Seeing the phone differently

Last week, Nokwanda and I went down to eThekwini for several days of workshops with the branches of Abahlali baseMjondolo. It was just over a year ago that we first discussed the Grassroot tools with AbaHlali, and their feedback over the last year has been instrumental in building and refining the platform.

This trip was intended to deepen our partnership by conducting a series of workshops with Abahlali branches in settlements across Durban. We visited two on Thursday, another one on Friday, and held a train-the-trainers session on Saturday.

We also had a chance to speak with Abahlali's leadership about the effect Grassroot's tools have had. They described how the tools had made their communications more fluid, and saved time and money that they were putting back into growing the movement. What was most interesting were the subtle effects they described on how their members related to communications, and their phones.

"Our members see the phone differently now," said S'bu Zikode, Abahlali's president, "They are taking more responsibility through them. You have the phone, so you get the message, so you can communicate. Even the elderly people are using it."

We discussed extending the Grassroot Ambassador program to Kwazulu Natal, through the partnership, and some of the functions coming down the pipeline, with particular enthusiasm for improving the ability to find other groups--"to find networks of solidarity".

Overall, it was a very fruitful few days, made possible by tireless effort from our partners, particularly Thapelo Mohapi, who organized all the visits and logistics from start to end.