Strong Communities Build Global Impact.

This article originally appeared here.


Image courtesy @ka_bino and PR Works

The Global Voices community celebrated their 10th anniversary during their biennial conference on the state of citizen media, blogging, journalism and activism. This year’s conference was held in Cebu, Philippines on 24th and 25th January, 2015.

10 years ago, and after many years of following bloggers from all over the world who covered stories that mainstream media did not cover, Rebecca MacKinnon and Ethan Zuckerman were convinced that these bloggers would benefit from talking to one another, sharing experiences and supporting each other even if blogging from different countries.

It was not clear to Rebecca and Ethan, what they were going to create at the time, but there was a common set of beliefs, which formed the basis of a manifesto. 10 years on, this manifesto still applies. It was broad enough that they could stay aligned to it and live up to the idea and the spirit of it.

Global Voices has been leading the conversation on citizen media reporting since 2005. They do this by curating, verifying and translating trending news and stories you might be missing on the Internet, from blogs, independent press and social media. They also translate the news to make it more accessible to different cultures. Aside from reporting, Global Voices defends online rights and freedoms and organizes summits to allow its contributors to meet face to face.

Today, Global Voices boasts 1200 contributors, tens of thousands of stories, 30 languages and members from 167 countries around the world.

This powerful story of the coming together of Global Voices resonates with the iHub. Before the iHub, there was already a tech community in Nairobi, in Kenya. But just like with Global Voices, our founders felt that the tech community would benefit from having a space that allowed them to meet, share experiences with one another, and support each other.

Our founders knew that they wanted the mission of the iHub to be to catalyse the growth of the tech community. They also knew that there was no one formula to do so. The iHub provided an open space literally and figuratively for techies to share knowledge and hone skills, to connect and collaborate with peers, to form startups, to connect with investors and to experiment with ideas.

Five years later, the iHub’s vision remains the same-to catalyse the growth of the tech community. We do this by connecting people, supporting startups and surfacing information. Five years later, that we are a space for the tech community still holds true. If it does not benefit the community, we won’t do it.

The iHub now boasts over 16000 members spread all over the world. We have had impact in our 5 years but recognise we have just scratched the surface of the potential for the influence that our members can have in the tech industry around the world. I find myself thinking, what needs to happen to further engage this 16000+ members even more? What needs to happen to further challenge these 16000+ people to constantly innovate and collaborate? What needs to happen that further allows us to consolidate news, initiatives and perspectives from our community outside of Nairobi, outside of Kenya?

For example, our friends at Ushahidi, have virtual meet-ups and face-to-face meet-ups around the world. Ushahidi is Kenyan born but has a global footprint from its core team to its community. The iHub works to have such impact.

Nothing makes us at the iHub happier than watching hubs spring up across Kenya. We are particularly excited to have mentored Swahili Box and Lake Hub. Lake Hub, incidentally, hosted its official launch on Friday 13th March, 2015. It is encouraging to see innovators in different counties taking up the challenge to catalyse their innovation ecosystems to meet their needs. We are excited to see what big things will come from the Swahili Box and Lake Hub communities and we are privileged to have the opportunity to mentor them as they grow. We also look forward to imminent announcements of hubs opening up in other parts of the country.

Outside Kenya another way in which the iHub shows impact is as a founding member of Afrilabs. iHub works and supports Afrilabs to build an African innovation ecosystem through technology hubs that will encourage the growth of Africa’s knowledge economy by supporting the development of startups, technology and innovation based on a foundation of collaboration and connectivity.

Whatever the future holds for our global community, I think that the one most important thing we have constantly been reminded of over the years is that we can not exist or thrive in isolation. Collaboration is one of our core values and constantly connecting and collaborating with our global community can only mean that good things will happen particularly as we work to empower our community to innovate on a global scale.

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