Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

chris' reply to Africa's Learning Digest : April 28

Expand Messages
  • christopher macrae
    Apologies for length of this but yesterday s digest included posts from several people who referred to posts I had made. I have tried to respond to all
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 29, 2007
    • 0 Attachment
      Apologies for length of this but yesterday's digest included posts from several people who referred to posts I had made.  I have tried to respond to all
      I think that a lot of Africa ’s challenges over the years have worsened because there has been an excess of organisational models that have been top-down and too few that are grassroots-up. Even though the resonance of civil society in Africa is potentially much of the continent's special edge:  an especially vital alumni networking focus while Mandela is the last living Gandhian grand-master as transformer of nations as well as a living empowerment of education and truth. http://changeafrica.blogspot.com  The long-term consequences of  the different pathways - community-rising and top-down - compound as exponentially opposite lifes/deaths of communities, and eventually what humanity gets or does.
      Ultimately, the key assessment criteria I would use to discover what sort of organisational model is being offered to you is: let’s suppose this organisation or franchise compounds greater and greater success- do the benefits of this success go back to the grassroots community or do they go to some top that is outside the community. Viewing the future’s compound truths/consequences:  if we have enough grassroots grounded organisations, we can transparently connect a globalisation that integrates every locality’s deepest rights into global; if we have too much top-down organisational governance, we will lose transparency as well as the sustainability of more and more localities and peoples. As a leading economist and 20th century future historian, my father tried to storytell why this will be a sustainability-defining crisis back in 1984 as per this short-read  http://www.normanmacrae.com/netfuture.html#Anchor-Changin-27687 This also connects with why American Idol's African stars such as  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3gJq--TEkA link to the last tipping point for mass media truth in the USA
       In commercial cases top-down global success means that some people at the top of the world take more and more out of the system as it impacts everyone else – the George Orwellian  nightmare of 1984. In public service top-down cases, professions or rulers stop serving every community’s sustainability and deepest contexts from within and start governing over the community - averaging out context specific needs most vital to that community or its people’s sustainability. What interests me about the 2 great Bangladeshi institutions Grameen http://www.grameen-info.org/  and BRAC http://www.brac.net  is that they provide pure models of what happens over 30 years if you develop community-up – one in the commercial areas of sustaining people developing small business – Grameen’s banking for the poor, and the other in vital public services –primarily child healthcare and education organised within each community. Both Muhammad Yunus and Fazle Abed make it the lessons very clear of how they stuck to grassroots up at every decision-stage. There are some great 4 minute utube videos on both if you key their names and ashoka.
      You might ask what is a current case that is the extreme anithesis of brac.net, and as a pure mathematical modeller I might have to answer the USA government system as operated under Bush and Cheney for 8 years. Sustainability of anywhere in the world simply cannot afford another 8 years of compounding that system of top-down blindness. http://collapsingworld.org
      Another layer to this is: how does a useful idea replicate across those communities that might gain from this. Predominantly grassroots up is associated with open source whereas top-down is concerned with making a charge before any replication happens, as well as boxing in expertises and cultures so they have less and less mutual understanding of living systems. Grassroots also values flows and collaboration connections in ways that top-down never does. For example, a grassroots measure of the productivity of any person is: what % of a person's lifetimes is spent at her or his experiential edge of her or his deepest competences? Because top-down systems never use this measure, they have been squandering the productive, service and collaboration knowhow abilities of people's lifetime exponentials everywhere - but arguably nowhere has this exponential destruction been faster than for many of Africa's child.  Globalisation when systemised only top-down is every child's worst enemy.
      Although this first level of asking what organisations are we systemising around our community is general, when we get to fields like education, health and banking we soon need to have much more detailed context discussions. I will see if Prince wants one separately on the banking/microcredit side and if it goes anywhere try and return any summaries we progress.
       So let me keep rest of this post on learning. I am wondering if there’s a debate to raise on the top 5 unasked questions of grassroots learning, and if so can anyone start us exploring by nominate one.
      A candidate question might be in the school life (ie between starting and enning school) of a child in this community:  can we NOW forecast what types of work there will definitely be more of when the child leaves school and if so does our school include vocational curriculum made specific to these types of work and out community?
       I wish I had a shorter way of wording that because the kinds of answers that I think might be liberated in open civil society by such a question could be very interesting. My guess :  many Africa communities will need lots more nurses than schools are producing. That solar energy as a grassroots revolution impacting both buildings and agricultures as well as communal infrastructures may be interesting for lots of new jobs. That micro-entrepreneur and mobile-entrepreneur skills will be valuable, as well as some peer to peer models, because successful entrepreneurs are often better mentors than theoretical teachers when it comes to small but deeply local business transparently built. I realise too that these questions vary by the futures we need if a place is rural (lacking in infrastructure and far from a city) and if a community is in or bordering a city. It seems to me that grassroots educators will in many cases come up with different priority questions than top-down ones ; and even where the questions are common may come up with different answers. I feel that : it can’t do any harm to form a small network of educators who want to explore the grassroots up; and see what their conversations and wishes to experiment come up with; and that you all may be able to select a quorum of people who can iterate this. (I am also playing with how I use facebook to try and connect grassroots up explorers; and trying at webs such as http://universityofstars.tv http://herstory.tv and http://africanidol.tv  to collate utubes that provide definitions of problems or solutions that stimulated by grassroots voices and innovation experiments)
      Sorry this was long. Say if it made no sense.
      chris.macrae@... us tel 301 881 1655
      www.Facebook.com  has an openness and flow difference from any other yahoogroup, wiki or other virtual communications tool that I have met. Once you have agreed to be linked it, each person has a conversation WALL. A hi-trust use of this WALL is if peers who know a particular person’s deepest missions keep asking questions relating to that person’s progress or next collaboration needs or recommendations of utubes or other resources. It's subtle but it empowers grassroots exploration and networking from each deeply passionate person up in a way that I have not seen any internet tool in my first 15 years of playing with what net tools can or cannot do in open sourcing. Imagine if we can mentor every online child so that their wall is best used for clarifying their peer to peer development.
      its wiki defines the core experiments it will connect worldwide round these 5 values that look unique to me, which is why I offer to donate $1000 if we can find an eligible user group who will also be led by someone who will explore connections across $100 laptop world and keep us informed - eg a monthly short newsletter which also permits Q&A from us friends of grassroots education

      The Five OLPC Principles

      child ownership

      OLPC has created the XO laptop at a very low cost, robust and powerful, beautiful and friendly. It has been designed explicitly for children of the elementary classes, the first one of its kind. The ownership of the XO is a basic right of the child and is coupled with new duties and responsibilities, such as protecting, caring and sharing this valuable equipment.
      A laptop can be transformed into a mobile school: a portable learning and teaching environment. A connected laptop is more than a tool. It is a new human environment of a digital kind. A key OLPC asset is the free use of the laptop at home, where the child (and the family) will increase significantly the time of practice normally available at the standard computer lab in the school.
      I wear my XO like my pair of shoes.

      low ages

      The XO is designed for the use of children of ages 6 to 12—covering the years of the elementary school—but nothing precludes its use earlier or later in life. Children don’t need to write or read in order to play with the XO and we know that playing is the basis of human learning. Moreover those digital activities will help the acquisition of the writing and reading skills.
      Every year a new cohort will be incorporated into the program. Accordingly the assessment of the OLPC program should be intrinsic to each cohort and every student will keep an individual portfolio or journal with the trace of his or her learning paths in the most diverse disciplines at school. In particular small children with learning, motor or sensory disabilities may use the computer as a prosthesis to read, write, calculate, and communicate.
      I have good XO shoes for a long walk.


      The OLPC commitment is with elementary education in the developing countries. In order to attain this objective we need to reach a “digital saturation” in a given population. The key point is to choose the best scale in each circumstance. It can be a whole country, a region, a municipality or a village, where every child will own a laptop. As with vaccination a digital saturation implies the continuous intervention on the successive cohorts at the proper ages.
      The whole community will become responsible of the OLPC program and the children will receive support of many institutions, individuals and groups of this community. Because of the connectivity inherent to OLPC these different communities will grow together and expand in many directions, in time and space. They will become solid and robust, because they are saturated, without holes or partitions.
      A healthy education is a vaccination, it reaches everybody and protects from ignorance and intolerance.


      The XO has been designed to provide the most engaging wireless network available. The laptops are connected to each other, even when they are off. If one laptop is connected to the Internet, the others will follow to the web. The children in the neighborhood are thus permanently connected to chat, share information on the web, gather by videoconference, make music together, edit texts, read e-books and enjoy the use of collaborative games on line.
      The battery of the laptop can work for many hours and it can be charged in special gang chargers in the school or by mechanical or solar power. The unique XO display allows the use of the laptop under a bright sun, enabling the user to work outside the classroom or home, in the wild as well as in any public open place.
      The connectivity will be as ubiquitous as the formal or informal learning environment permits. We are proposing a new kind of school, an “expanded school” which grows well beyond the walls of the classroom. And last but not least this connectivity ensures a dialogue among generations, nations and cultures. Every language will be spoken in the OLPC network.
      When we talk together we stay together.

      free and open source

      The child with an XO is not just a passive consumer of knowledge, but an active participant in a learning community. As the children grow and pursue new ideas, the software, content, resources, and tools should be able to grow with them. The very global nature of OLPC demands that growth be driven locally, in large part by the children themselves. Each child with an XO can leverage the learning of every other child. They teach each other, share ideas, and through the social nature of the interface, support each other's intellectual growth. Children are learners and teachers.
      There is no inherent external dependency in being able to localize software into their language, fix the software to remove bugs, and repurpose the software to fit their needs. Nor is there any restriction in regard to redistribution; OLPC cannot know and should not control how the tools we create will be re-purposed in the future.
      A world of great software and content is necessary to make this project succeed, both open and proprietary. Children need to be able to choose from all of it. In our context of learning where knowledge must be appropriated in order to be used, it is most appropriate for knowledge to be free. Further, every child has something to contribute; we need a free and open framework that supports and encourages the very basic human need to express.
      Give me a free and open environment and I will learn and teach with joy.

      Yahoo! Answers - Got a question? Someone out there knows the answer. Try it now.
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.