The Power of We: Three Examples from Ghana

 Blog Action Day 2012,  or #BAD12 for short, is a day where bloggers all over the world together write on one topic. Over the last years, I have participated on themes such as “poverty” and “climate change”. This year a slightly more poetic theme has been chosen: “the power of we”. I thought of providing examples of this “power of we” from three organizations I am involved with here in Ghana. The way I see it, the power of we is about both building a community internally and working for a greater good, together. There are definite overlaps in all three examples:

1. Ashesi University College

Pillars: Leadership, Scholarship, Citizenship.

Mission: to educate a new generation of ethical, entrepreneurial leaders in Africa; to cultivate within our students the critical thinking skills, the concern for others and the courage it will take to transform a continent.

The power of we at Ashesi: Except for stating in our mission statement we are interested in fostering concern for others and change in our community, we locally on campus cultivate an “Ashesi community” by

  • having campus wide events where everybody from the security man to the students and lecturers to the President Patrick Awuah are expected to attend,
  • having a shared emailing list,
  • celebrating eachother’s success and also
  • including graduates or workers who leave as part of the community.

Personally, I value this community as a treasured part of my remuneration for the work I do and try to give back by inviting the community to events I organize like  and helping to build capacity, especially in social media.

Learn more about Ashesi or read my other posts on Ashesi University College.

2. BloggingGhana

Pillars: Friendship and Technology

Mission and Objectives: to bring the Ghanaian blog community together in real life!

  1.  Serving as a forum for bloggers in Ghana to network and exchange ideas
  2. Building capacity among bloggers in Ghana
  3. Accessing new audiences for our blogs through a mutual website (aggregator) and other activities
  4. Promoting citizen journalism in Ghana
  5. Educating the general public in Ghana on the opportunities of social media

The power of we in BloggingGhana: For this organization, the power of we became glaringly apparent when we last year decided to upgrade ourselves from a group of friends who had met every month since 2008 to discuss society and social media to a registered non-profit organization.  We were hesitant of taking that step, I guess worried that it would take the fun out of the group. Eventually we dared to take the step!  Registering as an official entity has allowed us to partner with other organizations and look for funding, and only 1,5 years after receiving our documents, we have come a long way in promoting and improving social media use in Ghana. And we are still having fun!

Join BloggingGhana or read about our projects, BlogCamp and GhanaDecides.

3. Nubuke Foundation

Pillars: Record, Preserve, Promote

The power of we in Nubuke Foundation:  This art foundation located in Accra does excellent programs and bring together people from the whole artistic spectrum in Ghana. They have the NuFriend program for people who want to promote and help the organization, but that was never enough for me. I have been volunteer since the first time I set fot on their premises, and not just me, the place has many volunteers and almost every month a new face can be seen helping out! Why is this? I believe the directors of Nubuke, the Ghanian artist Kofi Setordji and the art collector and curator Odile Tevie are excellent leaders who really see the people around them and recognize how we can help. Still today when I have less time to volunteer (the few hours a month have gone down next to 0 since I had my child), they always greet me with a smile, tease me about   something and call to check in. They know, I am a volunteer for life and treat me as such!

Visit Nubuke Foundation or read my earlier posts here.

 Conclusion: Two levels of the Power of We

So all these three Ghanian groups have a strong culture where individuals feeling a part of the family is key to the success of the organization. But even more important is that they all have missions that guide us to do something bigger, something better, something  that resonates with the longing for the “we” in the human individual. Or as Margaret Mead puts it in one of my favorite quotes ever:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Read fellow Ghanaians who have written on the Power of We here: Maya’s Earth (our co-founder also wrote on BloggingGhana!), African Feminist Forum, Ghana Humanists and Obed Sarpong.

>Blog Action Day: Climate Change

>What is blog action day?

Blog action day or BAD09 as some blog nerds call it is a day for bloggers all around the world to join forces around one important topic. Last year, the topic was poverty and I participated then too. The result of that can be seen here.

What is this year’s topic?

It is Climate Change. I guess with the UN Climate Conference coming up in Copenhagen in December, its a fairly current topic. And there is a lot to say. Check out BAD09’s inspiration page that has gathered some very interesting information about climate change, for instance.

Speaking of the urgency of the topic….Last time I went to my native Sweden, I was surprised how the word klimatsmart (translates into climate savvy or environmentally concious or something like that) was everywhere: A train journey was maybe not cheap, but klimatsmart. One brand of milk was more klimatsmart than another. My friend had gotten a colorful brochure in the mail asking her if she was klimatsmart (she wondered here how klimatsmart that brochure really was…). My cousin’s new blog even had klimatsmart in the title!

What can be said about climate change in Ghana?

Actually, what strikes me is how not current the topic is in Ghana. The website (organization?) tcktcktck.org is counting down to the UN meeting and tellingly has no story from Ghana on their cool Climate Orb application. Really, when was the last time you heard someone discuss climate change around here?

The rest of the world seems worried about climate change/higher temperatures. One of the effects that have been discussed lately is how this can increase the spread of malaria to Western Europe, South America and even Russia.

But in Ghana we don’t worry too much about that. Malaria is already one of Ghana’s biggest problems to date.

But do we really need to talk about climate change in Ghana? Shouldn’t we rather DO something?

A way to globally reduce the carbon dioxide emissions is to make sure we travel with public transport rather than individually in our own cars. Today, many Ghanaians travel in packed trotros, shared taxis or “Kufuor busses” and hence do not emit too much CO2. Can we say the same about the North/West? But as Ghanaians grow richer – our goal is to become a middle income country as soon as possible – more Ghanaians can also afford their own cars.

In my opinion the problem in the discussion about climate change is that while developed countries are struggling to be sustainable, developing countries are already klimatsmarta, but not by choice. Rather the “environmental consciousness” or sustainable living is caused by last year’s topic; poverty.

Climate change issues in the end boils down to politics and income distribution. Will my 4 year old relative in the photo above drive her own car when she has grown up? Is it really fair to try to stop her?

What do you think?

>View out of Ghana: Poverty

>They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

The meaning of that concept is that we all have different glasses though which we see the world. In this post, as in all others I have ever written, I intend to write about the world I see. Here are my thoughts on poverty (spurred on by Blog Action Day).

With my sheltered and sometimes outright naive Swedish background, coming to live in Ghana has in many ways been being confronted with stories about poverty. I have come to understand the depressing effects of poverty: that there are people who are so poor they buy food and spices for today’s meal only, hoping that tomorrow they will afford rice and pepper again. There are men so poor they can’t afford the transport fare to go look for a job, women so poor they cannot afford to go to church (offerings and sunday clothing requires money) and families so poor they cannot afford contraceptives or an abortion even when their resources are not enough to feed the kids already at their feet.

Then again, Ghana is a relatively well off country in the region, see for instance gapminder for figures. And the person buying pepper for today, at least is buying something. The man not able to find a new job will be fed by his wife who is a successful trader in the local market. And interestingly, the poorest families rarely see children as anything else than a resource and a joy.

Poverty is in the eye of the beholder. I argue, so is glamour.

Pic taken in the Makola Market area, downtown Accra, Ghana.