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…
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.
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.
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.