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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

‘The leaderschip necessary to be successful in rural areas of Tanzania’ by Marijke Blom, a.k.a. ”mamaMalaika”, board member of the Dutch Ukengee Foundation

The Ukengee Foundation promotes the development of IT in the District of Lindi, Tanzania by providing computer labs for secondary schools (ages 12-18): http://www.ukengee.org/

The overall goal of the foundation is to significantly decrease the current information backlog in Tanzania, striving for an ultimate coverage of 90% of all schools in Lindi – one of the poorest but also a stable district in Tanzania. It is Ukengee’s belief that knowledge of computers and of the wise use of the internet will enhance chances on the labor market and will aid locals in improving (economic) development in Lindi.

Marijke on the kind of leadership and approach it takes to be successful in Lindi

 à Walk your talk; never promise anything you cannot fulfill. People have been promised so much over the years – locals do not believe anything they’ve been promised, esp. by NGO's.

à You have to be strict as a leader: be specific and clear on what you want from the projects/schools who receive valuables like a computer lab, meaning:

1.  Assure signed agreements about everything from maintenance to usage to number of participating teachers – “We discovered the hard way that oral approval doesn’t work”.
2. Obtain commitment from important people like religious leaders, elders from the villages, and civil servants from community and educational office. This is crucial.
3. Make schools responsible for safety and proper use of computer labs and place sanctions on improper use. Follow through on abuse and communicate you will withdraw completely in the case of non-compliance (and act upon it if necessary).
4. Attach positive stimuli to proper use of the labs – “We organized an essay contest for students and teachers on how to use the computers wisely and what it meant to them in daily life. One of the results: people now take their shoes off in every lab we installed”.

è Build a strong relationship with local politicians and civil servants – “This took us about 2,5 years, but it certainly pays off in the long term”.

è Organize a local support – “We installed an ambassador who is an assistant director of a school. We also installed a "solar board" with representatives from the local community incl. an educational inspector and a religious leader. They have more impact in "social control" than two military men with Kalashnikov’s, which we had too!”

è When people make mistakes give them time and opportunity to correct it themselves. “It   took us 1,5 years to get one of the headmasters to overcome his anxiety for computers which he could not show in public, of course”.

è Make local people responsible for guarding and use of "their" computer lab – “We convinced them to make a set of rules for the use the computer lab. It is better if they make it themselves than us mzungo’s (= whites) doing the thinking and acting for them.  - colonialism does not work anymore”.

è Speak the language, literally and figuratively.

è Make alliances with NGO's with a good reputation in the world of NGO’s. It benefits funds, legacies and other parties.

è Make yearly reports on how you spent the funds and make new project plans every year.

è Take very good care of people and organizations that invested in the projects, sending them detailed reports, pictures and stories from actual users.
è Take care of publicity – “In our field of business, try and get as much free publicity as possible”.

Board member Ukengee Foundation,
Communication expert and film and documentary maker

Carolien Moors:
Apart from specific leadership requirements inherent in the described field and location, is leadership elsewhere much different? Think about clear and specific leadership, walking your talk, taking care of people, speaking the language, building alliances, reporting truthfully and goal-oriented, responsibility + accountability, and a climate that allows for initiatives and risk- taking including the failures and mistakes that it might result in.

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