Nurturing Change Makers and Effective Employees in International Development

Nurturing Change Makers and Effective Employees in International Development

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In the multifaceted realm of international development, individuals often grapple with a fundamental question: should they aspire to become catalysts for change, disrupting norms and igniting innovation, or focus on excelling as dependable employees who efficiently carry out tasks within existing frameworks?  

This dichotomy highlights a broader tension between individual initiative and organisational conformity, providing a thought-provoking perspective to analyse the dynamics of development work. 

At its core, the decision between being a change maker and a proficient employee reflects the intricate balance between revolutionary innovation and operational proficiency. Change makers emerge as visionary leaders who challenge prevailing paradigms, striving to dismantle systemic injustices and introduce transformative solutions to pressing global challenges. Conversely, effective employees are esteemed for their dependability, competence, and ability to produce outcomes within established organisational structures. 

Is it possible to embody both roles simultaneously? The answer lies in understanding the nuanced interplay between these identities and fostering a synthesis that aligns with personal values and professional aspirations. 

Consider the inspiring example of Wangari Maathai, the esteemed Kenyan environmentalist and Nobel laureate, whose legacy lives on through the Green Belt Movement. Through grassroots activism, Maathai not only challenged entrenched power dynamics but also sparked sustainable development initiatives across Africa, empowering women and addressing deforestation. 

Similarly, in the bustling urban landscape of Lagos, Nigeria, countless health workers diligently administer vaccinations in densely populated areas. While not leading large-scale campaigns, these frontline workers play a crucial role in safeguarding public health and combating disease outbreaks through their unwavering commitment and adherence to established protocols. 

In the face of rising sea levels and extreme weather events, Pacific Island nations are pioneering climate adaptation strategies. Change makers might lead advocacy campaigns for renewable energy investments and climate-resilient infrastructure, while effective employees coordinate disaster preparedness drills, distribute emergency supplies, and implement early warning systems. Together, they strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities in the face of environmental challenges. 

 However, the distinction between change makers and effective employees often blurs in real-world scenarios, as individuals navigate intricate development landscapes with versatility and adaptability. 

 In Tamale, Ghana, for instance, a community health worker adeptly combines the roles of innovator and executor by leveraging mobile technology to enhance maternal and child health outcomes in remote villages. Through embracing digital solutions while adhering to programme guidelines, they exemplify the synergy between visionary leadership and operational efficiency, thereby improving the accessibility and effectiveness of healthcare services. 

Imagine a project in rural Cambodia aimed at improving access to education. A change maker might initiate the project by advocating for policy changes to allocate more resources to rural schools. Meanwhile, effective employees ensure the smooth execution of the initiative by organising teacher training workshops, distributing educational materials, and monitoring student progress. Together, they catalyze systemic change while ensuring the project’s success on the ground. 

 Ultimately, the dichotomy between change makers and effective employees transcends geographical boundaries, resonating with development practitioners globally. Whether advocating for policy reform in Latin America, promoting sustainable agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, or leading grassroots movements in Southeast Asia, individuals grapple with the twin imperatives of innovation and execution in their pursuit of meaningful impact. 

 To foster the development of both, change makers and effective employees and achieve a harmonious balance between the two, consider implementing the following strategies: 

 Professional Development and Skill Enhancement 

  • Implement a structured professional development programme with clear learning objectives tailored to individual career paths, including workshops, seminars, and online courses focusing on leadership and operational skills. 
  • Provide access to external training resources, such as industry conferences and certification programmes, to encourage employees to explore new ideas and technologies while honing their proficiency in task execution. 
  • Foster mentorship relationships between seasoned professionals and emerging talent to transfer knowledge and expertise, facilitating skill enhancement and career growth. 
  • Encourage employees to participate in cross-functional projects to broaden their skill set and gain exposure to diverse perspectives, promoting collaboration and innovation. 

 Inclusive Work Environment and Collaboration 

  • Establish a diversity and inclusion task force responsible for implementing initiatives to foster a culture of inclusion, promoting collaboration among change makers and effective employees from diverse backgrounds. 
  • Organise regular team building activities and social events to strengthen interpersonal relationships and build trust among team members, fostering a collaborative work environment. 
  • Implement a knowledge management system to facilitate information sharing and collaboration across departments and geographical locations, enabling change makers and effective employees to leverage their strengths to achieve common goals. 
  • Encourage cross-departmental collaboration through joint problem-solving sessions and brainstorming workshops, fostering creativity and synergy through open communication and knowledge sharing. 

 Empowerment and Decision-Making 

  • Provide decision-making frameworks and guidelines to empower employees to make informed decisions aligned with organisational goals, fostering autonomy and initiative. 
  • Establish regular check-ins and feedback mechanisms to monitor progress and provide support as needed, ensuring that employees feel supported in their decision-making roles. 
  • Create a culture of psychological safety where employees feel comfortable taking risks and voicing their opinions without fear of retribution, empowering individuals to take ownership of projects. 
  • Recognise and celebrate instances where employees demonstrate initiative and take ownership of projects, regardless of the outcome, reinforcing a culture of empowerment and accountability. 

Recognition and Reward 

  • Implement a formal recognition programme to acknowledge individual and team achievements aligned with organisational values, incentivising both creativity and results-driven performance. 
  • Offer tangible rewards such as bonuses, promotions, or additional holiday days for exceptional performance, recognising the efforts of change makers driving innovation and effective employees ensuring successful implementation. 
  • Publicly recognise employees during team meetings or organisation-wide events to highlight their contributions and inspire others, reinforcing a culture of appreciation and recognition. 
  • Solicit feedback from employees to ensure that recognition efforts are meaningful and culturally appropriate, fostering a sense of belonging and appreciation among team members. 

 Work-Life harmony 

  • Conduct regular surveys to assess employee satisfaction and identify areas for improvement related to work-life balance, prioritising employee well-being and productivity. 
  • Provide resources and support for employees struggling with work-life harmony such as flexible work arrangements or access to counselling services, demonstrating organisational commitment to employee wellness. 
  • Encourage managers to lead by example by prioritising their own work-life harmony and modelling healthy behaviours for their teams, fostering a supportive work environment. 
  • Establish boundaries around work hours and communication to prevent burnout and promote employee well-being, ensuring that employees have the time and space to recharge outside of work. 

Leadership by Example 

  • Provide leadership training and coaching to equip managers with the skills necessary to lead by example, emphasising the importance of embodying the qualities of both change makers and effective employees. 
  • Encourage leaders to share their own experiences of balancing innovation and execution in their career journeys, inspiring employees to embrace both roles. 
  • Recognise and reward leaders who demonstrate the qualities of both change makers and effective employees in their leadership style, setting a positive example for their teams. 
  • Hold leaders accountable for upholding organisational values and fostering a culture of continuous improvement, ensuring alignment between leadership behaviour and organisational goals. 

Reflection and Adaptation 

  • Schedule regular team retrospectives to reflect on past projects and identify lessons learned, promoting a culture of continuous learning and improvement. 
  • Encourage employees to keep personal development journals to track their progress and reflect on their growth over time, fostering self-awareness and personal development. 
  • Establish a feedback loop where employees can provide input on organisational processes and suggest improvements, empowering individuals to contribute to positive change. 
  • Celebrate failures as learning opportunities and encourage experimentation and innovation in problem-solving, fostering a culture of adaptability and resilience. 

In conclusion, international development thrives on the dynamic interplay between change makers who challenge conventions and effective employees who ensure the successful implementation of initiatives. Through adopting both roles and harnessing their complementary strengths, practitioners can navigate the complexities of development work with agility and purpose, fostering sustainable change and advancing the collective vision of a more equitable world. So, consider, Are you a catalyst for change, a reliable implementer, or perhaps a fusion of both? 

About the author

Head, Capacity Development Unit at WACSI

Charles Kojo Vandyck is a dynamic development practitioner and thought leader who is driving transformative change within civil society. As a Founding Member of the prestigious International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), spearheaded by the renowned Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Charles is at the forefront of transforming citizen participation worldwide. With positions as a Trustee of INTRAC and an Advisory Board Member of Disrupt Development, he is shaping the future from Oxford to Amsterdam. Charles's remarkable contributions continue as a Core Team Member of the game-changing Reimagining INGOs (RINGO) initiative and as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Recognised by the Development Studies Association, Charles is also a certified Change the Game Academy Master Trainer and an IFC-Learning and Performance Institute Trainer. Prepare to be inspired by Charles as he paves the way for a more resilient, sustainable, and empowered civil society.

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Charles Kojo Vandyck

Charles Kojo Vandyck is a dynamic development practitioner and thought leader who is driving transformative change within civil society. As a Founding Member of the prestigious International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), spearheaded by the renowned Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Charles is at the forefront of transforming citizen participation worldwide. With positions as a Trustee of INTRAC and an Advisory Board Member of Disrupt Development, he is shaping the future from Oxford to Amsterdam. Charles's remarkable contributions continue as a Core Team Member of the game-changing Reimagining INGOs (RINGO) initiative and as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Recognised by the Development Studies Association, Charles is also a certified Change the Game Academy Master Trainer and an IFC-Learning and Performance Institute Trainer. Prepare to be inspired by Charles as he paves the way for a more resilient, sustainable, and empowered civil society.

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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 15 years of progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa.

She joined WACSI in November 2009 as a Regional Advocacy Consultant and later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer of the Institute in 2010.

She was promoted to Head of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy (PIA) Unit in 2015. As the Head of the PIA unit, Omolara offers strategic direction to the Institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organised 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, and civil society accountability.

Previously, Omolara served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), where she worked with her team to design and implement pan-African programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

She also 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.

Omolara is a social justice advocate, a network weaver, and a convener. She has a postgraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies; a degree in International Relations and History, from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria respectively.

She also holds executive certificates in Behavioral Science in Public Policy from Harvard University Executive Education in Cambridge and in Citizen Advocacy from the Coady International Institute, St Francis Xavier University in Canada.

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.