would take it - but I am not wasting time trying to sqeeze myself into funding strait-jackets that don't even come close to fitting. I stayed with the balancing act of minimising my paid work (and my related discretionary income) in order to maximise the discretionary time I had available to spend on my "information-related activities - learning by doing and discussing with others".  (I didn't do it as extremely as you did. I was more financially cautious in the continuing attention I gave to a certain minimum of paid work.) Regarding funding  I didn't want to waste time chasing money to do things that would be fixed in advance in some tick list that never really reflected what I was trying to do anyhow. 

      Of course we need money, and it is frustrating to see it go on things that we don't value, especially when it goes on things that seem to us to be a complete waste of financial resources (and a waste of brain power too in the case of academia) - but until those with money start to see value in our wealth of information there is little we can do - other than to live as best we can in the two parallel societies:
      • the information and knowledge one (where we continue to get richer and richer in information and knowledge)
      • the material one - where we need to engage in ways that at least cover our essential material needs
      Peer groups

      I also understood, before ICTD2010, that academics seem trapped in a system which is heavily reliant on "academics impressing each other" - publishing in peer reviewed journals, writing in each others books, going to each others conferences, getting more and more visible in the academic world.

      To a visitor like me, the academic world seems a weird mixture of co-operation (creating and sharing knowledge) and competition (competing for funding and for personal career advancement). I don't really understand it.

      I do know that in "my world" - learning online, in a self directed way, it is a world of sharing openly (to the nth degree in your case: including very personal hopes and circumstances, more cautiously in my own, sharing knowledge and my learning journey). We do not have peer-review where information is only shared if our "peers" agree that our information is "worthy of publication" (although we do have some moderation, to keep out spammers and other  'inappropriate content").

      Instead of filtering through peer review we share our information freely in online spaces where it costs nothing to share information - and (I would suggest) our "peers" are the people who have an interest that overlaps our own. If "our peers" value what we write then they will read it, and share it, and comment on it. If they don't then it will fade away. It may be that sometimes we are only writing to ourselves. That is okay too, if by making the effort to put something in writing we learn something that we did not know before.

      As a learner, interested in exploring new "socio-tech" knowledge and insights, I loved the freedom of Minciu Sodas as a place to learn. I think that, for me, the greatest value of Minciu Sodas was the fact that I was encouraged to "think aloud" - without having to frame carefully what I was going to say beforehand, and without having to find someone else's discussion group that (more or less) overlapped some portion of my own interests and concerns. My peer group was simply people who wanted to exchange information with me. (At some point Andrius I would like to  explore the overlaps between our past shared work in Minciu Sodas, and your developing work now, and my present and future  work in Dadamac.)

      Separate disciplines

      I now discover (through the ICTD2010 keynote on Wednesday morning) that it is difficult for academics to co-operate with each other, if they are in different disciplines - never mind trying to connect with people outside who have practical overlapping interests. It seems that people in one discipline write to one kind of journal, and people in another discipline write to another kind of journal, and so on, and that somehow, "never the twain shall meet". If that is so, then it is not surprising that there seems to be little connection between ICTD -  research and ICT  - real-life, except through a few exceptional individuals.

      Quoting and answering Andrius

      Andrius' email (copied in full below) ended "What lessons have we learned, large and small, thinking back? What stories would we like to tell? Who would we like to hear from? What creativity might we contribute to express our stories? I will tell my story, and certainly, I hope you might tell yours, likewise, in the Public Domain, for all to share creatively.

      I'm glad to hear from us!"

      Sorry I have not really addressed your questions Andrius - I just responded to the "glad to hear from us".

      You may also be glad to know, regarding openness, that session 4108 at ICTD2010, organised by Laurent Elder of IDRC-CDRI was on "Open Development" - they are moving away from ICTD programmes to Open Development programmes. See www.idrc.ca/en/ev-131099-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html and www.idrc.ca/en-133699-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html. So maybe things are starting to move in a direction where there will be more overlap between researchers and open practitioners. They were talking about trying to get people to make "open" the default rather than the exception.


      Posted to  Dadamac's Posterous by Pamela McLean  email pamela.mclean@....

      For more about people or organisations named in my posts try - http://www.dadamac.net/network

      Dadamac - Integrating Education and Development in Africa and Online. We introduce people.  We help them to work together or to learn from each other. How can we help you?

      Replies - Respond publicly by posting a comment on Dadamac's posterous or privately by emailing me
      Did you get this "open letter" sent to you as a personal email?  If so.you may wonder what happens when you reply. If you "reply to all" including post@... then you will get a reply from posterous (inviting you to use posterous). Your reply will only appear on posterous if you also post it as a comment.
      Privacy and Openness - I only share my own emails on posterous (or ones I have been given permission to share).  I often post my own emails as open letters, for future reference or general interest.
      Your email address - Even if I post to you and to posterous at the same time,
      your email address will not show on posterous.

      Twitter -  http://twitter.com/pamela_mclean and #dadamac  Website - http://www.dadamac.net

      On 18 December 2010 06:59, Andrius Kulikauskas <ms@...> wrote:

      Hi from Chicago. I'm going to have a booth at the Malcolm X celebration
      of Kwanzaa, which is an African American cultural celebration that takes
      place from December 26th to January 1st.

      Perhaps you'd like to add your thoughts and your creativity to my project?

      As an artist, I'm going to depict the lessons I and others learned from
      our stories of the Pyramid of Peace to avert genocide in Kenya in 2008.
      Recently, accusations were made in the International Criminal Court
      against six men suspected of fueling ethnic violence.

      I and others understood at the time that somebody was deliberately
      fostering the violence and we responded to good effect. I will tell my

      As I tell my story, I will focus on *how* I and others learned and grew
      and shared. I will also highlight our values at play, notably, our
      deepest values in life. I will be drawing people's portraits and
      depicting their values and showing how they might imagine themselves in
      our story. I will draw human figures with which I can also describe the
      events so we can discuss them. I will make photos and videos and that
      will help tell the story.

      Kwanzaa celebrates seven basic values of African culture:
      * Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family,
      community, nation, and race.
      * Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name
      ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
      * Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our
      community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our
      problems, and to solve them together.
      * Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores,
      shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
      * Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and
      developing of our community in order to restore our people to their
      traditional greatness.
      * Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we
      can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than
      we inherited it.
      * Imani (Faith): To believe with all our heart in our people, our
      parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of
      our struggle.
      the above is taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwanzaa see
      also: http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org

      I'm going to focus on the values that we exhibited and note how
      Kwanzaa's values came into play, rather than the other way around. I've
      collected answers from hundreds of people about their deepest values in
      life, and I'd like for people who come to think about their own and see
      how theirs fit in among others, like stars in the sky, each seeing the
      whole sky from their own vantage point. Kwanzaa is a new celebration
      that I imagine is still finding its way. We lived through a profound
      victory in Africa that inspires reflection on values.

      In particular, I will note how the lessons I learned about engaging the
      violent in the South Side of Chicago were key for our success in Kenya.

      Monday, I will speak with organizer Jessica Holloway about my ideas. We
      already discussed that I might lead video bridges with Pyramid of Peace
      participants in Kenya and around the world. I also think there might be
      broader interest that could lead to support for a Kickstarter project
      that I might organize to document our stories, and ultimately, to apply
      our experience in new challenges.

      What lessons have we learned, large and small, thinking back? What
      stories would we like to tell? Who would we like to hear from? What
      creativity might we contribute to express our stories? I will tell my
      story, and certainly, I hope you might tell yours, likewise, in the
      Public Domain, for all to share creatively.

      I'm glad to hear from us!


      Andrius Kulikauskas
      (773) 306-3807

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