The vision of Dreamfish Place Nairobi is to support connection to self, each other and the environment as a ground for collaboration. Starting May 1st, teams will be able to sign up for a limited number of monthly team passes, providing everything a team needs to focus on their projects – team labs, three meals a day, an inspiring environment in nature, a community and even rooms for sleep. Even while we are still moving in, calls are coming in daily to ask about availability.

We are all excited about our first team staying with us. Our first project team to book for a week will be from bfz, a German training organization that develops international collaboration projects. The team is working on a large water project in Africa. We are thrilled that Sabine Sibler, the project coordinator, will be living at Dreamfish Place as a long-term resident. During the team’s visit, they will rent our Samburu Guesthouse and Maasai Suite, take transportation with Stephen Nduati, and meals by Chef Cosmas. To support focused team work, they will have access to one of our group labs for the week.

To give you an idea of the social impact of a team stay, with a $1000 USD spent at Dreamfish Place, a team stay for a week will immediately impact about 50 people’s lives. Proceeds support onsite staff and interns from low-income communities, and residencies by artists and technologists, contributing to the global cooperative. Twenty percent of proceeds for the Samburu house rental will go to a Samburu women eco-entrepreneurship project, enabling women to empower themselves and raise the quality of life for children.

Friday, April 1st, we started our lease of the property for Dreamfish Place Nairobi. Here is a story of a day in the life of a startup….
The kitchen is the heart of a home, gathering people to it, it is an environment for connection. (In a former life, I taught gourmet whole food cooking to adults and managed a large kitchen. Seriously, not April Fools). The source of heat, the oven, is especially important as the place where alchemy happens.

So, our first items to find for the place had to be a fridge and a gas cooker (an oven). Environmentally-conscious and working on a lean budget, we looked to either purchase refurbished used items or find donated items. These appliances will serve hundreds of meals a month to our guests, resident staff and volunteers. (Lunch for local Dreamfishers will cost Ksh 120 (USD $1.50) and for visitors USD $7.)

Sometimes though, buying new is the best way to go. We browsed online forums, checked the UN office, posted to Dreamfish network, made phone calls. Finally, Robert Murati, dreamfisher, says he has a friend that sells used appliances in Rongai, a local town outside Nairobi. So Robert, Senei and I borrowed a car from dreamfisher, Sietske, for the search. But, even with Senei’s skillful bargaining, the prices were only 10% less than new appliances. So, we headed back to the shopping mall and purchased them new at Nakumatt. There, we met a supermarket worker, Joshua Mwa,who explained that electrical appliance prices are regulated to be high in Kenya. It easily costs a family two month of salary to buy a gas burner oven! Most families cook with coal.

With Joshua’s help, we bought a small LG fridge for Ksh 18,000 ($220USD), because hearsay is that the brand is more reliable and a Universal 4 burner gas cooker for Ksh 21,000 ($260), 50-70% less costly than other models because it was not electric. Yet, actually, this means the cooker consumes less energy and is better for the environment and our monthly budget.
Next day, Steve, Fred and I bought a 13KG gas canister to fuel our gas cooker. The canister plus gas cost us Ksh 8,000 ($100). When the canister runs out of gas, about once a month, we refill the canister at the petrol station for Ksh 2,000.

And as we got to talking at the supermarket, Joshua shared his dream of being an entrepreneur and signed up to be a Dreamfish member :).

Today, we are cookin’! We had tea with milk, fresh from the fridge, and then boiling potatoes, we stood around the cooker and marveled at the gas flowing from the burners. I sure am grateful for a hot meal.

Dreamfish Place Nairobi is opening soon. Just signed the lease! April 1st, we will be moving in!

What is the purpose of the Dreamfish Place Nairobi? The place gives us a way to support the Dreamfish network, financially, physically and spiritually. Here, you can read about the big vision.


Starting up takes a village! Big thanks to all who have helped to realize the place and welcome Dreamfish to East Africa! Special thanks to Irene Senei, who is putting in a lot of sweat, Charlyn Green Fareed and Sietske van Poelgeest for finding the place, Pauline Kimeu and Robert for making the place guest-ready, Bernard Owuor for our internet, Nancy White and Sue Canney for networking, Jamila Abass and Susaneve Oguya for space visioning, Stephen Nduati and Kenya Super Cabs for transportation, Ahmed Maawy for hacking, and Mel Mbugua for consulting.

Here are three ways you can participate….

Visit! – We are now renting out guestrooms and a guesthouse. The place is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. It is located in Karen area of Nairobi with fantastic 5 acres of gardens for experiential workshops with 100 people, accommodations for 20 people and internet!
Please tell friends and colleagues to consider our available rooms and guesthouses at great rates from $30-79 USD (from 2400 Ksh), including breakfast, internet and open Dreamfish workshops.  Guest rentals will financially support the Dreamfish cooperative and with each visit or venue rental, you can support the development of women and youth entrepreneurs.

We are excited to rent the Samburu Guesthouse . 20% of proceeds will benefit the Samburu eco-entrepreneurship project in Dreamfish. This is a response to the current life-threatening drought.

Sponsor a space! To support intercultural learning about global collaboration, each space will be designed in a cultural tradition with help from Dreamfishers from that culture. You can choose a culture and sponsor the design and furnishing of a room, a hut or outdoor area with a donation. Jamila Abass, who is Somali, is designing a small global village with huts built in different tribal traditions in Africa. Guests will be able to stay in the huts on the land. Susaneve Oguya is designing a reflection place in a shady grove with hammocks and benches.  All donations of any amount are welcome. Let Irene or me know your inerests.

Pitch in! Big thanks to Sietske and Guy who just donated a washing machine! For real!   If you are passing through Nairobi and can bring a few things, we welcome all offers. Here is our wish list. You can also come plant vegetables and flowers on gardening day, tba soon at the local Dreamfish Nairobi meetup :-)

Talk with Irene to get involved..

Irene Senei at
Tel: +254 702 890 195/ 0734 793 599

Thank you, friends! Asante sana!


Ubuntu is my name.

Yesterday, I adopted a dog from the shelter. The shelter rescued the dog from a puppy mill, where it was isolated and living in filthy conditions. There’s an example of an un-human economy at work. (Don Bushnell describes the rescue of his dog from a puppy mill as a “liberation from sex slavery”.) But, is this the only story of this dog’s life? Nope. Let’s start the dog off on a new story line. Walking with the dog, I wondered what to name it.

It isn’t the name per se but the performance of a name that matters. Calling a name is an interaction. A name is an opportunity in the thousands of times the name is called, in the conversations that it sparks up, in what could the name might evoke in hearts, minds and actions. Each time an utterance is performed in the world, that micro-action helps create a world. What world did I want this name to perform?

If naming a dog were like software production, how might I go about this?….For the project, Naming a Dog, I develop a couple User Stories:

Story 1: When a human first hears the dog’s name, new connections are sparked.

Story 2: When two humans interact in relation to the name, it would inspire conversation about interactivism.

Edie and Charlie teaching a Use of Self workshop

With these stories, I started to prototype. The first idea that came to me was to name the dog “Kuja Hapa”, which means “Come Here” in Swahili after Edie Seashore and Charlie Seashore‘s dog, “Khamon Khameer” (sounds like “Come On Come Here”), who passed away a couple years ago. What would the micro-action of calling the dog bring forth? It would promote that the self is an interaction, rather than a noun.

The name might connect people across bridges – Africa and California, Swahili and English, and software and Human and Organization Development. The name would also spread more of Charlie and Edie, whom I love, their work in the use of Self, and memories of both profound and fun moments with them. It would be fun to say, too. Hmm. What else?…

Then, I thought of “Ubuntu”. Ubuntu is a classic African concept for an open collaborative society. It means “I am because we all are”. It essentially is a core idea behind calling the dog “come here” but more to the point.  Ubuntu is also an open source linux distribution, founded in Africa and developed by a global community of thousands of individuals. So, when anyone calls the dog, Ubuntu, what will that micro-action create?  Cool.

Watching Steve Krug's usability testing workshop

What happened in usability testing? I took this story and connected with users…. Before engraving the name into a doggy tag, I first tried an “AB test” with the primary user, the dog, and secondary users, humans.  I compared the performance of A,”Kuja Hapa” with B, “Ubuntu”. I called the dog each in different contexts (house, walking) with different goals (food and exercise). Then, I did a hallway test, having two different humans interact with the dog and telling them the name of the dog.

Calling “Kuja Hapa” was more fun to say and evoked new connections in people’s minds. People focused on their interaction with the dog. Deeper meanings didn’t pop forth in the few conversations. Calling “Ubuntu” led to connecting people to themselves as well as to the dog and me. Interestingly, the dog seemed to respond more quickly to “Ubuntu” in the AB test. (OK, yes, this says something about me as the researcher more than the research)

One conversation about the dog led to watching this video of Nelson Mandela explaining Ubuntu and about working in a global network of collaboration

Calling the dog Ubuntu offers thousands of opportunities to talk about Ubuntu, networks of production in cultures of respect and accountability. And good thoughts, like “I’d like to install Ubuntu on my computer.” It makes the connection between the dream of “we are interconnected” and fishing the dream in our everyday work.

Who wouldn’t want to call and be called Ubuntu?

In a series of posts, I’d like to share about Dreamfish in 2010, our activities and lessons learned, and what is unfolding in 2011. In 2010, with a lean team of volunteer contributors, we built key infrastructures with 250 members and over 60 projects. First, I’d like to tell you about the 2010 Dreamfish Fellows program and thank all the people who brought it to life. In 2010, the Dreamfish Fellows program was founded to support mid-career professionals to make an impact in Dreamfish. Our pilot group of Dreamfish Fellows has just completed a 6 month cycle of service, finishing their tenure on Friday, December 31.

Why Dreamfish Fellows Program?

Sietske, Helen and Nancy learning together. Maasai land, Kenya

The efforts to support one entrepreneur at the margin can be quite extensive, although hard to see from the outside. In twenty years of  micro-entrepreneurship development, the biggest challenges the industry faces is that the human side of development is expensive and programs are hard to scale. In Dreamfish, we are changing the game with a peer-to-peer network organization.

To illustrate, here is one example of success. Recently a homeless Dreamfish member gained a paid contract job.  This enabled the person to pay for rent and food and then get other contract work. Now, what most people saw was only the transaction of employment. They didn’t know the person was homeless or how tough this person’s life situation was, because those working with the person didn’t want to share a narrative that could potentially be self-defeating. But, here I want to make visible the work that Dreamfish Fellows do to help individual to create the support system they need to realize their dream. In this case, Dreamfish contributors gave:

  • 16 hours of project management training
  • 4 hours of financial coaching
  • 10 hours of coaching in self-confidence, agency and interpersonal skills
  • research and introductions to social services resources
  • lodging and access to internet at another Dreamfish member’s house during contract job

One of our areas for improvement for 2011 will be to make visible and measure the impact of Dreamfish Fellows activities. Relational practices, “soft” technology of human and organization development, are often not perceived as creating value in small organizations, and especially “disappeared” in engineering organizations. But, research indicates that for both affluent and low-income entrepreneurs, supporting human development in individuals is correlated to economic success and venture resilience.  (Scott McNeally of Sun and Nick Nesbitt of Kencall will also tell you that the course from their Stanford MBA program that most impacted their career was Interpersonal Dynamics, aka Touchy Feely, a course that founding Dreamfishers facilitate).  Growth is built in connection.

Whereas most Fellowships are designed for college kids, this program is for self-directed life-long learners of any age.

Thanks to all our first Dreamfish Fellows
who courageously went where no Fellow had gone before! They applied their decades of experience in human and organization development in a new virtual territory of network organization.

During their tenure, this first group carried out community development projects as they trained in online community management, network facilitation, social media, multicultural communication and distributed organization development.

Thank you to 2010 Dreamfish Fellows

Charlyn Fareed Green, entrepeneur coach
Dan Bashaw, web gardener
Kate McAlpine, coach and strategic planner
Jamie Talbott, leadership educator
Jim MacQueen, OD consultant
Monica Evans, theology student

As many of the 2010 Fellows are now seeking contract jobs, please reach out to them if you might want to work together.

How did the program start up?

There are many people who helped the program come to life, all social innovators! The seed of the idea started with Julie Anding, a Fielding alum, philanthropist and Director of  Organization Development at a major corporation. Julie creatively thought about how to make as a big an impact as possible.

Marie-Anne Haour, now of Kiva en Francais, Elizabeth Montgomery, entrepreneur in Shenzhen, China and Lisa Abbott, marketer, then joined our effort to develop the first design of the program.

Fielding Graduate University‘s Katrina Rogers and Charles McClintock then collaborated on creating a partnership that both serves the learning community of Fielding and our mutual goals to create social impact. Julie Anding, Fielding alum, and her partner, Lisa Kornetsky, founded the Fielding Dreamfish Fellows Fund with generous donation of $10,000. Charlyn Fareed Green additionally donated $1500.

Dreamfish mentors, Nancy White, co-author of Digital Habitats, and Mary Ann Huckabay, Director of Women in Management program at Stanford, then contributed their teaching and coaching to Dreamfish Fellows.

Nnenna Nwakanma, Chair of Free Open Source Software Foundation for Africa, then stepped up to lead the community team in 2010 and support the first Fellows.

And, with the efforts of much love, the program was born!

What did the Fellows accomplish?
Each Fellow had a different focus, depending on their skills and learning interests. Micro-entrepreneurship development in Dreamfish involves development of three system levels –  individuals, their projects, and the network of Dreamfish itself.

To give you insight into what this looks like, here are a few of their many contributions over the past months:

  • coaching Dreamfish members in leadership and entrepreneurship skills
  • facilitating in Dreamfish Pool
  • welcoming new members
  • making introductions between members
  • managing our mailing lists
  • facilitating strategic planning
  • writing news
  • building relationships across networks
  • hosting conference call meetings
  • hosting learning events
  • designing processes
  • contributing to strategic conversations

Special thanks to Fellows who are continuing on. Charlyn Fareed Green in Atlanta is coaching a social entrepreneur who serves rural women in Kenya. Kate McAlpine is facilitating strategic planning and using Dreamfish to support Caucus for Children’s Rights projects in Tanzania.

Program Evaluation

In order to design, staff and fund 2011 program, we are now in the process of gathering Fellows feedback and reviewing accomplishments and challenges. We, Dreamfish contributors, will then collaborate with Fielding and funders to implement next year’s program. In the future, the program could be expanded to financially support developer projects and operations projects as there are more funding partners to fuel the program.


How did we use the first funds? Fielding gave two awards to the first two Fellows chosen. We then used the funds to support Fellows with training and community management. In 2011, we are expanding funding to create a stronger foundation and hire full-time core staff.  To kick off fundraising for 2011, Scott Turner is giving a matching pledge of $5,000 if we match the pledge by January 30th. Don Bushnell is hosting an event January 14th in which to rally support and has pledged $1,000.

How to get involved in 2011
If you are interested in helping to grow Dreamfish, I welcome you to get involved. Dreamfish operations are carried out by individuals in Dreamfish network.

To offer ideas, here are a few possible projects you might want to do…

  • identify projects among membership in Dreamfish that would benefit from Fellows skills
  • build tools to help Fellows do their work
  • propose opportunities for Fellows program in 2011
  • make a pledge
  • help create an online fundraiser
  • give airline miles to Fellows
  • build the program for developers, creatives and business people
  • Apply to become a 2011 Fellow. Watch for the application

Thanks again to all of you who helped to realize the 2010 Dreamfish Fellows program. I’ll keep you posted on new deveopments for the 2011 program. May we together further our dreams of work in 2011.


Join me in supporting Symbionomics, a terrific project, telling the story of the shift from the industrial economy to the relational economy.

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.

The turn of the year is a great time to open the window to the future and take a deep breath of fresh air!

The Future of Money from KS12 on Vimeo.

What do youth envision as the way of value and the economy in the future? Digital Natives bring inter-netted minds to bear on transforming the economy. This video is a riff on what the world might look like when networks form the foundation of our economy.

Jam on! at hashtag #futureofmoney


This video was part of Venessa Miemis’ presentation at the SIBOS Conference in Amsterdam, 25 October 2010. The interviews were conducted with participants in America, England, Sweden, Mexico, Germany and Thailand via video Skype calls from Berlin, Germany.

Written by Gabriel Shalom, Venessa Miemis and Jay Cousins

Directed and Edited by Gabriel Shalom

Imagine if value was abundant, not scarce. When we reframe economic production as relational, rather than transactional, we start to change the game.  We can create value by engaging the relationships around us. We can co-create, rather than suck value.

Douglas Rushkoff‘s talk on “Radical Abundance” provides a history of how we arrived at a scarcity model of economic production and proposes frameworks and mental models of abundance.

What is work? What world are we making together?

Transformative learning about work is itself a kind of work, work on ourselves. It can be exciting work and hard work. As we explore “work”, the self can run the gamut of experience, from the passive child who says “you made me” work to the  adult, who says “I create” my life’s work to a social entrepreneur who says, “what world do we want to make together?”

Does “work” mean economic production to you? Is “work” a dirty word? Is “work” your livelihood?

Transformative learning about work asks us to question what we do not yet see about ourselves, how our history and society has shaped our worldview. How do we internalize society’s stories about work?  it requires us each to see our choices, the stories we tell ourselves about our  identity, our self-worth, our motivations, our relationship to authority and external environment.

We each enact different stories about “work”, depending on who we are at any moment in time. For some, “work” is a paid job. “Work” is a thing in supply and demand. You can “create work” by hiring.  You can “get work” by connecting with people who need your skills. For comparison, recently, I’ve been learning with a group of Maasai Dreamfishers. Their “work” includes carrying water for hours, creating beadwork for sale, milking cows, and repairing huts. From the sale of one beadwork item, a family buys food for one month. “Work” is caring for one’s people. It is an age-old practice. As a third comparison, for some Dreamfishers,  “work” is facilitating the empowerment of girls to build self-worth and technology skills. Work is transformation.

These are dramatically different enactments of work – Work as a thing you get, work as a practice, work as transformation.

I’d like to offer another view by telling you a story from my history that shapes my worldview of work. In my early 20’s, after living a high life in a successful startup in NYC, I lived a year in an economically depressed rural mountain town, where I made my way into an abusive relationship. I was in a daily surround-sound of abuse, physical and psychological. Within months, I spiraled downward into being homeless, living out of a car for six months in winter.

Poverty was no longer a vicious cycle that other women knew. It was me, barely keeping my clothes clean enough and my body healthy enough to work two part-time jobs. As I lived out the patterns of economic and patriarchal oppression, I daily made choices that reinforced self-defeating narratives about the value of my work. I chose to work jobs, where I was constantly criticized and not at my best.

But, then, I did make my way out of this cycle.  I found my way out by seeing that I could choose. I could work my life differently. Part of my work became building a new support system to create a new surround sound of care. I reached out and opened up to people, who believed I could create a new performance of my life. A new friend told me of an opportunity in a nearby town managing a college kitchen. Even though I had never managed a cafeteria or cooked for 250 youth 3x a day, I knew I could manage an operation, I could cook and teach cooking.

So, I took a  leap into a new performance as a manager.  Slowly, as I experienced my life anew, I continued to make new choices about work. As I served food to college kids in the cafeteria line, I realized I too could go to college. So, I made part of my life work “going to college”. And, when I became critical of institutional education, I made my life work to be building transformative learning environments for adults.

I share this story, to say that transforming economic production or oppressive stories about work is a journey.  Day by day, work was the journey of fishing my dream. A journey that I did not take alone. On days that I couldn’t see the way,  I made a path with the many bits of kindnesses gifted to me.

Work is how we perform our life. Work is what puts the life in livelihood. Work is  how we create the value we each want to manifest in the world. And we can create different performances.

Work is what I choose to do on this day with the precious life I have still. That is my work. Your work may be cooking for your children, gardening, building software, taking care of a sick friend, making art,  teaching a group of children, or connecting people to resources.

We are all entrepreneurs, creating value together. When we recognize that we are intertwined with the systems around us, we create value by doing more of what we love to do and connecting to people around us who share our joy.

It is from this understanding that Dreamfish was founded. It is a place in which we can provide a mutual support system for each other in our journey of work. Success looks like bits of thriving.

Transforming economic production is not just about tranforming other people; it is about transforming ourselves. Unhealthy patterns that are internalized are subtle because they are often barely conscious to us. Yet, together, acting as support systems for each other, this work can transform ourselves and our world.