DENIVA is a national level network of indigenous voluntary Associations in Uganda. Its executive director, Justus Rugambwa, attended ’s FOLD training in 2013/2014.
DENIVA is one of the oldest and best known NGO networks in Uganda and East Africa as a whole. In an extended discussion on 16th April 2016, in Kampala, Justus highlighted a list of innovative systems and processes that he introduced after FOLD training, which transformed governance in DENIVA. A particular aspect that stands out are new systems that focus on uplifting ethical leadersip of the board. He mentioned the following three innovations that specifically made a difference in the board’s performance of its roles and leadership responsibilities:
Established regular review meetings between ED and board chairperson;
Developed board governance and membership vetting manual that sought to ensure that DENIVA board members are providing leadership based on clear ethical standards for leading a civil society organization;
Established systems for assessing staff performance, focusing not only on skills and delivery, but also on specific benchmarks for ethical behaviours that would facilitate the success of the whole team.
A number of things made it possible for such deep changes to happen at a collective level of leadership in DENIVA. From his own perspective, Justus noted specific things that particularly supported effective change management in DENIVA:
• Both Board chairperson and ED are graduates of ’s FOLD course, which rooted them in basic organization development (OD) theory and tools;
• Mutual acknowledgement and mutual respect between ED and Board chairperson, i.e., ability developed by both of them to discuss various organizational development questions with openness;
• Three (3) DENIVA board members attended ’s Board Training Sensitization Workshop in 2013, held in Moshi, Tanzania. Others attended a similar sensitization workshop organized by in Uganda in May 2014.
Justus observed that he had become aware of three major shifts in how he is currently working with his self-awareness to facilitate change at different levels in DENIVA. He says: “Applying listening skills has increased my openness and ability to dialogue. I am more able now to move into different situations and conversations without having drawn conclusions in advance.” He also referred to increased comfort with his own vulnerability, which he perceives to have reduced stress for him. In addition, Justus has become aware of his increased ability to “let go”, which has allowed him to invite others to “be the best they can be” without feeling judged by him. He further noted that such growth at the level of working with the self has strengthened his ability to mentor others and improve collective learning processes, as well as participation and team work in the workplace.
Justus referred to incursions into civic space that still hinder the development of organized civil society in Uganda and Africa as a whole. He highlighted his own encounters with external challenges that have often caused efforts by civil society leaders, to get stuck. For instance:
• Donors increasingly influencing Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to become environments for competition between project systems and institutional identity management. The whole organizational system within a local CSO becomes consumed by project compliance demands. This creates tension when some staff push exclusively for compliance with project requirements, above priorities for identity construction and sustainability;
• Unpredictability of donor funding is creating uncertainty, instability and anxiety;
• Some Donors are emphasizing the marketing of their own brands through activities carried out by local organizations while refusing to fund identity management activities of the local organizations themselves.
He went on to assess the reality in the current environment in relation to what he had learnt in FOLD. He made the following observation: “In FOLD, I learnt about the power of organizational culture in promoting or hindering change”. He continues:
The power of culture and the critical role of leadership in consciously managing culture change processes has been confirmed for me; especially each time I see a conflict between enforced project systems and the spirit of a civil society organization. Many systems established in CSOs are normally imposed by donors for compliance in the context of project activities. They are often not about supporting the indepedent growth of civil society identity and sustainability in Africa.
It is unfortunate, according to Justus, that project focused systems are presumed to be the basis for defining organizational capacity building for CSOs: “FOLD training gave me a new perspective on capacity development in complex organizational situations. From this new lens I can see that the exclusively project focused approach to systems development sets up CSOs for failure.” He continues to observe that rules and reporting procedures by donors require a lot of time to manage: “In situations where CSOs are increasingly living in anxiety and fear of losing donor funding, it would seem pointless to invest a lot of effort to shift out of current ways of doing things in order to adapt systems that may not be relevant in a year’s time.”
Helen Twongyeirwe is currently the head teacher at Kiggwa Senior Secondary School, in Uganda. Before that she was deputy head teacher at Lubiri Secondary School.
Helen attended EASUN’s FOLD training in 2012. Her move from an elite, urban school to a poor rural school was informed by a desire to transform organizational culture in a school situation, taking into account the powerful influence of educational institutions on society. In a discussion with EASUN, in April 2016, Helen talked about the impact of FOLD training on her leadership: “My motivation to attend FOLD training was to find a way to use Orgarnization Development (OD) skills in public institutions to improve practices and relationships for better performance.” However, she quickly realized that the emphasis on traditional ways of doing things in her old school was not going to allow innovation or experimentation with governance—particulary leadership practices of teachers and administrators.
Helen decided to move from the elite school in order to follow her vision of transforming practices in public schools. She successfully applied for the position of head teacher at Kiggwa Secondary School. She says: “I wanted a space where I would be in charge, in order to apply my OD learning and introduce different ways of doing things.”
A number of innovative systems and processes introduced by Helen in her new school have transformed governance and other relationships between the various stakeholders. A particular aspect that stands out is the way that school meetings are now organized to be more reflective and focused on learning for improvement.
Helen has also embraced a mentoring approach, i.e., facilitating her colleagues to achieve specific milestones in key areas, such as report writing and self-expression.
Other innovative practices that she has pioneered include making new ideas organization–wide so that they are owned by the whole institution as well as organizing team building through learning sessions.
Helen is now particularly keen about her new abilities as a facilitator capable of working with the wisdom of the situation. “FOLD has shaped new attitudes and behavior in me towards the people I find in any local situation.” In Amudat district, formerly Karamoja, she used images as a tool and succesfully facilitated a predominantly male faith-based group to come to acceptance with regard to the huge gap in the workloads of men and women in community.
Helen highlighted her own self-development processes and new facilitation skills that particularly supported her change management efforts. These include: 1) Courage to create opportunities for experimentation with new processes of organizational development; 2) Applying techniques that build trust and empower others in problem-solving; 3) Shifts in her own attitudes and behavior, i.e., developed skills that enable empathy to emerge in a leader.
In her further learning through accompaniment by EASUN facilitators in real time interventions, Helen learnt to manage interventions that minimize stuck situations in organizations and communities, and strengthened a supportive posture that moulds a facilitative and transformational leader.