One of my core beliefs is that we should be looking to the developing world for solutions to some of our own problems. In fact, I'd like to bring some of the experts in the field of poverty reduction, group development and collaboration, and micro-finance here to teach us. Missionaries to the West kind of thing.
I was reminded of this idea this morning when I read this blog entry at Wikispaces. I immediately thought of my discussion with the director of my local nonprofit consortium and one of her buddies involved in neighborhood development in Greensboro, NC. We were brainstorming about ways to connect the different neighborhoods together. This Ugandan project seems like it might offer the flexibility, the simplicity of adoption, the opportunity to share solutions to common problems that Ann, the neighborhood woman, and I were talking about over breakfast that day. We would need more exploration here, following the links and even perhaps a phone call to that prof in Indiana. But this could very well be a low-cost solution with high-tech implications, including workforce development and increased communication and acceptance across the city.Once you've read the blog entry, here is the Wikispaces site from the Ugandan group.
The consortium, working with neighborhood leaders, wants to know how to strengthen Greensboro's neighborhoods, to increase their ability and capacity to collaborate and to encourage them to do it.Donna, the leader of the active nonprofit consortium here, and I have been planning periodic training sessions for various nonprofit types in the sorts of technology they are interested in-- web sites, google, salesforce and other databases, etc. I've long wanted to get some kind of technology roundtable or lunch bunch together to share expertise and increase the overall technological know-how in the area, a precursor to me becoming the Triad Tech Maven or something.
At that breakfast, we talked about doing some kind of a content management system like Drupal, Plone or Joomla, with each neighborhood having their own login and web site, and then running forums, etc. I went down to Raleigh to the Drupal meeting to see if that was the answer. I came back thinking it was technologically too complex for the neighborhood folks, many of whom are downright tech resistent and others just tech intimidated.
So we needed something simpler, easier to use. That piece on Uganda hit a chord for me. Here is a very simple collaboration tool that lots of different groups can use, along with an approach to computer literacy that makes a lot of sense for me. The idea that people have to learn the office suite first to be computer literate is no longer true. I think this is something we are doing with movie-making-- we don't even ask whether our students are computer-experienced. They get there, fast, because they have something they want to do: make movies.
If we start with collaboration, it might do the same thing.