Author: Leyla Ozay, e-mail. email@example.com
Questions - and a few answers - from the daily life of ICCO capacity development practitioners
Since 2006, ICCOenKerkinActie and Togetthere enable Young Professionals (YPs) working on development to exchange experiences about their work. The YPs work for local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as capacity development advisor. Most of them work in isolation and have limited possibility to meet colleagues face-to-face to share experiences.
Each year two discussion rounds, taking five weeks each, are organised virtually where the YPs share experiences about how to strengthen the operations of their partner organisations. The group is using a peer-to-peer coachingsmodel. Most YPs participate two rounds. Just before starting a discussion round, the YPs are asked by an online survey to share the topics which keep them awake at night or have a high degree of urgency for them. Some of the selected topics deal with: "How to make my work sustainable?" "How to create local ownership for what I am contributing?", or "How to position myself as professional in a different cultural context?"
After this survey, key individuals, who are willing to take a leadership role in the exchange of topics related to their work, meet via Skype with the online facilitator to elaborate the objectives and facilitation process. The role of the online facilitator is to design the online process based on the wishes and needs of the group as expressed in the survey. So far, D-groups and Skype have been used as the most effective and popular social media for exchange.
A discussion round takes average around 5 weeks. Case studies or key questions, introduced by the YPs, are mostly used as a basis for discussion. At the end of each discussion, one of the participants writes a note which is published at this blogpost 'Everything you always wanted to know about capacity development'. Literature is collected by asking people for links to interesting websited or publications. These references and benchmarks are documented at a virtual platform at ICCO-Cad wiki. In this way, the group builds a share memory.
Recently one of the Young Professionals shared her experiences by a video interview. View the video:
Music on video:
Song: Una Mañana: Musicians: Omar Meza & Fernando Rey, for more information contact: e-mail. firstname.lastname@example.org
Some comments which were shared by other YPs in evaluations last year:
"The way you experience the discussions and what you get out of it is of course different for each.....When I think back of the discussion I am not able to reproduce all the contents directly, but the first thing I recall is that feeling that the (pre)discussions were good moments to take a step back, to reflect and to share experiences."
"Just being able to share is valuable in itself. It helped me to concretely formulate my questions and issues I encounter."
The case was brought up because I am working for an organisation that has been going through a few months of uncertainty and restructuring. A relatively long period for me, as I am only working for this organisation for six months in total. In this period of uncertainty and management change there was not much room for new initiatives. Furthermore, many of my colleagues had and still have difficulties to motivate themselves for their work. An exception is the new director who is doing his best to transform the organisation into a successful and profitable organisation. This situation had quite a big impact on my own energy level.
This case raised the question how to deal with a situation of uncertainty at work and an absence of collective energy to go for it and build a successful organisation? The main question was how to turn this around to increase your own energy and the energy of others. This article does not provide the answer, as that is probably nonexistent, but will give some suggestions and insights into the topic.
· A crisis could be an opportunity to change something, a time when you can start developing and implementing new things. Dare to take the initiative.
· Try to discuss the passive atmosphere with other people in the organisation to see what can be done to overcome it.
· Do creative things to get new energy, for example to make a video that benefits the organisation in some way.
· Show people where you are working on, instead of just talking about it. If you want people to start acting and implementing new policies or events, you have to start organising. If not, nothing will happen by itself.
· Accept the situation as it is if you are not in the position to change the culture of the organisation. Enjoy, try to do other things that give you energy and accept that your work activities might be different from your initial plans.
· Sometimes it is better to focus on the things you can do, in the time you are still working there.
Young Professionals work with local organisations in challenging circumstances
Since the Discussion Group meeting on the topic the energy level in the organisation as well as my own motivation started to improve slightly. There are two important reasons for this:
The beginning of a turnaround
The motto of the new director is very clear. Everyone gets a chance to learn and adapt to the new line of management. He is prepared to help everyone and listen to everyone's questions and suggestions. However, those who are not willing to change and work hard to reach a successful organisation risk losing their job. He achieves this by rewarding those who achieve good results and clearly communicating the way he would like to see things happening. The positive effect is that performance goes up. The side effect is that there is some feeling of fear against him.
A mental change
Personally, I started to realise I should focus on the things I can do and accept, although it is very unfortunate, that there were two months in which I could not move forward as quickly as I had hoped for. Since we have overcome the ‘crisis’ now the moment seems to be there to implement new things and this seems to work quite well and gives energy! The new director is very open to any initiative to improve current processes and activities.
Maintaining your own energy levels
Before starting my job here in Africa I thought I was mentally prepared for a different working atmosphere. I had never imagined that it would hit me as hard as it did. I do believe the organisational struggles made that it hit me harder than it would have done otherwise, but still, apparently I was not prepared well enough for it.
Besides the points already mentioned, I think the following is important to keep in mind to keep yourself motivated and obtain energy from your work:
· Start by working with some people who seem to be interested. From here others might also realise your added value and start to open up.
· Show people in what way you can make a difference and make people’s work easier by not waiting too long to start implementing your ideas and projects. Often it takes too long to wait for a decision, if a start has already been made the decision is likely to follow automatically.
· Be patient and do not worry too much you will not be successful, eventually things will start happening in most cases.
A story from a Young Professional working in Africa
Some ideas of my junior colleagues all over the world were the following:
* Make things explicit: Ask what people expect from you and even ask whether they feel as if you are a burden to them. You might find out that it is only your feeling, yet others don't really see it that way.
* Do not give up on being an inspiration: Keep on observing and asking questions openly, instead of giving advice directly – try to connect to the priorities of the organization and contribute explicitly.
* It is useful to do an evaluation and ask people what they remembered most during a certain period of time, for example in the last year. How do they look back on your contributions?
In the end, not all the activities written in my plan could be carried out as they were proposed, but I showed my intentions repeatedly, which seemed to be very appreciated by the direction and members of Arte Acción. While first I was the one apologizing for asking over and over again for attention, now they apologize for not having dedicated all the time and space needed in order to accomplish with all the established goals in our plan.
I have come to the end of my time here and I feel that all people who have taken active part in my intervention, including myself, did the best they can. In the end, everyone realizes that the idea is to work together – in a constant “interdepence” - being conscious that through open communication and relying on each other, we can create a small change within this society.
Young Professional Togetthere
Amis Boersma, explaining a PME game.....
Work one on one with the ones who want to learn more
It was around my fourth month that reality began to kick in: change doesn't happen overnight and it certainly doesn't happen miraculously. Of course, I had read the articles on the topic, even took a course in change management. But it hadn't hit me yet that the theories actually made sense. People are reluctant to change. They are too busy with doing the important work they do to try new things. It's like the parable about the man chopping trees down in the wood with a saw. He doesn't want to stop to sharpen his saw, because he's too busy chopping...
Doing workshops together
So, there was a challenge. Even though I am a very open and outgoing person, I have a fervent dislike for anything that has a potential for conflict. So my initital tendency was not to push or insist. Instead I focused on other areas where I could be helpful – which luckily are many. However, this technique didn't help improve PME very much.
When people feel there are big changes ahead, which they cannot oversee, they tend to hold back. What to do when dealing with resistance? Mostly due to many discussions with my coach and my fellow capacity builders around the world, we came up with a set of recommendations which I am implementing now. One is to not come with a big set of changes, but with small changes, one at a time. Give many short workshops on a wide array of topics. Teach people how to write a proposal or analyze the organization together from different perspectives.
Work one on one with people that are interested to learn more. Help them writing proposals or reports. Not only this, but work on anything else that people need help with as long as it's not too far from the scope of your task. Setting an example or showing different ways of working is also a form of capacity building, I believe.
Make it fun!
As I teach English every Wednesday, I have created 'free' time with some of my colleagues (the class is open to all staff). I use the classes sometimes to discuss issues related to PME, such as cultural differences when it comes to experiencing time and planning. We've talked about leadership, learning and working towards a goal. The class gives a platform to talk about PME without having to call it that.