Saturday, June 27, 2009

D Day (-11) - The beginning of a new chapter…

We may have only arrived in Kumasi today but the planning for IDDS in Ghana has been in the pipeline for well over a year. MIT Senior lecturer Amy Smith founded the summit in 2007 and describes it as her “passion project” but this is the first time since its inception that it has been located away from her home University. IDDS prides itself on the spirit of co-creation and innovation which informs its vision and thus this has been the main motivating force behind the move to Kumasi. Over the course of the summit there will be the chance for participants to work with communities in rural villages in the Kumasi region and also with Swame Magazine, a collection of over 80,000 artisans and mechanics in the center of the city. There will thus be increased input from local partners into the creative process and it is hoped that this will make the projects more applicable to the localized context.

Four of the main protagonists at this year’s summit (John Quansah, Crossman Hormenoo, George Fuachie and George Obeng) were organizers and participants at last year’s conference at MIT. George Fuachie has been instrumental in securing the trust and enthusiasm of local villages towards the IDDS venture and the others are our main representatives at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), where most of the conference will take place. I seem to recall all four having frequent meetings about bringing IDDS to Ghana during the last IDDS and thus you can imagine how excited they all are about the almost unlimited potential that exists in the next seven weeks.

Amy had been here with Joe Agoada, a main organizer of this year’s summit, for just over a week before the rest of the organizing committee began arriving. I personally flew into Accra on Friday evening and then got the bus to Kumasi with Steven Gerrard and Hayley Sharp, two English past participants, and Andres Sierra, a recent design graduate from the Universidad Rafael Landivar in Guatemala. We had been given the rather onerous task of transferring about eighty hardback copies of a certain author’s (to remain unnamed) book from London to Kumasi so we may have looked slightly suspect to the customs officials as we hopped off our flight with a suitcase bursting at the seams with eighty of the same book!

After a hectic scramble to the taxi rank we eventually managed to squeeze all of our bags into a car and made our way to a hostel, to be up bright and early the next morning for the bus. Surviving solely on a diet of McVities digestive biscuits, dried banana plantain crisps, and a healthy serving of quality Nigerian drama we eventually managed to reach Tech Junction, our stop just outside KNUST. The hustle and bustle of the market junction was slightly overwhelming as we stepped off the bus so the smiling faces of Joe, George and Sumit, another of this year’s organizers, was most definitely a welcome one.

The Tek Credit Union Hostel will be our home for the next seven weeks, and it didn’t take too long for us to settle ourselves in. After a quick meal we made our way down to the campus pool for a swim and to take some time out to catch up with each other, one year on from IDDS 08’. None of us felt too guilty about this brief diversion from work as one gets the feeling that this could be our last night off in a long while!

For the duration of the conference I will be ending each blog post with one twi phrase, just you can learn a little of the local language, and get a flavour of the local culture, as you follow the progress of IDDS at KNUST.

Twi phrase for the day:
Akwaaba! - Welcome!

1 comment:

The LightedLamp said...

Good Luck you guys. Happy to follow.