Friday, 30 March 2012

Resource Mobilisation Training. Resource Mobilisation Training. (Because twice is better than once)

One of the really great things about VSO is the opportunity to learn from other volunteers and utilise their skills and experience in your own placement.  A couple months ago Helen, another volunteer working in the area of Resource Mobilisation, and I realised we were both planning to hold upcoming training in resource mobilisation for staff in our organisations.  We thought about it and recognised almost immediately that while training delivered by 1 volunteer is good, training delivered by 2 volunteers is really good, and so we decided to team up and co-facilitate both training days.

Helen leading a session at her organisation.
In February I attended the VSO annual conference at which Helen was one of the facilitators – she was excellent and I was very excited to have her enthusiasm, dynamism and creativity in my organisation for a day.  In addition – I thought it would be a great opportunity to have some of the ideas I’ve been trying to bring into ICL (such as cash is not the only resource to mobilise) echoed by another volunteer. And we all listen better to voices we don’t hear as often.

Francis, one of Helen's colleagues, practising his organisational elevator pitch.
The process started about 2 months before the training when we each individually started preparing our training sessions, specifically identifying what the learning objectives for the training would be and some activities we might include to achieve those.  In my department plan for 2012 I have included 4 pieces of in-house training across this year, and it was suggested in January by the CEO that the first training look at developing, building and keeping relationships with donors.  I was asked to include in the training the resource mobilisation team, project managers and executive management team (15 people in total) in order to start to build the capacity of senior staff in approaching potential donors.  Working with that brief, I decided to widen the training to look more broadly at supporters of all kinds (not just monetary donors) – however the principles are the same.  The learning outcomes I developed for the day were 

1.Increased knowledge about types of supporters and their varied importance.
2.Increased knowledge of how to pitch to potential supporters
3.Increased confidence to approach (methods and content) and build relationships         with potential supporters.
4.Increased resources through relationships developed and nurtured.
5.Increased supporter satisfaction.

Two of Helen's colleagues enjoying their training,
 About a month before the training Helen and I met together for half a day to plan out the two training days.  This was one of the most beneficial aspects of the process; it helped me clarify what I wanted to achieve in the training and how to best to realise those outcomes.  I had spent so much time planning and researching for the training that I was getting a bit lost in it and found it difficult to come up with fresh ideas.  Helen had a lot of ideas for how to make sessions interesting and engaging and new, for example an activity about how to nurture a relationships supporters which involved audio recording “a donor” (my housemate Andrea) describing their experiences with different NGOs.

Helen next to the agenda for the day's training.
I was able to support Helen in flushing out her training as well.  Her training day was focussed on providing core fundraising understanding and skills to all staff at her placement.  Helen works for a national union of the blind, an organisation with large reach but quite a small central staff team with varying experience in raising funds.  As part of the training she was specifically interested in supporting the staff to understand how to put a project plan together – which I have quite a bit of experience in and was able to support.  We developed a basic template with 5 steps: identify the need the project will meet, state the aim of the project, identify a few outcomes (changes that will occur as a result of the project), specify what activities will be carried out to achieve the outcomes, and create a budget.

Me, standing next to visual representations of the various types of support NGOs should look for - a key theme of the day of training at I Choose Life.
The trainings were held on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, with Helen’s organisation first.  Helping to facilitate training for Helen’s organisation was really interesting as several of her colleagues are either blind or visually impaired and things I have taken for granted when delivering training sessions previously became apparent, such as using flip chart or handouts. I’ve not worked in an organisation working with persons living with disability before, and all of a sudden the concept of accessibility was more than government orders we begrudgingly comply with, trying to decipher how far we have to go to make “reasonable adjustments”.  Rather I saw accessibility as something that either enables or disables someone from participating.  

Group work during training at I Choose Life.  This particular exercise involved analysing the types of relationships we have various supports and how to learn from those.
Her organisation was extremely welcoming and friendly.  Compared to my placement, which has a much more corporate culture and image and is a much more fast-paced and stressful place to work, Helen’s organisation is typical of what we think we sign up for with VSO – grassroots capacity building one small slow step at a time.  While there are great things about my placement, I was able to see what this experience might have been like if I had that typical VSO placement – and there are some lovely things about it.

Mutie, a member of the Resource Mobilisation at I Choose Life, practising his organisational pitch.

On Wednesday we delivered training at I Choose Life (ICL).  We had quite a full agenda, but I think the agenda successfully included enough variance in activities while still rearticulating and punctuating the theme for the day.  Despite the fact that some of the attendees regularly work closely with me on developing proposals and other have no experience in fundraising, the topic of relationship building seemed to be new and pertinent to everyone in the room.

Facilitating a session on how we talk about our organisation to the public.
One of the highlights of the day was an activity in which we explored how we talk about ICL when we meet new people – the kinds of things we talk about and the language we use.  ICL has a wide range of activities and beneficiaries and can be complicated to explain succinctly and passionately to those who don’t know us.  There was good discussion around the importance of creating an institutional platform (the common things that are included in what the public hear or read about the organisation), while wanting to avoid creating robots required to recite a script. Each attendee was given 10 minutes to prepare their own 1 minute pitch about I Choose Life, starting with the phrase “I work at I Choose Life because...”.  While being quite a lot of fun, the activity also gave everyone the opportunity to think about what they would tell someone about the organisation and practice what they might say.

World Cafe(ish) activity exploring various themes around how to grow our
relationships with supporters.

Helen was a great asset throughout the whole process – her ideas and enthusiasm really added value to the training, and she developed quite a fan club at ICL!!  My co-workers are already asking when she can come back (although thankfully they haven’t asked if they can trade me for her!). 

At the end of the training many shared that they felt they had really learned and benefited from the training, with several staff members not directly involved in resource mobilisation saying they felt they understood how they could help build relationships with all kinds of potential supporters – which is a great result.

Peris preparing for her organisational pitch.

We received some interesting feedback from the training as well, which highlighted some of the challenges delivering training in a different culture.  For example, one staff member mentioned that some of the sessions were left-open ended without the right answers being presented.  This specifically referenced an activity in which attendees discussed some sticky donor relationship topics in groups and then shared their thoughts with the group.  Helen and I elaborated on some of their thoughts, and I provided a few examples from my own work – but no fixed and firm answer was given on how to respond in those certain situations.  What I found really interesting about this feedback is that when I attend training it actually really frustrates me as well when facilitators summarise input without providing a concrete solution.  I am generally not a big fan of group work – I always wonder what is being said in the other groups and if their groups are more “right” than my group.  My boss highlighted that part of this cultural – his experience of training with North Americans and Europeans is that the facilitators are encouraging and find it difficult to challenge a bad idea, whereas training delivered in other cultures might involve just being presented with facts with very little discussion, participation or collaborative thought.  I think in this particular case that there was value in presenting the topics for discussion, but that there aren’t necessarily concrete answers – all relationships are different with different dynamics and there can’t be a one size fits all response, however I will definitely take this feedback into account when working on the next piece of training.

Helen and I at the end of 2 days of delivering training.  A job well done partially explains our radiant glow - although is was also very very hot!
This will be my last post for a few weeks as I will be taking a bit of a holiday – but don’t forget about me, I will be back in full force the end of April!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Saturday 10 March in 10 Photos

Forgive me all for I have been busy.  It's been two weeks since my last posting.  

We are in the middle of completing 4 funding proposals at the moment, and I have been working steadily (early mornings, evenings and weekends) since my last post.

However, last Saturday I thought to myself:  Nicole, what shall we blog about this week?  And having drawn a blank, I decided to photograph my Saturday in 12 photos, one each hour from 6am - 6pm.  Well, it all started well, but around 2 in the afternoon it was hot and I was tired and I started to wane.  So I share with you here not 12 photos, but 10.  And they don't span 6am - 6pm, but rather 6am - 3pm.  Anyway, it's what I can offer you now so hope you enjoy!

Photo 1: 06:01
I usually wake up at 6:30am on Saturdays to wash my clothes.  It takes about an hour and a half  (including boiling the water, letting them soak, scrubbing and rinsing).  It's good to get the clothes done in the morning so they are hung up early to dry.  Having a busy day planned for last Saturday, I got up at 6am to wash the clothes. No alarm needed though - I wake up around 5:30am for work everyday, so even 6am is a lie-in.

Photo 2: Washing Done
Around 7:30am the washing was finished and hanging up to dry.

Photo 3: Waiyaki Way
The highway that runs next to my neighbourhood.  Looks tame here, however in order to get transport into Nairobi we have to cross these 2 lanes and the 2 lanes on the other side.  This is around 8.30am on a Saturday, but weekday mornings involve saying a small prayer before crossing as cars, lorries, matatus and buses come flying down the road.  The key is, according to my housemate Sandy, to wait.  And wait.  And wait some more. Until it is safe.  So far, knock on wood, there have been no close calls.

Photo 4: Moi
According to Andrea this is a statue of Moi, president of Kenya from 1978-2002 (who did the county no favours).  I took this picture as we were walking from one matatu stage (similar to a bus station) to another.  I don't really know why I took it - but there it is. The building in the background is the Hilton Hotel.

Photo 5: Route 46
While matatu is the most common form of transportation in Nairobi, there are several bus routes as well.  This photo is of Kencom, the name of a bus stop.  The buses don't individually have their route numbers on the outside, the conductor will hold a sign out the window indicating which route it is.  On this day, we were taking Route 46 to Yaya.  I should preface as well that this was around 9am on a Saturday morning.  Visit this same spot on a weekday, it is not quite so tranquil!!

Photo 6: Tunasoma Kiswahili
The reason we were travelling across town so early on a Saturday morning was for our monthly Swahili lesson.  Andrea and I (try to) meet with Lucy once a month for 2 hours for lessons.  Lucy is an absolutely excellent teacher and we enjoy our lessons very much.

Photo 7: Swahili Notes
My scratchy notes from lesson.

Photo 8: Toi Market
After our Swahili lesson, Andrea and I walked to Toi Market - one of the largest and best quality second-hand clothing markets in Nairobi.  It takes a lot of effort and determination to find gems and to get them at a fair price (there is a common unwritten mzungu tax of about 500% which seems to be added), but can be worth it.  On this particular trip Andrea got some great trousers and I got a lovely vintage dress from Japan.  After about an hour and a half of shopping we were very very hot and decided we had had enough success for one day.

Photo 9: Trousers
A pile of trousers at Toi Market.  Taking photos in public in Kenya is very difficult and Kenyans really dislike strangers taking their photos, so there sadly aren't more photos of the market.

Photo 10: Mint chocolate milkshake
After Swahili lessons and shopping in the market,  we decided to stop by a cafe for a treat.  This doesn't happen often - less than once a month, but is very nice when we can.  I asked for a milkshake with mint and chocolate.  The mint was fresh, and for the first few sips it tasted like chocolate and basil.  Very strange.  But I got over it and enjoyed the rest!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Devolution and Voter Education

Yesterday I travelled 2 hours to Kangundo to attend a community forum about devolution and voter education.  I discussed in a previous post (see previous post) that my boss, Mike, has written a book to launch a political reform movement in Kenya, and as part of that process the programme is being piloted in his home County.

The event took place at this church in a town called Tala which is in Kangundo constituency.

The pilot has so far involved the formation of a steering group made of about 40 community members to develop a draft strategic plan which maps out how key priority areas for how the County will develop in the next 3-5 years.  Mike believes strongly that the fact that Kenya has lagged so far behind in development cannot be blamed purely on corrupt and incompetent politicians, but that average Kenyans are also responsible for making sure their country develops, and that begins at the local level.

Constituents registering as they arrive. 

Waiting for the event to start.  It began an hour late, but ran over by 2.5 hours to compensate.
Now that the County Strategic Plan is in draft form, it is being taken around to each of the eight constituencies for consultation and to ensure local community leaders understand devolution and the new political offices it has created.  This is the second of these consultation events, and this one was hosted by my organisation so about 12 staff from my organisation arrived in force to ensure it was a raving success.

Wambui, Finance Manager, and Barasa, Programmes Manager, modelling the t-shirt.

Myself and Keter.  We were on photography and sales duty.
The meeting started about an hour late (which actually isn't too bad), with delegates continuing to trickle in over the first 3 hours. The delegates were specially invited by members of the steering groups and selected as individuals interested to contribute to this process and able to action change in their local area.  The forum started with prayer (as pretty much all meetings do), and greetings by the local chief and chairman of the local community development forum.  Mike then presented the concept behind the draft Strategic Plan and explained that while the plan highlights 13 specific areas for development in the County to ensure it's development over the next few years, it was up to the community to determine the priorities within those areas and specific measures.  Following this, the delegates broke up into 4 groups to look at and feed into 4 of those priority areas: water and sanitation, agriculture, finance and education. 

Mike presenting the outline of the Strategic Plan.
Group discussing water and sanitation.
Group discussing finance.
Then four members of the Strategic Plan steering group and who are experts in the 4 sectors being looked at came to share feedback from the small groups and background information on those particular sectors in the County. For example, currently while nearly 65% of children make it to primary school, less than 15% make it to secondary school and less than 4% attend any kind of post-secondary education (university or vocational). I've written quite a number of funding proposals and concept notes for this particular piece of work since arriving at my organisation, but it was the first time I actually was able to observe community consultation on strategic planning take place and it was really inspiring to see so many (nearly 400) members of this local constituency come together to discuss the needs and issues of their area and the changes they intend to make over the next few years.  Too often Strategic Plans are developed for individuals and not by them - and this demonstrated the start of real ownership of this process by the community.

Just a note that I was able to understand about 75% of what was said during the meeting.  The other 25% was in kikamba, the local tribal language.  But I think I got the general gist!

The best photo I could get of the whole group.
Koki Muli, key-note speaker.
The key-note speech was given by Koki Muli, a university lecturer and political columnist in a national Saturday paper.  She spoke about devolution - what it is and why Kenya has decided to devolve power - and what implication is has at County level.  I mentioned in a previous post the up to now Kenya has a very heavy and very corrupt central government and that the new Constitution (2010) has provided for a new devolved government which will be achieved through the creation of 47 new Counties.  The counties have been formed - but the upcoming elections will be the first time that newly created posts (e.g. Governor) will be elected, so the Counties aren't actually really anything yet as they have no government or resourcing.  Ms Muli explained that unlike American states which are fixed and permanent, the Counties can be easily changed, and she predicted where there are now boundaries for 47, if some are seen to be under-performing they will be merged with stronger Counties and so the result in 10 years time will likely be fewer Counties.

She also spoke about one of the key tenants of my organisation's political reform programme - which is leadership vetting, which is about creating a framework by which voters assess the candidates and select which is the right one for the job.  It is a key theme of the upcoming elections and the way my organisation is proposing to accomplish this is by using the Strategic Plan as a type of JD and then having candidates demonstrate how using their skills and experience they will deliver the plan. For me, it is a strange way of looking at candidate selection - that the community determines first what is to be done and then unanimously selects a leader to accomplish it.  My experience of elections is that there are often two quite different proposals from political parties on what needs doing and voters select the approach they most agree with.  What's being proposed in Kenya allows very little freedom for the candidate to present their own priorities and ideas for how the County should develop, but it is a very different context here and it is the common way of thinking - my boss and I actually just met with a Swedish development agency last week which is very interested in adopting our candidate vetting model across their governance reform programmes.

A bit of entertainment to keep everyone alert.
While there was no break during the 6.5 hour meeting,
we did distribute snacks of a loaf of bread and a soda or bottle of water to attendee.
The forum yesterday was really the beginning of this process - the introduction.  All the attendees have been asked to identify which sector they would like to work specifically on, and in coming weeks there will be a series of meetings for each sector to look at specific issues, objectives and targets at a constituency level to feed into the County Strategic Plan.  The meeting was 6.5 hours long, running 2.5 hours over, and I think if it hadn't been cut off could have gone on another hour or two.  People are excited and hungry for this kind of change and first the first time are being actively involved in shaping the change and being asked to directly contribute to it.  As I said before, it was inspiring to observe.

Briefly, in other news - I found out that my very first funding application has been approved since starting with the organisation 4 months ago (and considering average turn around time for most applications is about 6 months - this is pretty good!).  In addition, it was a (smallish) proposal to a UN agency and is as such the first piece of UN funding I've ever secured.  I can feel my CV getting fatter already!!