Networking and Global Impact – Part #2

February 24, 2016

This is the second part of a series on how our changing approaches to networking are affecting how organizations grow globally. The first part of the series, providing the background context, can be found here.  This post focuses on two examples: Ushahidi and Dance for PD®.


Ushahidi”, which means “testimony” in Swahili, was a website that was initially developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008. Since then, the name “Ushahidi” has come to represent the people behind the “Ushahidi Platform”.  Ushahidi was founded by five Kenyan bloggers who knew each other originally online and decided to come together with others with common interests. This network was then expanded outside of Kenya by networking at TED Africa in 2009 and then through a number of the original founders becoming TED fellows and meeting others with common interests in different parts of the world via TED Global and PopTech.

The open source nature of Ushahidi and the online comfort of the founders helped the virtual networking, which continued to build and nurture the community globally. This has also helped Ushahidi to thrive on being decentralized, with a ‘main office’ in Nairobi but about ½ of its employees spread around the world. As Nat Manning, Chief Operating Officer noted “Home base is the Internet.”

The ‘experiment’ of the office in Nairobi being created as an iHub also led to a being part of another network – that of innovation Hubs around the world.

Dance for PD®

Dance for PD®, started in New York in 2001, offers specialized dance classes to people with Parkinsons, their families, friends and care partners. In 2004, the Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG) also began leading Dance for PD® classes in cities where the company toured around the world, and developed a training program for dance teachers soon after.  Using this network provided the initial global footprint through a multi-city tour the MMDG did in the United Kingdom. David Leventhal, Program Director noted that “Teaching on the road helped test the interest in the concept.”

In 2006 the program also connected to the Parkinson’s network, giving presentations at Parkinson’s conferences and the two networks together helped to generate interest from additional countries. There has been some ‘planned growth’ through networks as noted above. Another pathway for growth has been through alumni of the training program who took the initiative to start a program in other parts of the world. For example, a California based teacher in the program moved to Australia and started a program there. Dance for PD® now has partner groups in Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy India, Israel the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Dance for PD® has maintained the flexibility of its network by having three different tiers to participation – 1) Those who teach classes informally; 2) Global partners whose classes align with those of Dance for PD® but may have local modifications; and 3) Those that are actually certified in the specific method pioneered by the MMDG. All interested parties can be part of the virtual community to exchange ideas and support each other.

Some themes

  • Both Ushahidi and Dance for PD® have benefited from approaches to networking that were accelerated by the ease in which contacts can now be made and/or maintained online.
  • Their approach to maintaining flexibility in how their programs would grow around the world has lead to a fairly fast global growth (by more historic standards) and corresponding impact that can be made through the use of its programs.