Sunday, May 06, 2007

Baha'i Computer and Communications Association (BCCA) successfully renewed with new energy and ideas with conference at Bosch

"Cultivating the Roots'' May 4th to MAY 6TH

It was indeed very inspiring to see so many individuals make their way out to Bosch to discuss the way forward for the BCCA. It was called "Cultivating the Roots" and there were some who can come as far away as Brazil just for this conference.

Unfortunately, I was unable to join all 3 days of the session as there were no children classes this time round at Bosch and so Barry, my husband attended the sessions instead. I was able to join in for one evening of consultation on the BCCA and was fascinated by the discussions that ensued. There was so much passion and so many great ideas, and so many who shared the history of BCCA as well. I had been fortunate to be amongst those involved in its early days, and so was happy to see renewed enthusiasm for this association. There was a lot of enthusiasm which somehow dwindled as life caught up and no clear direction continued. I was thus also happy to see many of the pioneers involved in this conference and had come far and wide to be here.

It was great to see some women attending too, and Erika I heard you helped convince Prema to come. Thank you for doing that! We not only needed more women involved, but youth. She has both and had great energy and a real action oriented person. Just what we need. I had the pleasure of meeting Prema online when she discovered my blog. She wanted to find out more about BCCA (I had written a posting about it) so I introduced her to Thane and Mat. Was happy to see that that online networking works and I got to meet here offline too. Kirsten we knew when she lived with us in Maryland 14 years ago, where she studied at the University and also helped us with our son. I am so happy to see that Barry;s encouragement to her to get onto bahai-tech has led to many more productive years in this arena, and that we finally meet again at Bosch. Mitra too whom I met at the San Jose Baha'i center early lasy year when she gave a talk on blogging- I told her about the BIA and BCCA and connected her with Thane. Since then she participated in the consultation session in Sept last year in San Jose, and leads an initiative which I am also involved with other activie Baha'is such as Ron. David, Kevin, to get going. So you see it is not only face to face collaborations that are needed. If we have tools where we can meet before or after face to face, we increase trust and speeds up the power of networking.
I cannot quite remember the very point I became a part of bahai-tech, bahai-announce, BCCA etc (as I did get my first email account in 1989 and became a Baha'i in 1990), but do remember Thane Therill, Mark Towfiq, Chuck Cooper, Kristin Motlagh, amongst others and was happy to see them again. In fact, I recall how Barry and I spent part of our honeymoon in Seattle where Barry and Chuck planned and devised ways forward for BCCA and went on to do projects for various Baha'i institutions. I do remember this visit to be a turning point in energising the creation of BCCA. I also remember fondly the meeting at World Congress where many from bahai-tech met up and we had a group photo taken (would love to have a copy if any of you know where to get one). Since then Barry was actively involved in putting Baha'i materials using Mosaic (from John Hopkins University where he worked), helped connect Bah'i universities to the Internet, and many other projects of passion. Since joining Cisco he continued to contribute through his advice and donations of equipmnent. When Barry and I were cleaning out the garage recently, we also found the old drafts of BCCA logo iterrations they went through back in the beginning days, and other such related materials and this brought back a lot of nostalgia. I myself went on to be appointed on the Security task force, and later to represent the BIA at the World Summit on the Information Society both in Geneva and the ohter in Tunisia. I also attended the September BIA consultation, which inspired me to begin blogging. I did blog about that meeting in an earlier posting.

What I found the most inspiring at the Bosch conference was that members of Baha'i institutions stayed all the days, participate actively, enourage others to participate, etc. Ms Erika Toussaint from the NSA of the US particularly struck me with her open minded comments and insightful perspectives. In fact, she came immediately up to greet me when she saw me as a new face in the room. This I thought was very refreshing and open and I felt that her genuiness was felt by others too. Many technical professionals from Yahoo. Microsoft, Cisco, Silicon Valley startups, professors, etc actively shared ideas and brainstorming paths forward.

So from what I gathered, anyone interested in helping promoting the use of technology for the advancement of the Faith can become members of the BCCA through mailing lists, wiki, etc. It is still to be worked out how the BCCA coordinating committe will function but the goal will be to keep it as it is but work to have it as much as its original charter envisaged it to be i.e. a grassroots organisation electing its leadership, much like other professional associations in the Baha'i Faith (e.g. Baha'i Justice Society) with local chapters, etc. The charter could also help finetune functions and projects but the goal will be to mobilise grassroots efforts to channel and mobilise technical skillsets to help in the advancement of the Faith. So please pass the word on to come on board and join the BCCA/bahai-tech mailing list. If I a non-techie feels I may have somethig to share and learn, you should to. Of course, would be also good to rally the real technology geniuses willing to volunteer their time to help the advancement of the Cause.

The way I see it, unlike 12 years ago when BCCA first started, bahai-tech is not just the purview of the "techies". Technology is so much more user friendly today, that someone as non-technical can be very proficient with user friendly technology they did not create. This is equally important as it is the usage of the technology and not the technology itself that makes it important. Meanwhile, some of us will be more sophisticated users and can teach others, and some are more competent to create and customise technology solutions. But ultimately, BCCA today more than when it first started will encompass techies and savvy and passionate users who are dedicated to passing new tool on to others. BCCA should serve mainly as a conduit to channel this enthusiasm, effort and dedication of grassroots movements which will help ensure that BCCA continues to grow and succeed in its mission. It is also imperative that it be aligned with the goals of the 5 year plan so that its efforts can held advance the Cause.

I truly look forward to the creation of an online community from the meeting at Bosch, that can be extended to others who are either already on one of the many Baha'i only mailing lists or would like to join "if they only knew about it". We need to find a way to capture the energy at Bosch AND those of earlier versions of this forum to build upon to cultivate the roots and help it grow deeper and stronger and reach further out. I do hope also that more youth already involved in blogging and messaging to teach the Faith, will come on board to share these tools with others and learn from each other. It is important to have people of all races, cultures, age groups, gender, etc so we can truly creat a diverse yet united social network online. If we all work together with the Institutions and as individuals, we only then will truly live the web 2.0 Baha'i world too.

I like to end with a quote that Marion Finley shared at the close of one session from Shoghi Effendi. I am paraphrasing as I did not copy it all down

" is time not to ask how you can serve the
Cause but how the Cause can be served"... .

It took me a while to understand this subtle difference but then I got it---it is taking the "I", the "ego" out of service and refocuses it back on the Cause. This was a good note to end the day on how BCCA can help serve the Faith.
For more information about this conference and how you can approach someone from the BCCA to join as a member, check out and Check out also for other Baha'i perspective about this conference.



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