Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My interview with Project Diaspora about BarCamp Diaspora

I recently talked to Tracy Pell of Project Diaspora about my work with BarCamp Diaspora and BarCamp Ghana. I thoroughly enjoyed the chat and appreciated the opportunity to do it. It was my very first video skype chat and I must say I'd love to do more :-D. If you haven't heard of BarCamp Diaspora, it's an 'unconference' bringing together people interested in Africa to discuss and dialogue about Africa, doing business back home, doing business targeted at Africans and Diasporeans in the US and sharing ideas about Africa's development. It is also ad-hoc and informal whereby the business of the day is determined by those present. Power to the people. If you can gain easy access to Washington DC on July 25, come to BarCamp Diaspora. Find out who's coming, the agenda amongst other info here. It's free and it will be worth your while.

Here's the interview

Ato Ulzen-Appiah On BarCamps Ghana and Diaspora from Project Diaspora on Vimeo.

You can read up a story about the chat and the barcamps at this link

I first met Tracy at BarCamp Africa which was held at Google's campus in Mountain View, California last October. This event is one of the best 'conferences' I've been to. Shara Kasic, Elia Varela Serra and Ellen Petry Leanse did a spectacular job putting it together. They were able to reach a wide range of African entrepreneurs, some of which are very popular and making impact on the continent. The energy and synergy of the participants there was super. I joked with Tracy that I would love to hire them to do the next BarCamp Diaspora. Together with the BarCamp Ghana team, we tried to create that same vibe at the December 22 event and succeeded. There's room for improvement and that's what we hope BarCamp Diaspora and subsequent BarCamps can provide.

I already blogged about BarCamp Ghana here and you can read a whole lot of other comments and thoughts on the event through this link. Like I said during the interview, when your attendees find fulfillment in what you are putting together, you find fulfillment too. A few shortcomings were communicated and best believe, we'll be working at making future events better. For a start, we want to do a better job of documenting discussions and ideas, so that we can easily refer back and see the progress made. An idea bank can be proposed where people can hatch onto different ideas and pursue them in the spirit of African development.

It's very difficult to organize things, especially events like these. Sometimes, the planning involved is underestimated. It's not easy raising funds and new things are always tough sells, no matter how intriguing or awesome they are. We've had to make BarCamp Diaspora 'free bonto' and with good reason, because I believe all that follow should be free as well. Nevertheless, we are hoping for a successful BarCamp Diaspora which will dissect issues and take care of the shortcomings that befell BarCamp Ghana. There are many more BarCamps in store. Dorothy Gordon, the CEO of the Kofi Annan ICT Center of Excellence (AITI) in Accra, encouraged us to organize more barcamps in all of Ghana's regional capitals. It can be done. AITI believed in the concept and the work enough to provide their facility to us for free. Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies is also doing the same.

I like to think of these BarCamps as physical forums, continuing the work of forums like GhanaConscious and the countless conversations I am sure we have in our homes and apartments when we feel the need to. Collectively, we can bring the major stakeholders who are pushing African excellence together to share their stories and ideas and make them viral. We need your support, we are doing this for you. Together, we can all make sure we invest our talents where they count.
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