Friday, 8 July 2011

Change catalyst???

One of the hardest things about being a VSO volunteer is that your aim is to facilitate change, and change is hard!  However during the last five days I feel like I have achieved more professionally than the whole time I have been in Nigeria, around 16 months.  I am very realistic change is challenging and who knows what is around the corner, so I want to post this before I find out!

Part of my role at NEST is “Organisational Development Advisor”, or OD.  OD is helping an organisation to assess its strengths and weaknesses and make a plan for developing itself, VSO is interested in this as it works through partner organisations, and VSO can more effectively reach its vision of a world without poverty, if the partners it works with have improved capacity.

During my first week at NEST, I co-facilitated an OD workshop, over two days around 20 people, comprising staff, board members and partners, assessed NEST according to about 50 indicators, and made suggestions for improvement.  These indicators covered a range of “capacity areas” such as Strategy and Vision, Board of Trustees, Management, Human Resources, Finance, IT. 

I sensed a sense of excitement to how NEST could improve and a commitment to make it happen.  It was my job to write a report of the workshop and lead the development of a work-plan.  The report was fine;  I could do that alone, but then the work-plan....

Reality was trying to get a small group of people together to turn the findings from the assessment into a plan of action.  Although I was the lead on this it needed to be done in participation with staff, or it was likely to be irrelevant, and with no staff ownership, and confined to the filing cabinet. 

We started with a mix of “big people” and “little people”, but getting the “big people” in one room and focussed on the task was a challenge, so I got permission from the “big people” to work with the “little people” to come up with a draft.  Then I found that “little people” are also difficult to get in a room because “big people” send “little people” on errands.  I became more and more frustrated and got fed up with OD.

Then I was in Abuja for a meeting, and I was chatting with a former Executive Director of NEST, who had been at the OD Workshop, he commended me on the report, and said, “if NEST implement everything in that report, NEST will go far”.  He got me thinking so what is stopping me, how do I make it happen.  The following day there was a board meeting, so I asked the chair of the Board if I could make a presentation about the OD process, he agreed. 

In my presentation, I tried to give members of the board, (some of whom were present at the OD workshop) a sense of the possible future for NEST, and to build ownership to the process, but I told them I was stuck, that the land of milk and honey had been spied, but there were giants in the way, and we didn’t want to wander in the desert for 40 years.  (Numbers 13 ff).  They asked me what I wanted, so I said I wanted my small team for 2 hours a day for a week.  I got it.

So last week, Monday to Thursday, 4 of us developed a Draft Work Plan, and I think its good, and I think that the four of us worked hard, are committed and motivated to make it happen.  Let’s see what comes next!

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