In past weeks, I’ve had the honor of working at the iHub as a guest. Founded by Ushahidi folks, iHub is a technology innovation coworking community in Nairobi. iHub fuels innovation by supporting a community of coworkers and providing coworking space and reliable internet to a bevy of creative smart technologists. The proof is in the experience, sawa, sawa…

Messy Serendipity
My first day at iHub, surprise. As I am sipping an excellent cup of cappucino, made by Pete, iHub Barrista, here comes the first sign of serendipity. Beth Kanter, a colleague from California, arrives to give a presentation on her terrific book on social media, The Networked Nonprofit, co-authored with Allison Fine. Beth and I had been virtually waving with the intent to get together while in Kenya, after Nancy White had connectively nudged us. And here, she arrives on the doorstep. This led to our fun outing of classic Nairobi experiences with orphan elephants and kissing giraffes the next day.

Leaders as connectors is an excellent sign of community.
Relational practices as work are typically not perceived as work and are “disappeared” in engineering organizations that values monetary transactions more than relationships. So, I notice well when I see leaders that do the work of relationship-building. Erik Hersman, co-founder of iHub, exercised some relational skills on multiple levels. At a social level, socially constructing new narratives about African tech innovation , and at an interprersonal level, taking the time to explore with me what might align with my goals and connect me with Akirachix, a group of women technology entrepreneurs who work out of iHub. Over the weeks I was at iHub, I saw many similar acts of people weaving people together. Community leaders modeling relational practices makes a difference.

Mutual value creation emerging

So, I met up with dynamic tech entrepreneurs, Jamila Abass and Susaneve Oguya. They are both co-founders of Akirachix and M-Farm, the mobile application for rural farmers. Their mission is to empower women at the margins. Akirachix gives technology training to women in Kenya. They invited me to their next meeting of Akirachix. I offered to connect Akirachix with Dreamfisher Java developers in Silicon Valley that want to give free Java training to women.

with Susaneve Oguya, Jamila Abass, and Shams Amin

And, YOU are welcome to join our jam of mutual value production. Susaneve is coordinating technology trainings.  Jamila is starting up two new Dreamfish projects to empower rural women in North East Kenya — a coaching group for young women and an essential oils business startup. If you want to get involved, please do connect Susaneve and Jamila.

Dancing networks

Since at iHub, a number of iHub folks have joined Dreamfish. A big welcome to Jamila, Susaneve, Linda Kamau, PHP developer, James Muendo, community tech support,  Bernard Owuor, a C++ developer,  OD consultant Mel Mbugua, Huston Malande, WordPress developer, Ahmed Mohamed Maawy, and Evelien of Narobits.

When a community fosters growth for its entrepreneurial members, networks dance with the networks. Dances of interactions between networks are not like tightly choreographed ballet but rather like improvisational dance-theater. There are too many unknowns for grand plans up front. Networks of networks are built with acts of  minimal structuring, frequent connection,  fearless experimentation, with constant tweaking to follow patterns of aliveness.

While physically in California celebrating New Years, I am at this moment grateful to also be community-building in Nairobi with tech entrepreneurs.  Thanks to networks of networks – iHub, Akirachix and Dreamfish.

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3 Responses to Building community with Tech Entrepreneurs in Nairobi

  1. Beth Kanter says:

    Thanks for sharing this post. Love it. Are you still in Africa?

  2. Hello Tiffany,

    Thanks for your post. I am presenting on Ruby Nuby at IHUB this Wed, Mar 2, 2011. If the below is inappropriate please let me know. I am happy to edit. My email is below. Your article comes up as one of the top results for tech groups in Nairobi. We are trying to establish our tech do-good, socio-economic program there. We won a grant from British Airways to see about bring our program to Kenya/Uganda. This attracted an anonymous donor to give 500kg free shipping to both cities for a total of 1000kg. We will ship in computers and set up a training lab. Thanks so much.

    Malcolm Arnold
    Ruby Nuby, Founder

    Help Ruby Nuby and Agile Activism set up our community based tech and entrepreneurial training in Nairobi where we will train the next generation developers and fund companies they and you may start

    Please RSVP at this link, Location is IHUB:
    http://www.eventbrite.com/event/1370620563

    Please feel free to cross post to other lists and please invite leaders in: Education, Technology, Business, Philanthropy, NGO’s and Community Activism.

    Ruby Nuby has won a grant from British Airways to see about bringing our program to Nairobi. Come learn about Ruby Nuby and how we plan to:

    * Create an environment that allows all to to succeed in a collaborative, cooperative manner.
    * Train the next generation of web developers and tech entrepreneurs in Nairobi,
    * Train disadvantaged and at-risk youths and fund their training
    * Fund startup companies and attract additional funding for your companies.
    * Economically develop the arts.
    * Change the educational system from a pay forward model where one incurs debt without a guarantee of a job to a payback model where one collaborates with and contributes to a community and is placed in a career.
    * Empower women to succeed in technology and create incentives for men to help women do so.

    A 25-minute presentation Ruby Nuby and it’s non-profit arm, Agile Activism, followed by a Question and Answer session. Afterwards, we will brainstorm on how we can best take advantage of the 500kg of sponsored shipping to Nairobi from New York that we have obtained. We will use this sponsorship to import the computer gear necessary to set up our program. We just need the community support to make it happen. By using VolunTourism, we will attract the world’s best developers and business leaders to come guest teach/lecture in Nairobi and then they will go on Safari which will economically develop the region’s tourism industry.

    The mission of Ruby Nuby is to provide an environment that facilitates immersive learning by a Community of Contributors(TM) who contribute, learn and succeed by collaborating, cooperating and supporting each other. We work to promote a path to success where equal access, social justice, equability, diversity and sustainability are embraced.

    I have 2 very recently released Ruby on Rails books and a new netbook that will be Ruby Nuby Nairobi Community owned to start a Ruby Nuby/Ruby on Rails/Tech study group here in Nairobi.

    Map to IHUB:

    http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=100420412648987917911.00047def651452cf80a23&ll=-1.296147,36.794243&spn=0.012871,0.021415&z=15&source=embed

    Thank you:)
    If you have questions, please email Malcolm Arnold at MalcolmArnoldNYC at gmail.com