Categories
community building

Ghana Code Club… an idea worth spreading

Richard Lucas January 2016

Every now and again I come across ideas and projects so worthwhile that I make contact with the people behind them.

BBC Radio has been running a series “100 Women” and there were impressive broadcasts from Ghana and Uganda.

through which I heard of Ernestina Appiah here Founder of Ghana Code Club and Rasheeda Yehuza of Tech Needs Girls

Rasheeda Yehuza www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p038dxr9
Rasheeda Yehuza
www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p038dxr9

both episodes are musts – listen to Rasheeda here

Interesting things have happened as a result of me approaching people I hear on podcasts, see on line, read about in articles. Often I see myself as doing what Derek Sivers recommends in his famous TED talk as an under rated form of leadership, helping others who are doing great things.

Derek Sivers'

So I contacted both Tina and Rasheeda offering help, not just because I believe in so doing, but also because I want others to do likewise..

Tina send me a ton of information about what she is doing Ghana Code Club designs step by step project guide for kids using scratch, HTML+CSS and Python. Most of the schools i volunteer in do not have access to internet nor projectors, (We’re working with the Parent Teacher Association in fixing these) until then, there’s no other option but to print out the project guidelines. Each project normally has an average of 15 pages, including challenges for the kid to try out before the next session.We’re using scratch to build a PAINT BOX for example this week, and this project has at least 18 pages, please find attached. There are not less than 100 kids in the first school that need a copy each of the guide, so your money will help print out projects for at least 150 kids, and we shall inscribe your name and logo on our websites as our supporting partner. We shall also establish good relationship with you as gestures like yours is a great honor to us. We’re continually seeking for funding each week for print outs alone until the schools we volunteer in get projectors and internet connectivity, getting the materials to the kids remain a challenge to us. But as we all know, education for kids around the world is very important, which is why various resources such as song education videos and various books can make all the difference in building knowldge in many industries. The more kids learn at a young age, the better it will be for their future. Every kid should have the right to learn in a safe environment.

Another area we need help in is getting our training centre together making it possible for the less privileged children to be taught for free. In Ghana, most government schools where the less privileged children are have no access to computer labs that are functioning. This remains a headache to some of us who are willing to help. Having our own computer lab can go a long way. We’ll need funding for rent, Computers, air conditioners, internet service, furniture, projectors setting these up. If this can be achieved, the sky is the limit. We are also looking for funding to get our back office together on our website where we can pack training materials including video for volunteers. So you see …. immediate funding and future funds will go a very long way.

(I sent money with Azimo.com – Marek Wawro the CTO lives in Kraków, and helps mentor startups for free. The transfer when very smoothly 🙂 I also asked Tina for some pictures that might encourage others and show what could be done with my support but but was not expected what I received a few days ago

Thank you messages

Ghana Code Club showing printed hand outs

Ghana Code Club showing printed projects

BBC World Service show presented by Bola Mosuro

Thanks on Twitter

I also asked her for a project description/report. This is what Tina sent

REPORT ON GHANA CODE CLUB AS AT JANUARY 2016 by Ernestina Appiah

Ghana Code Club is a digital fun club that is designed to be led by volunteers or ICT teachers in elementary schools all over Ghana, led by trained volunteers or ICT teachers. The club begins after regular classes are over for 2hours or less once in a week.

We initiated such a program because currently, there is little or no digital making activities in elementary schools in Ghana, meanwhile the world is revolving with technology. It is our aim that as children goes through the coding projects and challenges that come along with the project, kids’ interest in technology will grow causing them to participate and patronise other digital making in the future so that we can have a lot of innovators, entrepreneurs and critical thinkers. From creating websites, to being able to Generate ER Diagram, it is important for these kids to understand what coding and the process of web development is all about, especially as the use of technology is becoming more frequent. Although this club is held in schools all over Ghana, there are other ways of teaching other children worldwide how to code. One way other people could learn is by looking at websites, like afterhoursprogramming.com, to see if they can learn from the online bootcamps they have to teach people to code. Coding is an impressive skill to have, especially nowadays with the increase in online businesses.

The Ghana Code Club began in August last year during the summer vacation school at the Hillview Montessori School in Accra, where I, (the founder) volunteered to teach myself using Scratch programming software. 80 kids between the ages of 8-14 started but after the regular school resumed, the number of kids tripled to over 240 forcing us to split the class into groups. Currently, there are 2 computer labs at the Hillview Montessori School. One has a sitting capacity of 30 and the other has 60. And so each week, we have 3 sessions. I supervise groups 1 and 2 with 2 other volunteers and group 3 is supervised by the ICT teachers who are happy to share in our vision and have been trained to become volunteers of the code club.

On other days, we visit 4 other schools where we are repeating the same procedure as we do at the Hillview School. Unfortunately the other schools do not have more than 40 computers and so we are forced to limit the number of kids who are willing to join the club.

As of January 2016,

  • Hillview Montessori School has 257 members with 5 volunteers including 2 ICT teachers
  • Gospel International has 70 members- 3 volunteers including 1 ICT teacher
  • Liver Rose International has 83 members-3 Volunteers including ICT teacher
  • Rising Sun Montessori school has 60 members- 4 Volunteers including 2 ICT teachers
  • University Primary has 80 members 3 volunteers including 2 ICT teachers

Curriculum

We have designed projects in Scratch, HTML+CSS and Python languages. We start with the basics of scratch language where kids are thought to explore to obtain the basic principles in programming.

Challenges

Currently out of all the 5 schools we visit, only one school, University Primary, Legon that has necessary infrastructure to make learning easy in place. We have quite a challenge with power outages in the country until January 2016, when power cuts have slowed down a bit. When power cuts off, we need to close our session and the kids may need to take their step by step project printouts home to continue without our supervision.

There is no internet in 4 out of the 5 schools. But we are fortunate that the languages we have chosen have offline options. But to share the finished project on the internet is a challenge. Sometimes, we the volunteers end up using our own internet modems and airtime to enable the kids share their creativity online

We also have a big challenge when it comes to screening videos that can empower the kids even more. This is because 4 out of the 5 schools do not have projectors. This makes supervision so tedious considering the number of children involved in each session. Anytime we start a new project, we hold our laptop and move about showing the kids how their finished project should look like.

Laptop instead of projector
Laptop instead of projector

Since there are no projectors to project the instructions, we end up printing project guide to serve all these children which is so expensive. At the moment, Ghana Code Club does not have any source of funding from any organization. We rely on our pockets and some little donations from family and friends to keep on. Parents are not supporting us yet because the school authorities have not agreed to the demand of the code club to seek for donations from the parents. The authorities of one of the schools have asked that we hold on to the close of the month January, 2016 where a PTA meeting will be held and parents informed formally about the Ghana Code Club activities. 3 of the other schools support once in a while with the printing using their own resources

OUR NEEDS

  • Ghana Code Club requests for support to be launched out formally once our back office is ready to serve as training resources for volunteers. We need funds for storing the resources including video tutorials. We intend to invite technology institutions and the minister of education in Ghana to help us outdoor this initiative into all elementary schools in Ghana..
  • We need funds to be supporting our day to day runnings. Transportation, airtime, electricity bills, Project guides and volunteer meet-ups.
  • We need a projector with accessories, Printers and photocopiers and one laptop.
  • We also want to establish our own computer lab where other activities can take place. Some children from the government schools where there are non functional computer labs can attend our sessions on weekends. We can train others who are willing to pay to ease our day to day expenditure.

Of course I want to help, and others to do so as well. I informed contacts in Google and Astia about what they are doing, and I introduced Tina to Emmanuel Leslie Addae Curator of TEDxAccra – with whom I made contact having figured out that her story and project might be worthy of a TEDx talk. They have yet to meet. Perhaps more publicity and introductions can help Ghana Code Club find deeper pockets than mine and encourage other people to do similar projects in other schools, towns and countries.

Rasheeda Yehuza’s project ” Tech Needs Girls” is also looking for partnerships. she wrote “Tech Needs Girls would be excited to explore a collaboration! A donation would really help propel our activities as we scale country-wide, and an introduction to the Polish coding community will be fantastic.” I haven’t found a partner for her yet. but am looking around.

Not everything is making progress. I heard about the mDex smart phone clip for TB and Sickle Cell detection at Afri Gal technologies and tried to connect them to Peek Vision, which has a high profile project for diagnosing eye disorders at low cost also with a smart phone clip one. I thought that the UK project would be a good source of advice and mentoring., So far Afri Gal Tech haven’t taken up on this offer. but who know what may happen. Their project is really impressive sounding, and I yet believe I may be able to help

Conclusions

The idea worth spreading in the above experience is that it is worth trying There is nothing to stop anyone reaching out to anyone anywhere. Google and Twitter make it so easy, and finding out what you can do to help. It’s my belief rather than a proven fact that my approaches in these cases was the right one. I know that it is too early to tell. If the only benefit is that of my donation, then the gift without any associated PR could be enough. The test of whether it was worth going my public with introductions and posts like this will be whether over the next few months, other positive things happen as a result. This story at the time of writing- 24th January 2016 – is a work in progress. I’ll update in a few months. The fact that some offers of help have not led to anything is important to note as well. If you don’t try to do anything you won’t fail, but of course you can’t succeed either.. As J. K. Rowling says in her wonderful Harvard Commencement talk a life lived without risk of risk of failure is hardly worth living at all.

Categories
community building

The business of being a wedding photographer

Richard Lucas March 2017

Introduction

Wedding photography is a business like any other. The rewards go to those who are focussed, professional and work hard. Wedding photographs are cherished forever so you know you need to make them as wonderful as possible and capture the moments of the day. Whether you’re capturing one of the fabulous Cornish weddings or you’re in central London capturing two millionaires wedding day. You can find people all over the place, but finding the person right for you can be a little bit of a struggle. https://www.olgatopchii.com/ provide just one of the many services you can find in photographers. From the wedding dress (click website for dress inspiration) to the speeches, you’re there to capture it all and present the memories to the bride and groom. Much of the information in this article is based on listening an impressive podcast “For Wedding Photographers by Louis Torres. The great thing about Louis is that he is a real live breathing walking talking practicioner. He bases his advice on his own hard work and experience.

http://louistorres.com

Many of my Polish readers are not so aware of the wonderful world of English language podcasting (there just aren’t enough listeners in non-global languages but English language podcasting is full of gems).

The Podcast on iTunes.

Louis has been a photographer for 26 years and can charge US$4000-6000 for a wedding package, although is ready to reduce the cost by scaling back the package. You have to listen to the podcast to understand how much effort he puts in to doing his job well. There are 300 episodes with more than 80 hours of content since 2009. He’s a busy man! Apparently, he uses a podcast editing service as he doesn’t have time to record and edit the podcasts, as well as being a full-time photographer. It makes sense though! Louis tell photographers that they must not be lazy, should do their own research. He is tough and blunt, which makes each short episode all the more useful. For those who are serious about being successful – there will be valuable lessons.

If someone already regards themselves as a full fledged professional, then this podcast can even be a check list. It will be reassuring to hear someone at the top of the game in a far off rich country is doing the same things as they are. I am sure everyone will learn something. Louis argues that anyone can and will become an expert at finding anything they’d like to learn by doing research using Google and that the difference between an amateur and a professional photographer is the way he or she markets themselves.

Some of his recommendations are just common sense and obvious, but important.
– don’t just be punctual, be early. Get to your venue an hour before you are due. Park, and wait, walk in exactly when you are expected. You can read a book, even listen to his podcast. It leaves you time for a flat tyre, transport delays.
– don’t charge for a wedding – if you are first timer. “only” $500-1000 is way too much to charge if you are inexperienced.
His advice for those who are getting started: Do you homework, research, prepare, practice, get the right equipment, and then do weddings for free for family, friends or people who don’t have a budget, Do your best, but don’t promise to be something you are not. Build your portfolio so that you can base first paid offers on experience and references.
Here are some of his tips and ideas if you are already photographing weddings.
Focus on your relationship with the happy couple. Of course they want someone professional, but also friendly, nice, respectful and funny. This starts from way before the wedding, from first contact, maybe at Bridal Shows, to discussions and feedback about the plan for the day, to the day itself, post wedding communications and delivery of photos in whatever format has been agreed. The photographer’s experience should lead to advising clients to take the right decisions. They don’t have the experience, the photographer does.
Get those shots done. On the day, the couple may want the photographer to wait and not take photos at particular moments, but Louis advises that the photographer should take the photos anyway. The situation you want to record may never arise again, a key family person may be missing, leave early, No one will remember that you were told to wait. Get the shots when you can.
Show some photos on the day itself During the wedding, use meal breaks to process and post some photos on social media like Facebook pages. Have a stand and a big monitor/screen where you can show some of the photos in an elegant slideshow. Bring more down to the party in the evening. The couple, their family and guests will love to see the photos right away, will be impressed by your speed and professionalism. Each wedding may have couples who are engaged, who are very likely to ask you for a business card. You will pick up more clients.
There are numerous other episodes covering issues like how important it is to focus, time management, tools for processing, editing and distributing photos, contracts, deposit payments. I have no doubt that if I had time to listen to more I would know much more. You can learn about important industry events, his recommended vendors of complementary products and technology tools., If you want to learn about wedding photography this podcast is a great place to start. You get the wisdom and experience of a successful straight talking American professional.
http://louistorres.com/forweddingphotographers/why
As Simon Sinek TED talks fan knows, the most important question is Why. Louis takes the time to answer that too.

There are lessons in this podcast and hopefully this blog post – for a listener who knows nothing about photography, and doesn’t want to be a wedding photographer too.

For everyone – work hard, push and educate yourself, learn how to sell what you do, be friendly and nice to your clients. – heck iTunes for podcasts about the areas you want to learn about. It won’t be a waste of time, and a hat tip to the remarkable Louis Torres
Categories
community building

Between expertise and ignorance – be a generalist

Richard Lucas January 2016
What I don’t know, why it matters, and the importance of knowing the right questions to ask
I spent a serious amount of time looking for answers to questions that are relevant to the businesses I am involved in, or researching business projects. If I find what I am looking for, I forward it on with a few comments to the person to whom it is relevant. Other times, I can’t find what I am looking for, which means an unsolved problem.
My search for answers is also inefficient because along the way I find out facts,  issues, problems and ideas that are new to me,  meaning that I distract myself with my own curiosity, and often have new business ideas.
My process involves Google (and learning how to search Google well is a skill – that – like others – can be improved), Googling people I hear on the radio,  all kinds of social media,  Linkedin, Youtube, Slideshares, Investor  information sections of listed companies, Trade Associations, Event speaker, attendee and exhibitor lists, this list is long.
When I cannot find what I am looking for I sense an opportunity. If what I want to know is valuable, the value of knowing it may be high (or perhaps worthless:-))
Years ago, a startup magazine called Proseed published a column where I acted as a kind of “Agony Aunt” to entrepreneurs.   I am not so arrogant – I hope-  as to share my “wisdom” about everything I read.  If I don’t have something to say it is better to stay quiet.   Derek Sivers shares his notes about the books he has read and recommends on his excellent blog – but he is successful with some excellent and hugely popular TED talks behind him, not to mention his business success with CD Baby which he sold for US$20 million.

I am however going to flip it round. I am planning to start posting questions I don’t know the answer to, and to explain why these are important.

If some contacts me and can help, then maybe they can be a business partner, or potentially work for me finding the solution.

Why bother? why does this matter?
The gap between being ignorant, a generalist and a specialist is important to understand.
To be a successful entrepreneur – I recommend the advice of my father J. R. Lucas – who said to me when I was a teenager – “don’t be a specialist – if you need a specialist you can always find one” and that once you have a specialist skill you may well end up working using the skill in which you specialise for the rest of your life, because that will be the best rewarded in the short run.  This is not a bad outcome if this is what you want to do, but is not for anyone who doesn’t love their job.
My father’s advice is not great for anyone who has not worked out a way of generating income for themselves. Anyone who has never held down a professional salary should read  So Good They Can’t Ignore You  which sets out the opposing case for getting really good at something rather than following just your passion. The book is well summarised by Derek Sivers here .  If you are able to bring in more than enough money, without having a specific skill – this means you may never need to get one.  You may have the “what it takes” to be an entrepreneur. The ability to persuade people to buy things from you when you don’t know what you are talking about is worth having.
(thought the wherewithal to sell things you are not a specialist in, while showing an impressive ability to be convincing,  may involve taking risks of major problems).
While there are reasons not to be a specialist, I am not arguing for, or celebrating ignorance.  You should aim to be a generalist, to know enough to ask the right questions, to tell if someone is BS-ing  you, and to be able to tell a specialist what you want and why.  A version of the 80/20 Pareto rule applies –  that you can learn 80% of what matters quickly, the remain 20% may be for the specialist. Read the Wikipedia entry, watch a TED talk or two, read The Economist. listen to a podcast, watch the most popular slideshares, skim the top ten entries on Google, and within an hour you will know much more than most, and maybe enough to find a specialist.  Maybe then you can hire or find the specialist.
I regularly listen to the Digital Marketing Podcast from Target Internet for its clear language, sensible advice, easy to understand and recently I heard this episode about Programmatic Advertising.  (Once when I wrote to Daniel Rowles – the CEO and founder – and he wrote back immediately with helpful advice, a great way to make him a potential partner in the future. I am researching B2B marketing using Adsense type marketing. This podcast enabled me to search intelligently, finding list like this  with specialist firms, and making me confident to post here on Facebook.
European B2B Startup Group on FacebookThe post shows that as well as needing a specialist I know enough not to be ripped off and to deter digital marketing agencies that don’t know what they are talking about. I’d heard of Real Time Bidding RTB before, but not SSP,  DSP and various another acronyms.
The conclusion – > Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know ad hoy are not a specialist but not before you have spent an hour or two turning yourself into a generalist.  And here is another great podcast from Daniel about how to keep your digital skills up in the world of specialists. Effectively he is advising listeners to be generalists.
And if you know how to help organise our RTB on line research, get in touch.