Becoming a butterfly in the civic space

Becoming a butterfly in the civic space

As I stare on the notepad to write these few lines, my mind is blank, as blank as it was roughly two years ago in the year 2020, during the lockdown period. As a young student taking Human resources and Chinese, I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to become in future.  

However, despite being unsure of how my post-studies years would be, my keen interest to learn and explore new waters landed me in an institution that is equipping me with the right skillset for the world of work. I am enjoying every moment of this journey. 

Four months into this journey, since I commenced in October, my experiences have been from one blissful moment to the other.  

A rather turbulent academic journey 

In 2020, during my third year in the university, with the rise of active cases of the COVID-19 pandemic, institutions of higher learning including my university (University of Ghana) had closed temporarily due to COVID-19 protocols, paving way for the introduction of electronic learning (E-learning) for the rest of the semesters. A major setback in the form of a labour strike by university lecturers further deepened the trails of time. The regular academic calendar of thirteen (13) weeks of lectures was slashed to six (6) weeks.  

As a third-year student going to my final year, adjusting to these new changes were daunting. However, I managed to adjust to the times despite my intermittent frustrations. On a very ordinary day, I chanced upon a “half- faced man” design on a friend’s WhatsApp status that stirred my interest. Although I had no knowledge or skill in graphic design and art, I tried to fabricate one. After several failed attempts to duplicate it, I sought the help of a friend who gave me some useful ideas and tools to design it.  

This was the beginning of an enterprising journey to becoming a visual designer. I steadily became acquainted with a variety of tools like the Adobe technologies suite which I used to design front end of website, flyers for various events and logos. By doing this I improved my skills in graphic design.  

With this newly acquired skill, I asked myself severally what I could do and which organisation would be a perfect fit, taking into account my academic background of social science. Little did I know what life had in store for me.  

The West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) came as a recommendation from my friend. It was the first time I heard of civil society and about this civil society organisation. So I had no prior knowledge of the kind of work one does within such an organisation. Therefore, I was skeptical about deciding whether I wanted to work in that sector or not. Nevertheless, I went ahead to send an email and my personal details to the Institute. After a couple of emails, a virtual interview date was set for the following month. I was excited and nervous not knowing what was in store for me. This was my first ever interview! My nervousness heightened when I saw three persons on my screen, “how did I not think of the possibility of being interviewed by more than one person?” I quizzed within myself. The panel however made me feel comfortable throughout the interview and I eventually got the job. Specifically, I was attached to the communications unit of the institute. 

A smooth induction into the world of work 

My first day at work was on 18th of October, a usual busy Monday morning. Everything from the general staff meeting, introduction to colleagues (who were very nice to me) and a quick tour round the premises was new to me. The most surprising thing was the absence of titles like “boss” commonly used in the world of work. Although each unit’s line of work differs from the other units, there was no such thing as subordinate or superordinate. Later, I was made to understand, the intention is to increase staff’ self-esteem, boost confidence and encourage face to face professional communication as well as maintaining mutual respect and discipline. Routine weekly staff meetings are religiously held. These meetings enable the Institute to keep colleagues abreast with the progress and current state of activities of each other’s unit.  

Another thrilling revelation for me was working with colleagues from different parts of the West Africa sub region. For example, my unit head, Jimm Chick Fomunjong is from Cameroon and another colleague Abimbola Sadare. My unit head was working remotely from Cameroon. His immediate, Fiifi Boateng, programme officer for the communications unit made sure I quickly got acquainted with tasks carried out by the unit.  Virtual unit meetings were held regularly.  

My core duties  

Starting off with updating the Institute’s social media calendar, my knowledge in excel paid off here. I was taught from the basics of checking my mails each morning to replying appropriately to these mails.  

Gradually, more tasks came to my desk. I designed flyers, posted content on different social media platforms, updated calendars, answered internal telephone calls, set up virtual meetings with colleagues, sent block mails from mailing lists, among others.  

Joining WACSI, I have learnt to take photos using a professional camera which to me was a plus because I knew nothing about photography, talk less of holding a camera. These and other tasks I still do as a programme assistant in the unit I work within. Private grooming sessions on soft skills like teamwork, leadership, communication and even celebrating my achievements are part of the whole package as I like to call it.  

These have shaped me professionally and stimulated me to achieve more. 

Some valuable lifelong lessons 

With the experience I have gathered so far, my philosophy is, a person must not possess the quality of a fixed mindset but rather a growth mindset. A person with fixed mindset believes that one is born with specific talents and that there are certain things he or she will excel in therefore limiting his or her potential of acquiring new skills. 

However, a person that possesses a growth mindset, believes that talent is just a small part the equation and that focus and effort makes one good at whatever he or she decides to achieve.  It has been four months since I joined the Institute. Weeks of trial tasks have gradually turned into months of a buildup from where I began, as a cocoon transition into a butterfly and this is what I term “becoming a butterfly in the civic space”. 

 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of WACSI or its members. The designations employed in this publication and the presentation of material therein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of  WACSI concerning the legal status of any country, area or territory or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers.

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Theresa Naa Adoley
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FIIFI BOATENG

Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.

NANCY KANKAM KUSI

Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.

AGNES ADWOA ANIMA

Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.

DORIS ODEI

Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.

PRINCE AKOWUAH

Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

MAXWELL APENTENG

Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.

GEORGE ADU-MINTAH

George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.

IBRAHIM KWAKU GBADAGO

Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.

RUTH YAKANA

Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

BETHEL KWAME BOATENG

Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.

WHITNAY SEGNONNA

Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.

STELLA YAWA WOWOUI

Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.

KWAME ASANTE

Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.

GRACE AKPENE ZIGGAH

Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.

LILLIAN DAFEAMEKPOR

Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

JOHN P. FRINJUAH

John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.

GERVIN CHANASE

Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.

LEANDRE BANON

Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.

SAMUEL APPIAH

Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.

JIMM CHICK FOMUNJONG

Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.

FRANCK A. SOMBO

Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.

OMOLARA T. BALOGUN

Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 10 years progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa. She joined WACSI in November 2009 as an Advocacy Consultant. And later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer in 2010 and Head of Policy Influencing and Advocacy unit in 2015. As head, she offers strategic direction to the institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organized and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality.


Previously, Omolara served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria. She also served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa where she teamed up to design and implement two programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

KWABENA KRODUAH

Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.

CHARLES KOJO VANDYCK

Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.

NANA ASANTEWA AFADZINU

Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.