Imagine spending a whole year putting together resources needed to strengthen your organisation. Having sleepless nights and barely being able to maintain a proper diet for yourself just to ensure that you followed all legal and social requirements needed for operationalising your civil society organisation (CSO).
One year down the line and you are now a proud Executive Director, having taken out time to cautiously select your employees. Your organisation is on its feet and you are overwhelmed with compliments from family, friends and other stakeholders. Just when you think you have everything under control and you feel like it is time to celebrate, like a heavy downpour, your organisation starts crumbling. Everything you fought so hard for seems to be disappearing right into thin air.
Donors start withdrawing under the pretext of not having sufficient funds, your projects no longer come to completion due to mismanagement of funds, you just realized that your board was more decorative than functional and the change you thought you were making had not been properly communicated. It all just begins to feel like a nightmare.
The wave of questions immediately come flooding your mind. “Were our policies and procedures properly designed and implemented? Am I using the right leadership style? Do the employees have the right financial and project management skills? Are our methods of communicating impact strategic and result based?”
CSOs usually have as a goal, impacting change, either directly or indirectly. Unfortunately, most of them do not succeed in achieving results because they failed to put in place measures and systems to ensure organisational effectiveness. Many of them still go through the hassle of identifying the necessary tools needed for proper organisational management.
Identifying a problem is one thing. Finding the solution is another. Designing a project to solve this problem and knowing how to manage funds allocated for the project is a whole new level that requires expertise, which some CSOs have not yet acquired.
In its quest to address these challenges faced by these CSOs, the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) designed a set of training modules to strengthen the skills of organisations to play their roles more effectively and efficiently. This training which targeted CSOs and development practitioners in West Africa comprised of four key modules including:
- Organisational Governance and Leadership
- Project Management
- Financial Management
- Communicating Impact
The programme ran from 22 March to 02 April 2021. The training was delivered through Zoom. It encompassed a variety of learning methods which were participant centred, interactive, involved experience and knowledge sharing, case studies, open discussions and many others.
During the session on leadership, after identifying the different leadership styles, participants were able to determine which one was practised within their organisations and further brainstorm on which leadership style was more effective and result oriented. Based on the organisation type, it was noted that it is very vital for CSOs to determine which style works better for them. In some cases, there is a need for a combination of two styles to ensure efficiency.
“Both sessions were wonderful and eye-opening for me. I look forward to the lesson of tomorrow,” Markonee Knightley of Planned Parenthood Association of Liberia (PPAL) stated after the session on organisational governance.
The breakout session during the financial management module enabled participants to understand the value of teamwork in task completion. After being assigned to work on a budget sample in their various groups, Bridget Tukpeyi of LADA Institute, Ghana had this to say:
“Experiences from each and every person contribute to making the budget a more presentable document to a donor.”
These and many other comments are an indication of how beneficial these sessions were to participants, both at the individual level and as organisations. It is therefore crucial for organisations to identify the areas in which they are lagging and focus on developing these skills through training like these.