An intervention in February 2017 reveals what staff performance at the levels of project activity implementation may say to a civil society organization about its organizational development questions.
Toward the end of February 2017 was requested by UCRT (Ujamaa Community Resource Team), based in Arusha, Tanzania, to observe its own designed and conducted staff assessment process involving 32 UCRT (20 men, 12 women) staff members. In addition to ensuring a safe ground for all in the assessment procedures, was also asked to document the results in summary form and present the findings to the UCRT board, i.e., 1) a general picture of what had emerged as strengths and weaknesses of the various staff members in terms of performance at skills and relationships levels; 2) key challenges noted that were likely to impact UCRT as a whole; 3) the performance picture that emerged, relating particularly to UCRT management; 4) related opportunities and challenges for UCRT’s organizational development.
UCRT is a non-profit organization founded in 2002 which supports local communities to secure legal rights over their lands and equips them with skills in sustainable natural resource management. It works with eight different ethnic groups in 60 pastoralist and hunter-gatherer communities, spread across five districts of Northern Tanzania.
UCRT is particularly concerned that some of East Africa's most traditional pastoralist and hunter-gatherer communities are currently at great risk of losing their land and resources due to progressive land encroachment and lack of representation in modern Tanzania.
More than 30 women and men staff members if UCRT are working with great commitment to facilitate community-based natural resource management troughs advocacy and collaboration with government institutions at district levels.
To expand their model and scale up community led sustainable resource management and land rights initiatives for pastoralists and hunter-gatherer communities, UCRT is currently working to strengthen its organizational systems and strategic focus.
What stood out
Facilitating meaning making and responsibility-taking
From the point of view of change management in organization development practice, what went particularly well included:
Insights gained by facilitators
In their own reflection, looking back at the intervention, the two consultants who facilitated the UCRT process highlighted their new learning as follows:
Evaluation of facilitators’ reflection process
In 26 July 2016 EASUN trained 15 (9 women, 6men) board members and directors of 9 civil society organizations from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Participants major learning on transformational and ethical leadership were highlighted.
Ethical leadership is purposeful
Board members and CSO directors attending EASUN’s board training sensitization workshop expressed their new recognition of the meaning of being purposeful leaders. They shared an insight that captured the real meaning toward being a purposeful CSO board, i.e., “Explicitly define the organization’s agenda for existence and develop organizational capacities to fulfill that purpose and track progress so as to meet specific needs related to managing the stated purpose.”
Understanding the difference between "purpose" and "purposing" proved to carry great implications for board leadership and their role in the identity management of their organizations. The trained board members defined organizational identity as: "Values, ethics and goals working in the same direction, and normally enshrined in an organization’s vision and mission statements"
Identity management, on the other hand, was characterized as: “safeguarding who we are and what we believe in: This was expounded as follows: “Identity management is how you maintain your leading image and sustain it, ensuring its visibility, to influence how others perceive you."
New learning about ethical leadership expressed
The trained board members expressed their new learning that how you use power is a mark of your leadership--which, in the end may be perceived to be either ethical or unethical, transformational or self-serving.” Noted:
EASUN coached 4 programme staff of a CBO (UZIKWASA) based in Pangani District, Tanzania, to train local community leaders in transformational leadership skills (“uongozi wa mguso”). Testimonies documented below were gathered in follow-up coaching sessions for the trained leaders in Mwembeni and Pangani East villages.
Mwembeni Village: 14th August 2014
“I initiated a camp for class 7 students to stay over in school during exam times, toward their better performance in national examinations.” (Primary school teacher);
“I added the number of people I visit and support by 50% within two months after the training.” (Volunteer health officer and counselor of people living with HIV);
“Through improved listening skills we have minimized divisions based on religious or political party grounds that were rife in the village before the training.” (Village leader);
“Improved listening skills (listening at 3 levels) has enabled me to “let go” of my old argumentative behavior. I now give more room to community members to express their views without judging them. I am committing much of my leadership time now to create awareness and minimize unfounded fears that have tended to undermine community aspirations and productivity”. (Community leader);
“I have developed confidence that now allows me to speak in public, at the levels of family and larger groups of people.” (Woman village committee member).
Listening skills have minimized divisions
based on religion and politics
Pangani East village: 15th August 2014
“We created new awareness and convinced one particular family to allow their young daughter to continue with school instead of getting married at 14 years of age.” (two women school teachers);
“I have developed a new practice of sitting together with my children, listen to their needs and more actively support in their school work.” (male community member);
“I have taken extra steps to help 32 elderly people to access medicare support from government facilities.” (village legal officer);
“I have improved my responsiveness to village members’ expressed needs, which has increased people’s confidence in the village government.” (village leader);
“There is now increased awareness by community members regarding the importance of reconciliation, peace-making and respect for women and men striving together for the development of the community.” (village leader).
Twenty-two (22) civil society leaders from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania participated in a 4-day workshop organized by EASUN in Moshi, Tanzania, from 9th to 13th November 2014. The theme of the workshop was civil society identity construction.
The workshop was planned by EASUN as a response to some inconsistencies that CSOs are currently experiencing in relation to their ethical claim and aspirations toward creating a civil society. Many such contradictions are embedded in organizational cultures and structures that are shaping the management and leadership practices of CSOs.
Many CSOs, for instance, have embraced deeply hierarchical structures, governance cultures and practices from government and business sectors that do not reflect the values and advocacy agendas expressed in their programme documents. Such lack of commitment to a clear identity has also allowed self-defeating competitiveness to thrive which threatens the needed collaboration to bring about change through advocacy work. Essential values of the sector, such as transparency and accountability seem to have become mainly compliance rhetoric for the survival of individual civil society organizations. This, consequently, is undermining the potential impact that CSOs can realize in transforming governance practices toward economic and social justice.
Among the immediate benefits gained by CSO leaders in the three 3-day training workshop were:
The workshop engaged participants in learning processes aimed at clarifying civil society practices that characterize good governance and drive civil society advocacy as a value driven sector. More specifically, the learning activities 1) surfaced important questions regarding the management of CSO institutional identity; 2) created new knowledge and skills in facilitating identity construction; 3) generated insights and commitment to strengthening identity construction in individual CSOs and networks.
Special content matters such as change management and collaboration generated awareness and expressions of commitment to future sustained conscious identity management by participating CSO leaders.
The CSO identity construction workshop launched a platform for knowledge creation and skills development around identity management. As a result of the rich content highlighted above, the following were experienced, expressed and documented by participants:
The workshop initiative on identity construction is to be taken forward by EASUN through training workshops for CSO networks, FOLD training, and other capacity building work on leadership and governance that will be implemented between 2015 and 2017.
EASUN has managed an internship program for young women leaders since 2009. By 2013, four (4) young women (ages 25-30) from Tanzania and Kenya had participated in the internship and emerged to occupy strategic leadership positions in the context of civil society development activities in the East African region.
The overall objective of the internship is to strengthen both the substance and perception of women’s leadership in East Africa, as well as transform overall leadership styles towards more facilitative and transformational qualities. After completion of their internship within EASUN, the young women leaders will have a chance to provide leadership in civil society organizational and project settings; where organizational learning and inclusive, team-based participative processes and structures can easily be piloted, documented and replicated.
The internship is creating possibilities for women to lead and facilitate the development of others from a young age. This is a significant departure from the usual pattern of male dominated leadership situations that are failing to offer leadership orientations to the youth. Training young women is a key strategic intervention by EASUN in a context that is experiencing a general erosion of democratic leadership.
Akampurira Busingye joined EASUN’s internship progtamme in August 2014, for a two-year duration. Her leadership vision is to see the emergence of participatory communities that are consciously managing and sustaining just, peaceful and equitable relations.
Akampurira stated her personal leadership vision and mission during her first formal coaching session at EASUN, on 16th December 2014.
“Diligently build my capacity to impact on society positively by transforming people’s ability to deal with their structural and emerging development questions and challenges.”
Through further conversations with her listening partner at EASUN, Akampurira clarified what she meant by structural questions as “behaviours and attitudes shaped by lack of awareness, which often lead to exploitation of specific groups of people often endure because they are rationalized as a basis for maintaining harmony or peace—although not necessarily with justice as a pre-condition.
Similarly, she explained emerging development questions as issues that remain un-resolved or stuck, over time, and are often glossed over on the pretext of prevailing culture or procedures. Such development questions require transformative learning, i.e, deep level changes in information being provided or ways of thinking and assumptions about specific situations.
Akampurira’s expressed new learning from the first coaching session pointed to the question of values and the courage to scrutinize them as the foundation of transformational leadership; noting that her own vision statement carried a clear set of values: “The coaching enabled me to measure my commitment to personal development as a change leader.” The mental models and feelings that drive me as an individual have been brought to the surface for me to examine with greater openness.”
Vision and mission, being statements of purpose, are the core of any strategy. This was, therefore, a key starting point for planning and implementation of values-based leadership for the “young woman leader” from Uganda.
What EASUN achieved in 2014
|Trained Board members are offering their knowledge and skills to support programme and change management|
|Supported organizations made policy and process changes to promote equitable participation of women
and men in governance.
40 trained Leaders changed practices from top down to facilitative interactions in organizational and community situations
Four (4) Trained leaders introduced organizational learning practices in their organizations, which includes the use of powerful learning tools in activity evaluations;
One (1) trained leader helped his organization to reframe its understanding of leadership by using images of transformational leadership in coaching managers;
One (1) trained leader introduced a process for strengthening organizational learning and changed the culture by which staff are appraised and promoted in the organization;
One (1) trained leader was invited to train teachers of a Girls’ school in Uganda in transformational leadership skills;
One (1) trained woman leader in Tanzania transformed the culture of family meetings from confrontation to dialogue, which changed the practice of the annual meeting in the family;
Forty (40) leaders trained in the context of partnership with local CBOs implemented changed their leadership practices, mostly from top-down to facilitative interactions in organizational and community situations.
On 5th July 2016, EASUN held a conversation with two (2) leaders of VAD (Voluntary Action for Development) who had completed FOLD training three months earlier. VAD is an NGO based in Kampala, Uganda, working to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable communities through various project activities. The two leaders trained have demonstrated energetic desire to share their own learning with others in their organization; particulary with the purpose of influencing organizational culture change in VAD.
The follow-up visit by EASUN enabled a wide ranging discussion of how FOLD training had transformed leadership practices of the trained individuals, as well as the specific changes in their own knowledge and values that enabled them to introduce new ways of doing things in VAD.
Benedict is the Executive Director of VAD, while Leonard is the Programmes Manager, who is also leading VAD activities in Amuria District of Uganda. They both attended cycle “U” of EASUN’s FOLD (Facilitating Organizational Learning and Development) training, held in Kampala between August 2015 and April 2016.
VAD members have strengthened information sharing, particularly through newly introduced reflective learning platforms. VAD staff members have also become more aware of their roles in the team context and are increasingly carrying out their tasks with enhanced team spirit.
A more advanced intervention by the two trained leaders has been their mentorship of colleagues to understand the organization as a complex system. This has increased their awareness of how their actions within their different functions impact other levels of the organization.
Mentoring others has become a critical leadership practice by both Benedict and Leonard. Specific improvements brought about by the new mentoring approach include: 1) More active listening by staff; 2) Improved ability to work with contributions of others; 3) Increased consciousness by individuals in VAD about how their own actions impact the team and the whole organization.
The two leaders also highlighted what they feel they have done particularly well in working with their new learning from FOLD training. Leonard shared how he had particularly embraced application of the action learning model, a particularly power tool for facilitating learning in others. He was able to introduce the tool to other staff members, who now use it in programme activity implementation. He has also applied the reflective processes in this tool to himself on an ongoing basis. “As a leader”, he observed, “my own learning practice has been enhanced in relation to the new awareness about our organization as a complex system. I continuously apply action-learning to assess how my interventions in any part of the organization will impact other parts of the system.”
The two leaders have also introduced the concept of shared leadership among the staff. In this regard, the organization has designated a specific individual to perfom a leading role in convening learning meetings. Specific tasks in this role include managing the schedule for meetings and ensuring that different members of the VAD team are organizing and delivering their contributions in ways that facilitate the learning of others.
Through mentorship, Benedict transferred key leadership skills learnt from FOLD, particularly listening skills, to some senior staff in VAD. He also role-modelled the same new skills in his interactions with staff members. This has influenced their positive responsiveness and improved relationships.
Leonard, on the other hand, regularly applies action-learning on his FOLD experience in order to assess how he is working with his new learning within the organization.
One particular challenge experienced and shared by the two trained VAD leaders is how to make learning a reality in the organizational situation and project activities. They noted that there has been much talk about learning in VAD in the past, but without actively establishing learning systems. VAD’s new awareness about the need for consciously managed organizational learning is now pointing to the need for more concrete actions on its desire to become more effective in managing change.
Benedict and Leonard each characterized major shifts they have become aware of in themselves that influenced specific changes in VAD’s organizational culture and practices. Following below is how they explained it in their own words:
Benedict: “Consciously managing my own change has influenced change in others in ways that generate ownership of their own learning and development. I have become conscious of the fact that people need to see that I, as leader, have changed—for instance, that I am listening to them better than before. My main focus on change has been around my ability to listen actively and mentor others to develope their capacity for empathic listening.”
Leonard: “Before I think of pursuing what I want to do in the organization, I now first assess what is the possible impact on the whole organization. My increased ability to see the organization holistically has motivated me to mentor others to assess everything they do in terms of advancing the overall mission of VAD. This is strengthening our team learning and collective ability to manage VAD’s organizational identity. We have managed to establish different platforms for conscious reflection, including: 1) weekly meetings, 2) morning devotions; 3) one-on-one mentorship of staff.”
Extremely busy schedules related to meeting reporting deadlines have not allowed VAD to sustain engagement in the different learning platforms developed. Such extreme busy-ness has particularly engulfed VAD in managing the formal organization and donor related compliance issues. Constant activity implementation without sufficient time to learn together and grow through practice improvement has placed limits on the ability of VAD to effectively manage its institutional growth through the various phases of organizational development.
The story of board training for RUHEPAI, in Uganda and ZIFF - Zanzibar (see page 5) illustrates how effective board training enables CSO board members to identify their ethical leadership questions based on enhanced emotional intelligence. In addition the two NGO boards trained unearthed important questions with regard to strengthening their leadership roles toward improving shared sense of purpose in their organizations. Key leadership issues noted relate to boards’ ability to facilitate CSO identity construction as well as the transitions that characterize growth and needed changes in organizational culture and practices. Specific insights expressed in relation to transition and identity construction included the realization, in ZIFF, that board members need to facilitate more integration through enhanced mutual respect and shared leadership practices.
Board members of both organizations recognized that lack of conscious and proactive management of organizational identity was causing erosion of public awareness about the purposes of their organization. This was causing loss of trust and local support.
The two boards trained identified partnership building and internally galvanizing shared sense of purpose to be key roles and responsibilities of the board. They expressed a new awareness that strengthening the purposing and strategic thinking roles of the board will touch their passion and lead them to align their personal sense of purpose with that of the organization.
One emerging insight expressed by board members in the RUHEPAI board training was: “Everybody has power but not everyone is a leader.” In terms of practical change planning, a similar new learning was most pronounced in the ZIFF board training in Zanzibar. A particular self-awareness exercise enabled each board member to identify new orientations that they will work to develop in order to adopt more facilitative power-use in their leadership functions.
Participating board members in ZIFF characterized ongoing efforts in organizational transformation as breaking into the “integrated phase” of development. They debated the perceived risks of losing control—but also gained the insight that supervision in the integrated phase can still be done in an advocacy manner, which includes coaching for performance enhancement and team based processes of managing accountability and shared learning. It was noted that a key aspect of the board’s own accountability would be to embrace and facilitate ZIFF’s growth as an integrated phase organization, rather than sticking to the clutches of the founder member syndrome or resorting to the rigidities of bureaucratic management.
A rural CBO in Uganda and an internationally flavored Pan Africanist CSO in Zanzibar discover similar institutional development questions in separate board training interventions.
NGO boards have tended to style their leadership in terms of hierarchical supervision only, rarely providing leadership to create orgarnizational entities that work through common sense of purpose.
In 2016, EASUN trained boards of two CSOs that are quite different in their profiles and outreach activities. Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) received board training in February, and in July of the same year conducted a 3-day board training for RUHEPAI (Rural Health Promotion and Poverty Alleviation Initiative). The latter does its work in Isingiro District in Western Uganda. The training in both ZIFF and RUHEPAI boards enabled participants to experience the need for creating integration and sustainable collaboration in organizational situations.
In the training process for both ZIFF and RUHEPAI, particular interventions were used that increased consciousness of board members about working with the contribution of others in shared tasks and responsibilities within work place spaces. Elaborating on how they had experienced a walking exercise, for instance, participants in the RUHEPAI training noted that walking in pairs was asking more of them in terms of the need to be aware of the presence of others, compared to when they walked alone. Some phrases used in the reflection included: “be mindful of other’s presence”, “examine patterns and steps”, “regulate oneself” and “walk together”. One board member noted: “Something shifted in me because I opened-up and paid attention as I walked.” In practical terms for organizational contexts, shifts resulting from increased mindfulness were characterized as “making necessary adjustments in behavior in order to increase one’s ability to contribute effectively or provide facilitative leadership in team situations.”
In ZIFF, as well as in RUHEPAI, self-awareness of leaders generated from the walking exercise was strengthened by other learning processes that enhanced emotional intelligence skills, such as listening at three levels, strategic questioning techniques, strengths-based language and power-use effectiveness.
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.”