Today is exactly nine months since we have been experimenting the iFollowTheMoney community and this is a perfect time to write about this community; what led the Follow the Money Team to the community, why the need for it and what exactly is the future we see to have invested in such a platform.
What is a Community?
Merriam Webster defined community as an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (such as species) in a common location.
With the definition, there are some key elements of a community which are “interacting population” and “in a common place”.
As such, we cannot have an interacting population without a common place.
While reading Babajide Durosaye post on medium about community, I cannot but agree with his definition of a community which he defines as “Communities are networks with shared ideals or demographics, people concentrate on building valuable relationships rather than using each other”.
At Follow the Money, we have community champions in various states and communities in the country and outside of it, we cannot afford to have the kind of community which Babajide defined. Hence, there is a need for us to improvise and find a better way to bring people together in a common place (ifollowthemoney).
The Journey to Follow the Money Community
In the past, Follow the Money Community Reporters (as they are fondly called then) uses WhatsApp as a common place to interact, the WhatsApp group has grown to the point that we had to group them according to geopolitical zones in Nigeria.
We had six groups on WhatsApp and sometimes while waking up (even though I am always on the group at midnight communicating with the night owls amongst the Community Reporters) the user’s end up meeting more than 100 messages on the group which eventually led to us having to losing some of our community reporters. Hence, the need for a better community (common place) to bring people together to interact.
At a point, due to the staff strength of Connected Development as we have only two persons managing the 6 WhatsApp groups, the users and also the social media accounts, so we started missing out relevant contents coming from the community champions on the WhatsApp.
Also, on boarding new users on the platform (WhatsApp) started becoming a problem as we keep on repeating the same on boarding message over and over again.
Was That The Only Reason Why we Have to Switch to Have a Universal Community?
NO, we have a big vision of expanding across Africa as we started receiving an overwhelming request for expansion and we also plan on making Follow the Money a household name by having a movement in all the states in Nigeria while having community champions in all 774 local governments in Nigeria.
Also, we need to have a knowledge sharing platform where anyone who is interested in our work could learn from, connect and collaborate on Follow the Money activities while taking some factors into cognizance – like, where we can have people learning from one other, a platform where we can have a community (movement kind of thing). A place we can have people with a shared interest (Transparency and Accountability in Government in Africa and beyond) and a place people can be motivated to act by learning from the actions of others.
We are more aware that it was because people are not asking questions from our political office holders on how our collective monies have been spent, and that was why we keep on having same corruption narratives.
Alas, we had seen in the past and present when people in government reacted to our request knowing we follow the money (no one wants to be labeled someone who embezzled community project money).
Is That All?
With close to a thousand members, the community is gradually translating into the largest movement of community champions working on transparency and accountability in their various community., These inspiring members are the intermediaries that are taking the Follow The Money work to local communities, mobilizing them, to engage their various government on basic infrastructure issues.
Do we Have a Requirement for Community Champions?
I still do not know how to answer this question but the most important thing is, a Follow the Money Community Champion is a fire starter. He is someone who thinks something must be done about the gross corruption in governance and he is ready to make an impact in his community by Following The Money. Thus enabling the community to have access to good governance, improved infrastructures and in the proper sense, an empowered community who can speak for themselves and ask government questions about how their monies are spent.
Just as my friend, Babajide Durosaye (never met or know him o) categorized the community ecosystem in his article, I understand that there are movers of a community and such structure is also expected of a Transparent and Accountability community like ifollowthemoney, but for now – the conversation is just getting started and we hope to grow the community to that level someday soon.
We are in need of more enablers, and you may want to become one too by joining the conversation on Transparency and Accountability on ifollowthemoney which we created for change makers like you!
Have a contribution or clarification? Do not hesitate to leave a comment on the box below.