How It Works


In telecommunication terminology, a network is as an interconnected set of nodes that exchange information. A node is the most basic part of a network; for example, a user or a computer. These nodes can be organised in various ways, and this organisation is what distinguishes different types of network architecture from each other.1

Illustration of centralised, decentralised and distributed networks from "On Distributed Communications" by Paul Baran (1964 © RAND Corporation)
Illustration of centralised, decentralised and distributed networks.2

Dandelion operates as a distributed network of discussion clubs - the nodes in this analogy. We aim to avoid centralised, top-down bureaucracy in favour of independence, sharing, and occasional collaboration between clubs. Clubs are self-governed, self-reliant, and free to organise and brand their activities as they wish. We only ask that they abide by our principles. In return, we provide guidance to organisers, and an opportunity to tap into a network of like-minds and social game changers.

A discussion club can be a circle of friends or a crowd of strangers. These people can come from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, and have different norms and values. They might not want to, and don't have to, refer to themselves as a "club." "Picnic" or "society" might be more appealing terms.


Productive dialogue is about learning. We recommend running small, informal events that resemble an unconference. 15 people or less. Here's why:

  • It's easier to make connections and have real conversations in a small group.
  • Attendees that want to, can speak up more easily.
  • To keep financial cost to a minimum. This lessens the burden on organisers and lowers the barrier to participation for attendees.
  • To lessen the psychological cost for organisers. Organising events with high production values is stressful. The less stress is involved, the more likely an event will happen again.

The format of the event depends on the topic of discussion and the resources available to the organisers. Possible formats include:

  • Group discussion: The club picks a topic, compiles a reading list, researches, and a few weeks later, forms an interesting discussion around it.
  • Show and tell: Attendees bring their work-in-progress passion projects or demos to show and tell; perhaps with a theme. This is the springboard for conversations.
  • Expert lecture: A talk by an activist, academic or a researcher with a well-developed idea, e.g. a podcast, a book in progress, or a manifesto. An audience of more than 10 people would likely be more appropriate for this.
  • P2P: Two groups link up via the web for a shared discussion or expert lecture.


  • Emphasise that group should aim not to duplicate initiatives by others, but should rather try to collaborate as much as possible. This would likely lower costs (financial, time).
  • Think about creating media (audio, video, or web, e.g. Fold) that tell how the issues discussed affect members of the group personally and their community. These artifacts could be used for sharing stories between groups from disparate communities without them interacting, or before they do, so that they are more informed and prepared for discussion. Stories could be produced in collaboration with and/or aired on community media (e.g. radio, CRF, IkamvaYouth, loveLife, RLabs), and used for advocacy. Examples: Code for South Africa's Living Wage Calculator, Exit Zero Project, By Any Media Necessary: Mapping Youth and Participatory Politics
  • Think about how one could use data to better understand issues, fact-check (e.g. Africa Check), and dispel preconceptions, and how the data literate (journalists who do DDJ, School of Data, et al.) could help.
  • Add an example of how to approach a topic in an informative and fun way, and how local issues connect to broader themes. For example, right to privacy: mass surveillance3, public space4, liberal vs. conservative (e.g. Saudi Arabia) cultural differences5, doxxing6, examples of agitation and education (e.g. CV Dazzle, Safer Nudes)


We recommend that each club should have a blog for sharing content with their community. This blog could be updated frequently or only prior to an event, with a reading list. Discussions could be documented, so that follow-up is easy for both attendees and outsiders, and so that ideas can spread through the network. This could be in audio or video, for example a podcast or a YouTube video. Ideally, a transcript should be available for reading, for accessing any websites that were mentioned, to improve accessibility for non-native speakers and hearing-impaired people, and for indexing by search engines.

@todo The following will probably be divided between this page, Get Started, Resources:

  • List examples of blog solutions, e.g. WordPress, wikis, etc. Briefly describe the differences in tech and capacity needs. List examples of documenting events, e.g. Refugee Hackathon Wiki
  • List examples of discussion boards and mailing lists, e.g. Discourse, Google Groups, etc. Briefly describe the differences in tech and capacity needs, e.g. community manager for large groups.
  • List examples of chat solutions, e.g. Twitter, Slack, IRC, GNU social, etc. Briefly describe the differences in tech and capacity needs.
  • List examples of networked website/social solutions, e.g. diaspora*, Hubzilla. Briefly describe pros and cons7.
  • Describe how to archive chats and prevent ideas from getting lost (summarised in blog post after event?)
  • Describe how the main website works, and how content will be aggregated on the main website and shared between clubs. Include API-, metadata- and microformat-related issues.
  • Describe pros and cons of hosting discussion on central domain using something like subreddits vs. hosting discussions on individual group's site.


Topics could range from the heavier politics of technology and power, to the lighter politics of dancing. We encourage civic engagement, and so, recommend that discussions should aim for a problem-solving angle where possible. Generally, discussions could be about:

  • Broad themes and specific issues affecting the local and/or global community, e.g. social, economic, political, technological, ecological, or a combination thereof.
  • How community organisations, e.g. activists or volunteers, are addressing those issues.


@todo Describe how the concept can be spread via youth leadership and social entrepreneurship programmes, community media (e.g. partnership with radio), etc.

Updated: Fri, 2015-12-11 11:17

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