Playtime in Africa and The Power of We

Update

Our amazing journey of small, effective, direct global collaborations has continued since we first posted this story.

In 2013 we “met” the wonderful Lina Widlund and her organization Re:Design Sweden.  On the strength of trust built through consistent virtual dialogue, we became the beneficiaries of their first international donation!

Friends of Mmofra in the US has become a long-term partner, champion and ambassador for our causes.  They have curated four excellent photo exhibitions in the Pacific Northwest USA on the theme of children and play. They speak to us directly, and adopt very specific goals.  Currently, they are raising $2000 to construct one of the much-needed eco- sanitation facilities at the Playtime in Africa park site in 2014 so that children can begin to use the site more often.

MIIM Designs, a team commited to solutions for social impact led by Maryam Eskandari, is giving us technical and architectural support through their Harvard iLab and Palo Alto offices.

We’ve welcomed a second design team from the Technical University of Delft in Holland!  Design,Inspire,Play is a joint master’s project on a research-based play structure which is now on our site!

 

Original Post

At Mmofra Foundation, we have blogged, tweeted, skyped, emailed, talked, curated and organized our way from an urgent idea for rethinking space, nature, play and learning in urban Ghana  to an amazing charrette in Accra last May.

In little over a year since our 15 year old organization finally acquired a website and began to use social media, we have harnessed the “Power of We” to fuel a small and growing movement centered on children and urban placemaking in 21st century African cities – an important global conversation from which positive input from Africa is largely missing.

The urban blog ThisBigCity published our first hopeful post about local/global collaboration on Playtime in Africa, a pioneering placemaking project for children on two rare acres of green space in the heart of Accra, Ghana.

Sustainable Cities, another highly rated urban blog, picked up the story and TheCityFix of Embarq made it a Pick of the Week in September 2011. Recently the Polis Blog carried an article about our charrette as a model for frugal collaboration.

Supporters on five continents, mapped here by one of our volunteers, supply the additional energy and inspiration to make change together. We’ve made it this far because of the part played by each of the following:

Project leaders Amowi Phillips and Rachel Phillips gave the concept its shape and introduced it to a global audience with great tech support from Mark. We established collaborative links via Twitter, notably with the excellent  ThisBigCity, Playgroundology, Public Workshop, a_small_lab, and MIT Colab Radio.

Friends of Mmofra championed our causes with passion and produced a catalogue of prints from the remarkable Willis Bell Archive in collaboration with Gardner Media, from the inspirational photo essay Playtime in Africa, now celebrating its 50th year since publication. The August 2012 archive of Kilele showcased our iconic pictures of children at play.

We were inspired from around the world by the practical, the creative and the thoughtful.  We valued the early words of  encouragement from folks in related pursuits.

Susan Norwood was an early friend for public health.  Sarah Brophy talked green museums with us.

Graphic designer Zamin Dharsi introduced us to Jerry Allan, who set up a 5 year partnership between us and the Global Citizens Project at MCADChristian Werthmann linked us to Flavio Janches, who sent us reams of valuable information on designing playgrounds in the informal settlements of Buenos Aires.

Kelly Lerner gave us a back-of-the-envelope introduction to the charrette process. Peter Exley mentioned us to the great folks at Architecture for Humanity, who made room for our project on the Open Architecture Network/Worldchanging site and sponsored Design Fellow Ken Smith to help steer the Accra charrette.  Koch Hazard Architects  made it possible for Stacey Mcmahan, also an AFH Design Fellow, to keep us grounded. Berkeley College of Environmental Design student Saneta De Vuono co-ordinated the charrette.  Phoenix-based architect Lila Cohen couldn’t attend the charrette, but submitted this stunning sketch of an ‘armature’ solution with a careful and sensitive accompanying text.

Fiesta Royale and African Regent proved their neighborhood hospitality by hosting our guests in grand style.

We’re strongly anchored in a Ghanaian resource base of design professionals, young people, parents, educators, the Arts community, cultural specialists, academic researchers, public health, safety and special advocates, neighborhood folks, gardeners, media people, engineers and interested observers.

The youth were well representedKNUST Architecture students Kooko Odonkor and Emmanuel Ofori-Sarpong wrote about their experience on our design team which was led by Ralph Sutherland.  Joe Osae-Addo and veteran architecture historian N. A. Wellington joined our deliberations.  The Ghana Green Building Council looked in, and Eden Tree dispensed fresh produce with urban farming tips. Florence Benson advised on plantings and Richard Gadegbeku advised on hydrology.  Kofi Yiadom Boakye explained eco-prenuership. Stephen Kpabitey knew our neighborhood best.

Fredericka Dadson and Elizabeth Reindorf pooled years of experience in early childhood education, and the Lartey brothers promised mechanical magic.  Larry Otoo and Edwina Assan brought their art to bear, and Wild Gecko committed to help.  K. Gyan Apenteng and Sandy Arkhurst reminded us of a usable heritage.

Meanwhile in our day to day work, Nathan Midgley took on writing duties, and MIT urban planning alums Shoko Takemoto and Nse Umoh Esema brought their skills to bear on documentation ideas and grant-writing. Trevor Park crash-produced a media awareness campaign with Shoko, Dennis Gawuga, and Rachel.

Trashy Bags put us on to faculty at TUDelft and the Design Through Discovery team which is working with us now.

Billed as one of “10 emerging Sustainable Cities to Watch” , Accra is yet to earn a child-friendly stamp of approval.  The Playtime in Africa public conversations held between May 29 – 31 2012 have put children on the urbanism agenda.

Across the continent in Juba, these concerns are mirrored in South Sudanese architect Iduol Beny’s uphill efforts to realize a Children’s Pavilion project for Africa’s newest capital city.  The state of play in Accra and Juba represents a continent-wide gap in child-centered interventions to make cities more liveable.  Through Skype-aided conversations, we’re sharing stories and strategies.

Support Playtime in Africa with your donation to Mmofra Foundation or to the Design Through Discovery team.

 

 

 

 

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One Response

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