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Thinking in English: The dangers of talking too much

Posted by paa.kwesi on Fri, 05/23/2008 - 10:12

The GhanaThink call to action is "Less talk, more action" and over the years I've been personally motivated by this call. It has forced me to re-evaluate what it means to do more and talk less. In fact, it is a lot harder to take action than to talk about taking action. And I have found that until you take action, you do not really know what you are talking about.

Talking is good, to some extent. It exercises your mind and forces you to articulate your ideas. But to what end? I believe, talking should only serve the purpose of convincing others to join you in taking action. i.e. talking is a recruiting tool. Any other use is probably a waste of time for both the speaker and the audience.

Part of my excitement about GhanaConscious has always been driven by the belief that it was possible to form a community of Ghanaian practitioners online where one could return time and again to get inspiration to take more action. To that end, in the early days of GhanaConscious, there were occasional purges of the member rolls to remove those members who had signed on merely to observe or distract others. Controversial yes, but ultimately more effective in encouraging the right kind of community to form.

I never hoped for it to be a talking shop devoid of action. And so I am disappointed to see that the discussions on this forum have taken a decided turn in the direction of the hypothetical. "What if somebody?" instead of "I have done this and am looking for more ideas". This risks us becoming irrelevant and ineffective.

Please join me in calling out the talking heads and instead encourage the action-takers. Remember, Ghanaians have never had a lack of good ideas so merely spewing out ideas isn't impressive. What we have historically lacked are decisive action-takers. There are few people who have acted with conviction that and convincingly made a great impact on our national life--Kwame Nkrumah, J J Rawlings, Apostle Kwadwo Safo, Reggie Rockstone. For good or ill, they tried to do something good. They used words to convince others to join their cause, not to show off how "intelligent" they are. Let us learn lessons from the best among us.

"Be the change you want to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi



May I suggest to you to consider to start a proportion of your web logs (1 in 2 or 3 perhaps?) in twi?

I know some are sure to complain, but I think the long term benefits justify such action.

I'd like to see some content to induce me to develop my literal language skills further, especially concerning development of scientific vocabulary.

On the topic of action, I think you'll find (interim) hypotheses to be an essential precursor to effective actions. In essence, thinking (but not too much!) before acting.

My two pesewas before I am purged! ;)

Wow, what a welcoming

Wow, what a welcoming speech! Its enough to make people go off the site even more and give it the characteristically cold effect it always has. Yes trust Omanba to be controversial (but there is a method to my madness) but when you guys call for more action what action exactly are we talking about? And Ghanaian practitioners of what? One could be forgiven for thinking that if you sign on here to read what is going on or do not contribute an idea to a project from A to Z then you are irrelevant. Basically one has to belong to an elite board of brain stormers to fit in right?

Your charter says coming together to help with projects. That is if my understanding of a non-profit organ online hoping to help Ghanaians is right. When people like myself joined we were expecting projects of all sorts aimed at Ghanaians which we could support with donations and stuff. Well so far i have only seen the T-shirt competition (ages ago) since i joined and nothing else has come up that has engulfed this community as a whole. Which leaves one wondering what the Charter is all about. The Kasahurow projects, the bookshops and other projects seem more like bonafide properties of the executive and a few people in the know so it doesn't engulf everybody does it? Personally i haven't found any motivation or Tsoboi to put my shoulders to because there isn't one going on. We brain stormed about a few positive things in the past but it just went to dust. What bothers me is even if there is something going on its not that open for all to see and feel a part of so you might want to look into that. I am sure a lot of members feel this way.

And what of the think tank? Surely it takes both negative and positive brain storming to come out with dividends or are you expecting pious do as i say contributors? If that be the case then you would find that different facets of an idea will never come to the fore. But i believe the more diverse the debate, the more we learn and it motivates people to contribute their views.
And then there is also the small danger of people putting out all their brilliant ideas whiles others run off with it. What you havent done is put in place a secure hutch for such ideas. Its a free for all broadcast that any Tom, Dick or Harry can run off with. And whiles we are busy spewing them out for the sake of Intellect and a sense of belonging to an elite class we get nothing out of it. Its a different thing if the vote for the idea is carried by the whole membership of the forum and implemented then everyone will feel a sense of belonging and that they have contributed their quota. Truth is this site is only web based anyway and interaction in real time is completely non-existent. How you expect people to feel communal with that sort of interaction beats me. So in the end you get the same people writing their blogs and pieces and same old contributions and nothing motivates outsiders from peeking their heads out. In short it is not user friendly, too pristine and too bland.
At times it feels as if the concept of this site is that if you are not part of the executive, nor a moderators of sorts then you are not that important. That is bad vibes for this site to say the least. It reeks of bias.

So here is the deal. Perhaps before the call to arms sounds, the big guns of this site might want to go sit round the table and find out why first and then come out with some hows. Then perhaps things will take off. Dont blame it on the dormant readership or ineffective practioners as you put it. People have a lot to offer but there is no proper platform in place for them.


one pointed finger

My initial thought on reading the latest addition was: purge this poster! :)

Having said that, once you wade through the waffle there are one or two valid points.

Remember the news reader discussion? How many documents have been scanned? Or letters written to the high commission uk? Since the last post in that discussion, what's happened?

"we were expecting projects of all sorts aimed at Ghanaians which we could support with donations and stuff"

Well donations are easy but assuming stuff means actual work, please enlighten us with some examples of your support, because it's always good to be specific.

If projects seem part of the executive, then why not seek to become a member of the executive?

"Personally i haven't found any motivation or Tsoboi to put my shoulders to because there isn't one going on. We brain stormed about a few positive things in the past but it just went to dust. What bothers me is even if there is something going on its not that open for all to see and feel a part of so you might want to look into that."

Perhaps the management could tell us a list of projects requiring assistance. For example, like the java web site version for developers (, i.e. 'project help wanted ads').

Personally, I have no problems with proposing ideas for others to reap the benefit. For example, unless you are a selfish person, you should feel satisfied to have made a suggestion that inspired someone to do something positive without the need for personal gain.

I don't understand how real-time communication is so important. You asked for a chat-room, convinced it would increase activity; isn't that what the shout box does?

Ultimately, those unhappy with the web site could simply purge themselves and go set up their own web site: but wait a minute, that would mean serious work...

Comrade R, I believe I was

Comrade R, I believe I was trying to ask a few whys and point out a few hows so please don’t put words in my mouth and sway people away from what I am trying to get across. And in answer to your diatribe about the NEWSREADER project, I was ready for lift off for my part. The project didn’t take off or hasn’t as yet and since it’s a group thing I find your picking on me very amusing indeed. I wasn’t going to say this but at least I distributed 100 complimentary cards to this site in anticipation things and bought a brand new sony tape recorder. So chances are some of the dormant readership who pop in now and again are those I invited. Moreover, I don’t need to be an executive to make an impact. I quite enjoy being a common member.

See, when an observer comes to this site or a new member for that matter joins they would want to know a few things like:

The first two questions are clearly answered enough in the site’s Charter but it’s the rest that needs clarification and I don’t believe a declaration of membership cleansing by somebody I might have otherwise have regarded as a stalwart member of the top hierarchy is the way to do it. Its bad PR.
Paa Kwasi talks about effective Practitioners acting as sounding boards for people who might need help. Well as far as I am concerned there isn’t any interaction going on (and I am not talking chat rooms) because we don’t even get to see that sort of membership. The site is quiet. Nobody comes asking. It doesn’t strike me as the sort of interaction envisaged by the Charter. So, have we considered going/reaching out to them instead?

So I know how to turn Charcoal into Gold. Now which is better?
1. Splash my formula out on a blog
2. Submit my idea to the forum as a project so we find a group in say Ghana who produce charcoal but are poor and can benefit from turning it to Gold. We Implement, fund and monitor the project as a group and add it to our archive of achievements (note I wasn’t talking personal gain)
My money is on option two because it helps rally people around the more if they know that their time, input and money is going directly to a just cause and it would give credence to the site more and garner more support.
As it happens only a few people are saddled with the day to day runnings of the site so one can only stand by waiting for a call of sorts. This is what I mean by the absence of the motivation and Tsooboi and though some people hate me saying it we haven’t had a project in ages that we can all muck into.

As for purging myself out of here, well I have no doubt it will give you a lot of pleasure, but unfortunately I am not unhappy with the site; not in the dramatic way you paint it. I am just pointing a few things out, calling for more clarity and adding my little tuppence. Who knows it might just make a difference.


GhanaThink Managing Executive


Thanks Pk, for the blog

Concerning the more action, the onus of starting and seeing projects through is not the responsibilty. I will call the Tsooboi chair 'to order' to explain this further, but GhanaThink as a whole is there to facilitate projects and not necessarily have the 'Managing Executive' start them. The talking is great, it has helped generate a ton of ideas throughout the history of the forum, I belive Paa Kwesi's blog is calling on the action-takers to help us all implement some of these ideas.

Concerning the newsreader project, it failed because we were not to get anyone to step up and take ownership of the project. Frankly, the managing executive was hoping that would not be their job because our aim over the last year has been for more membership activity on the action part of course.
Omanba, you raised some great questions. I believe the first question is answered in our mission/goals. Concerning the rest, whoever (read team leader here) wants to see the idea implemented takes up responsibility and the role of GhanaConscious is to provide a community of people to help shape the idea and provide support. Tsooboi is to provide resources where it can to incubate the project. I think it is pretty simple.

In the meantime, we have a project going on called GTPP (apologies for not informing you guys - the Tsooboi website has been down for awhile now)
Check it out here - - GhanaThink Partnership Program

Less talk, more action!

the destiny of a nation at any given time depends on the opinions and contributions of its young men and women.

Thanks Ato for the official

Thanks Ato for the official response.

@Omanba--I'm now a non-executive GT member like yourself and so just sharing my personal thoughts on what I'd like to see more of around here. My point is about emphasis on action-oriented talk as opposed to mere discussion. For example, say you or someone you know has some action going on in some area of interest to the GhanaThink community and you had a problem, I'd like to see a post about those problems soliciting ideas for solving them.

So all I'm saying is that I don't see much of our posts being in this vein. Even if it starts in this "helpful" vein, it rapidly veers in the direction of the hypothetical and unachievable. If I ask for help with how best to spread African language use on the web, it's no use suggesting to me, "write a software program to email 1000 people", if I'm not a programmer. You get what I mean?

At any rate, I shall try myself to start action-oriented discussions. Let's start with this one :

Idea translation

I think GT i.e.Tsooboi! can do a lot with regard to IDEA TRANSLATION--the practicalities of transforming ideas on this forum and elsewhere into tangible projects e.g. a ToolKit/How to section on the site for initiating and undertaking various projects. Obviously,not all ideas can be acted upon by members of GT or forum visitors e.g. no individual here can single-handedly address brain drain (except by some personal decision unrelated to the entirety of the problem itself).Neither can we expect anyone to act on solving perenial problems we discuss here like energy supply in Ghana. So by action, i suppose PK mainly refers to achievable entrepreneurial ventures or social impact projects that individuals can take on.

Even with this narrower scope there is a huge collective action problem to be overcome and one that ultimately requires the GT executive to encourage if not initiate solutions to.People frequently speak in terms of "we" on this forum; e.g. 'we should ...' But who are WE? Obviously,not everyone will be interested in all or even most of the projects on GT.Likewise, not everyone's personal projects outside of this forum could naturally be made to involve GT. Thats why there ought to be specificity,clarity and publicity on the part of Tsooboi! regarding projects and the needed involvement of individuals (a point OMANBA briefly hints at earlier).

If people are not signing up for Tsooboi! projects or enlisting GT to assist them with their own then it may simply be a market research problem to be investigated and solved i.e. (are GT members simply not entrepreneurial enough;have little time to commit; or are people not interested in the Tsooboi! projects?If so why is that and how can participation be improved?)

PS: On a side note, while I am a believer in action, I strongly disagree with the assumed position that talk is cheap or that almost always, action--even if poor and of bad consequence --is superior to talk (and ideas).Coming from a practical-minded engineer,PK, whom I have the utmost regard for, I can understand the emphasis and call to action.But as a humanist and social scientist I think talk and ideas are as important if not more important than action--especially blind action. The best action is one grounded on the best thinking (and discussion).GhanaConscious/GT has value in and of itself as a platform for pure talk, ideas and discussion and should not necessarily be made into an action board of any sort. Don't call out the talking heads, help translate their ideas or leave them be.

PPS: I suppose "r" was joking when he wrote "purge this poster!" but such talk may appear intolerant to new members and should be discouraged...if we all purged dissenting views/posters there will be nothing on this forum.


Definitely joking

Just to clarify, my last post was indeed tongue in cheek commentary; definitely don't want to discourage new members from freedom of speech (unless scientific errors are manifest, hehehe...).

On the topic of tsooboi projects, if you look at the home page of the web site, there is not a single hyperlink using this very word!

Without encouraging clutter onto the nice clean home page, I think a direct tsooboi hyperlink is required.

well said mandock.

well said mandock.

The only thing I'd add to clarify my interest in "less talk and more action" is that I am saying that "we" have good ideas for starters. So I'm not going on the basis of simply jumping into ill-conceived action, so thanks for reinforcing this point just as Omanba did.

At the same time I also want to point out that regardless of how well-conceived an idea is, action cannot be perfectly pre-planned. In fact, in doing stuff you actually realize a lot of things that are not the way you planned it (and you have no way of telling in advance). This is because experience--based on prior action--is also a very important component of good planning. This is why when it comes to making, say, an airconditioner I take Apostle Safo more seriously than a lot of the best-educated theoretical engineers. I have much more respect for him than many of his "educated" detractors because bottom-line if the guy says, "I can make an air-conditioner in 3 weeks", he can prove it by citing past work.

And let us not forget that our parents, and their parents, especially those of us whose parents got a better education than us (like say your mom has a PhD and you just finished your masters) are living proof that we have people capable of putting out good ideas. We, their children, can certainly not know better than them, so a good option we have is to get the good ideas from them and put them into action. While putting them into action, we can tell whether those ideas are any good or not, and use that experience to formulate even better ideas for our children to implement if we run out of time. To assume that we somehow know better than our forefathers and so can come up with better ideas is not a good place to start. If the oldest person I know could have given birth to me, then I've definitely not got a monopoly on the best ideas is how I like to think of it:)

It is great to be young, and so once again, "less talk more action!". When we're old and weak, we can talk all we want :)

PS: If you want to know, my interest in kasahorow is not based on my own ideas, but that of "ancestors" like Diouf, Ngugi and their alternate resolution of the "in what language should African writers write" dilemma of the 1960s onwards. Why did I choose that idea? Well because it seems everyone followed the Achebe resolution--let us localize English to speak for us--and I'm not so sure that we have made any significant progress with that idea. When I've done kasahorow stuff for 5,10,15 years longer, I'll truly know what works and what doesn't and so will be in a much better position to come up with new ideas about how best Africans should communicate between themselves. This is just a specific example around language use.