On the 7th anniversary of Paradem’s inception, I thought it would be interesting to tell how Paradem came about.
From 2010 to 2013, I lived and volunteered at the administrative centre for the Bahá’í Faith is located in Haifa, Israel. Bahá’ís from all over the world come to offer service at this World Centre and help advance the community-building vision of their Faith. For my part, I served in a department that provided information technology assistance.
An elected body, called the Universal House of Justice, guides the worldwide Bahá’í community. In reality, it is a model of a learning organization. The community is globally unified, and grassroots experience in one part of the world is generated, systematized, and disseminated. This process helps individuals and communities everywhere as all strive to put the principles of the Bahá’í Faith into practice to advance the wellbeing of all society. In our teams at the World Centre, we tried every day to implement this global learning methodology. It shaped everything from how we consulted to how we conceived of and implemented projects. It helped us see the role of reflection and the power of seeing that both the individual and the collective must advance together.
One of the most striking things I learned was how new ways of thinking could reshape technological development. I’d come to understand that many organizations disregard the needs and capacities of individuals when embarking on information technology projects. The pattern usually goes like this: a technology expert identifies a “problem” from afar, designs a solution without the involvement of the individual or community, and then hands it down, as if from on high. They expect people to be happy and thankful without fully realizing the implications for the tool they just developed.
At the World Centre, we operated within a framework where consultation and participation drove the development of information technology. We found that people were happier with tools and used them more effectively when involved in the analytical and creative processes that informed their creation.
I met Jon while I was at the World Centre. Naturally, we started to talk about possibilities for the future and reflect on the insights we were gaining in Israel. When I was departing at the end of my term of service, I met up with him in France to explore an opportunity that had just emerged. It seemed promising, and we decided to negotiate a rate and choose a start date. We had landed our first client. OfficeSpace Software.
In the following months, around mid-2014, the company, now known as Paradem, would both formally come into existence and embark on a path of growth. Jon stepped back from OfficeSpace to focus on business development. Our vision for the company also became more refined as we articulated two objectives that would shape the coming years.
Firstly, we wanted to learn how to create an organization that saw the process of technological development as a fundamentally collaborative and unity-building endeavour. We wanted to learn how to apply the worldwide learning of the Bahá’í community to contribute to new models of economic activities.
This new process would also recast ways of technological development that are inherently competitive, where the “user” and an “expert” fight for control and direction. We wanted to learn how to build technology that amplified human capacity and avoided creating situations where people become slaves to imposed technological solutions.
Secondly, we wanted to learn if a globally distributed, fully remote company was possible. Our first employees came from our contacts and networks. Many, as they still are today, were former staff at the Bahá’í World Centre.
To this day, these two objects of learning frame all our successes and challenges. The questions that come continue to be both complex and subtle.
– Kevin Pratt, Founder