Time to say “Kwa Heri Tanzania” for Rick

Wednesday, 18 June 2014
Ending my 5 weeks work t KCC and saying farewell
Suddenly my five weeks in KCC are coming to an end. With this in mind I spent three full days before going to Zanzibar finishing various pieces of work and preparing my report and recommendations for the Directors but also for Molly’s Network who started the organisational development process and will accompany it in the next year or so.

I was rather frustrated for some of this time as I had little contact with my main partners in KCC. Rashid was on a course (of the five weeks I have been around he was away for two) and Nas was totally preoccupied with the planning and visa applications for a 2½ month tour in the Autumn in Germany, Austria and Slovenia with 7 of the acrobats/dancers, all courtesy of KinderKulturKaravane (sounds a very interesting organisation and another reason to go to Hamburg some time). How would KCC ever manage to carry on what we’d started when we seemed to be halting even when I’m around? I know from personal experience how demanding this organisational development process will be and how easily one can get distracted by everyday concerns. Wasn’t I being totally unrealistic to think I could just come round for five weeks, inject a bit of Vitamin-whatever and think KCC could just carry on where I left off?

Perhaps it was inevitable that I would have serious doubts towards the end of my time here, as it became clearer what I wouldn’t have time to do and where the challenges for the directors would be. Happily two things raised my spirits. Firstly a good talk with Nas, where I realised how far we’d come and how much he’d taken on board. Just listening to him reminded where we had been just four weeks ago. I’d already forgotten the big discussion we had had almost as soon as I’d arrived. Rashid and he were planning to tell the volunteers how high the allowance would be which they should receive, even though it was far from clear that KCC would ever get any more money from TANZICT to finance it (see blog “Money, the source of so many problems, also here“ for more about that story).

On a scrap of paper they had written down lots of names and how much money they thought each should get, all in preparation for a volunteers’ meeting three days later. It was soon clear that they’d overseen some names, that the Board of Directors hadn’t been informed let alone had it decided on what was being proposed in its name and that the criteria behind their proposals were far from clear and probably wouldn’t stand much scrutiny from a potentially critical audience. All of this was being done under the pressure (which turned out to be self-imposed) that they must tell the volunteers something. Luckily I could convince them that this was unwise and even counter-productive given the problems the last time money was available to be distributed. Looking back on this episode now, it was as if Nas and Rashid were having a mild panic. Because of their own feelings of weakness and maybe guilt (as they had managed things so badly last time, even though the main ‘culprits’ were no longer around) they were assigning the volunteers with too much power and at the same time not taking on their responsibility as directors. Since then I’ve been hammering home the importance of realigning the power structure; that is, the necessity of consulting and informing the volunteers and members but that they as directors must make the management decisions at the operational level. Talking to Nas made me realise how much more resilient he had become. Four weeks ago he was considering resigning and now he was ready to take on the responsibility and was looking forward to improving their management; in his words, he felt strong again!

The other development which helped me was finding out that a new Kenyan volunteer, Wangoi, was prepared and interested in taking on various tasks which I had started or recommended, as long as they were clearly defined and manageable. So I felt there would be some extra resources when I’d left.

Thus when it came to reviewing what we’d achieved in the past five weeks with the Board of Directors at their regular Monday morning meeting I was feeling a lot happier. I started my report though with a broadside blast on the way the Board has been very lax and careless about their financial control and reporting. Fortunately as I’ve often praised the work they do and been very understanding of the problems they’ve got into and certainly as we like and respect each other they could accept the criticism and, I think, take it to heart. I warned them if they didn’t tighten up their procedures and take more responsibility for their finances, then they will start to lose the backing of their supporters and donors and then they will soon have to shut up shop (the book keeping, for example, is in an unbelievable mess and there’s no way they could knock the accounts for 2013 into shape sufficiently to get them audited).

At the end of the Board meeting we had a round of more personal feedbacks and I was very moved by the words of appreciation I received. It was lovely to hear their new confidence and resolution to carry on what we’ve started. Nas said again how much stronger he felt; Rashid was happy that he now knows more clearly what he has to do and he wants to get on with it; Sakina admitted how out of her depth and helpless as Finance Director she had felt but now with the prospect of a new computer, book-keeping software and 5 days advice and coaching from an accountant she could wait to start. It sounded as if I had helped to remove a blockage in the system. Since then I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on this and realise now more deeply how the crisis around Christmas time had made them so unsure of themselves that they had become almost paralysed, as if they had suffered a slight trauma. I don’t know how the Board was before, of course, but when I arrived it was as if they weren’t able to make clear decisions and didn’t work as a unit. Obviously after such a short time they’re not yet out of the woods. At one stage in this meeting it felt like a problem had been found into which (nearly) everybody was being drawn, as if they were all firemen ready to put out a fire, rather than asking the director responsible if there was a fire at all or was it just a burning match and, if there was, could he manage it by himself. With so many suggestions for help even he had started to become unsure if he had a fire (I was sure he hadn’t).

In the afternoon some of the Directors with whom I went  with some of those with whom I had worked most (Nas, Rashid, Sakina and also Wangui) to meet Liz from Molly’s Network at the ex-pat and, by Kigamboni standards, expensive resort at Mikadi Beach for a small celebration and de-briefing. After lunch I presented my report detailing what we’d achieved and my recommendations on how to proceed. Liz and I see eye-to-eye on such things so there wasn’t much discussion. With so much consensus we were all cautiously optimistic about the future. We all confirmed that the timing of my visit, although not planned, couldn’t have been better. I told Liz that I felt that KCC wouldn’t have had the know-how and resources to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and that I thought Molly’s network should not just assess where an organisation needs to improve its management but also more carefully scrutinise if they are able to do the work basically on their own. (Molly’s Network provide mainly guidance and a structure, but nothing like what I’ve been able to contribute in the way of time and resources). Altogether we spent a very pleasant few hours chatting in a relaxed atmosphere in a lovely place.

My work wasn’t yet finished for the day though. In the evening I finally managed to meet Jeath, the one director who I hadn’t been able to meet as he has his own Safari Company for which he has to work a lot at the moment. I’d only had sporadic and brief contact with him by email. It was bit of a funny meeting as I was far more up-to-date about things in KCC than he was. I wanted not just to tell him what we’d been doing in the last few weeks, but I was also interested that he gets an idea of who has been influencing KCC so much in the last few weeks, in the hope that he can get into the spirit of the management developments when he gets back in a couple of months’ time. I also wanted him to hear my criticisms of some of the things the Board had done, things of which he had also been a part. I think it went okay.

And then it was time to leave! In the last few days I’ve been more and more looking forward to going home, in particular to see Beatrice, and Maurice, Simone and Florian. But when it came to saying good-bye I felt quite sad to go. I’ve had such a lovely time with such lovely people ……

A short holiday in Zanzibar and African Child Day

Tuesday, 17 June 2014
A short holiday in Zanzibar
So far I’ve only been in Dar es Salaam and its suburb Kigamboni. Last time I was in Tanzania I’d been to three National Parks, including the very impressive Ngorongoro crater, but near Dar es Salaam there’s nothing comparable, so it was okay not to do another safari. However I’d heard such good things about Zanzibar that I didn’t want to give that a miss.

Although Nas has been to many countries in Europe and Asia as an acrobat, he’d never been to Zanzibar although it is barely three hours by boat from Dar. So we arranged to go together for a few days at the end of my time here.

I had assumed that Zanzibar would be richer than on the mainland, partly from what I’d heard from others and partly as I’d heard that there’s a strong movement on the island to get independence from mainland Tanzania, as they feel they don’t profit enough from the income derived from tourism on the island. (Although if anybody gets the profit I guess it’ll be firms from abroad which run the hotels and bigger resorts).

But what I saw wasn’t like that. We didn’t stay in the touristy part but with William, a friend of Nas’, who lives about thirty minutes bus ride away from the centre (Stone Town) in an area even poorer than Kigamboni. (Hardly the usual destination for tourists: I didn’t see any other white-skinned people anywhere near the place in all the time we were there).

Zanzibar is noticeably more Arab and Muslim than the mainland with more women wearing veils or niqabs. Despite what the guide told me I felt a more uneasy atmosphere here. On the way to William’s home we passed a Hindu temple where the high perimeter walls with barbed wire had recently been reinforced with razor wire. I had images of police stations in Northern Ireland during the Troubles which–if my memories serve me well – also had razor wire for protection. And on our last day we heard that a bomb had been placed near a mosque killing one person and injuring three others. We were going to leave a few hours later anyway, but I was happy to leave after getting that news.

On a brighter note Stone Town was quaint, much in need of renovation unfortunately. I particularly liked the evening food buffet (for want of a better name) where we could wander from stall to stall admiring the food- mostly seafood – choosing what one wants and then having it freshly fried. All in a lovely evening ambience. The next day we took a boat ride to the nearby Prison Island which was only shortly a prison for its Arab owners who then sold it to the British who used it as a quarantine station after bubonic plague and yellow fever broke out in Egypt. Now it has a government owned hotel and a thriving group of giant tortoises, the oldest being 157 years young! I dived to the coral reef but as the waves were quite rough visibility was poor. To do the job properly I’d have needed more time and the proper equipment. Perhaps next time?

Another highlight of the trip – if you can call it that – was seeing the old slave market and the miserable conditions in which the slaves were kept before being sold. 50 in the small 3metre by 3 metre ‘room’ pictured here, the trench in the middle being used as a toilet. They had to sleep on top of each other. Over half of each batch used to die; the idea being to sort out the chaff from the wheat, as only the ones thought to be tough were considered good enough to be sold …….

My other memory will be of seeing the opening of the World Cup squatting on the floor with 30 other men and young lads watching a small screen with a picture of very bad quality and listening to a commentary which was fairly unintelligible and, I think, in French.  The reception kept on being interrupted but this didn’t stop the banter of the locals, most of whom didn’t seem to be so interested in the finesse of the game, but more in teasing the fans of the opposing team when their players missed a chance. Wonderful.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014
KCC plays the red piper on a day of the African Child
On Sunday I was able to experience a modern-day ‘Pied Piper of Hamlin’ happening hosted by KCC. Every year as their contribution to the Day of the African Child, KCC organises a procession starting from the centre which wends its way to a site for one of their performances. Led by 2 performers on stilts and accompanied by cacophony of percussion and singing mostly by Hassan, the shelter worker, children are drawn from their houses and join the procession. And this wasn’t just a gentle stroll, it was a fast walk, if not a canter (led of course by the men on stilts who of course thanks to their long legs could take long strides).
On one or two occasions I saw them asking permission from their parents and at least once I saw a mother remonstrating with her children and telling them to stay at home, but I think most of the kids just got caught up in the wonderful atmosphere and simply joined in! Four or five year olds carrying younger siblings on their backs; others losing shoes in the rush or because somebody had stepped on their sandals; irritated motorbike riders hooting their way past. All hectic and exhilarating.

Unfortunately when we arrived at the site there was a power cut – as so often here – and so we had to wait until a generator was organised and the momentum was rather lost. But when the entertainment started it was of the usual high standard and a lot of it: music, traditional dance, modern dance, hip-hop, drama, acrobatics, often with more than one team and performance. An afternoon filling event all performed by KCC members. After 5 weeks I’m still very impressed at what KCC manages to get together.

In 1976, thousands of black school children took to the streets of Soweto, South Africa. In a march more than half a mile long, they protested the inferior quality of their education and demanded their right to be taught in their own language. Hundreds of young boys and girls were shot down by security forces. In the two weeks of protest that followed, more than a hundred people were killed and more than a thousand were injured. 
To honour the memory of those killed and the courage of all those who marched, the Day of the African Child has been celebrated on 16 June every year since 1991, when it was first initiated by the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union).

Goat Races and KCCs impressive social work

Some more blog posts from Rick in Tanzania:

Monday, 9 June 2014
The Goat Races: an absurd, ex-pat event raising loads of money for charity – all very English!
On Saturday the KCC drummers, dancers, stilt-walkers and acrobats provided the entertainment at The Goat Races (http://www.goatraces.com/).

Goats racing? Yes, you may well ask and its true, racing is not a concept goats understand. (I don’t want to stereotype them all for this, but it’s true). In the Dar es Salaam Goat Races, the goats – as in horse racing – get named (e.g. Van Goaty, a goat reputed to only have one ear), there is prize money for the winner (often given straight back as it was a charitable event) and one can bet on the races. The ‘owners’ are in fancy dress, often in twenties’ style, and get asked in semi-serious style about their goat’s training for the race. For those interested in the technical details, the goats – about ten of them are carried to the track with pomp and accompanying fanfare from a man in a kilt playing the bagpipes. The track has large boards on both sides to keep the goats in. (Being of course totally unsure what’s happening to them, they would love to escape).
When start has been called they are ushered around the track by a long pole held at knee height by their ‘stall boys’ so they can’t turn and flee. All this is accompanied by lots of hype transmitted by loudspeaker around the grounds. All very tongue in cheek, but well done, if you like that sort of thing.

Beyond enjoying the absurdity of the spectacle- titled ‘The Goat, the Mad and the Bubbly’ as one of the main points of the afternoon for a not inconsiderable minority of the spectators seems to be to get as drunk as possible – I must admit to being one of those who couldn’t quite enter into the spirit of it all. It’s clearly one of the high points of the season for the ex-pat community who turn out in force, many of them taking part actively.

One of the reasons for my ambivalence is certainly that I was on the ‘other side’, despite being a Mzungu (European/ white skinned). I feel like calling it a neo-colonial happening, where the locals are there to receive the beneficence of the ‘developed’ world (charity) and to help out (all the ‘stall boys’ were black, whilst only a minority of those in the VIP lounge were). The success as a charity cannot be denied: over £50’000 or nearly 80’000 Swiss Franks were raised. But on the other hand a lot of it would certainly have been very offensive to devout Muslims if they’d care to come (the freely flowing alcohol and the gays parading around in a country where homosexuality is still illegal, but here at this event effectively immune from arrest.) Am I being too sensitive to their feelings? The white liberal? Anyway, yesterday I could see why fanatical Islam can be seen as attractive to some.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014
KCC’s innovative and impressive Social Work
Readers of my blogs will by now know that I’ve been quite taken by KCC, about the great volunteering spirit, the amazing performing arts and the inordinate identification with the KCC community. Some of their social and educational work is equally impressive and especially interesting for someone who’s spent most of his working life working in these areas with marginalised groups.

Their outreach and housing work, for example. With some of the founding members of KCC having lived on the streets as children themselves, this has always been an issue close to their heart. In Dar es Salaam around 3’000 children sleep rough on the streets. Some are orphans but the majority have run away from home and school. The small KCC outreach team, led by a qualified nurse, makes contact with those in Kigamboni district and offers them first aid, food, clothes and shelter in KCC. In KCC they can cook on an open fire in the yard and at night sleep on the floor in one of the rooms which in the day is used as a classroom or practice room for the dancers and acrobats. Nothing I’ve written so far is spectacular. What has impressed me though is the subtle integration of the children into KCC and to an alternative life to that on the streets. The children are encouraged to look around, try things out and decide which of the activities they want to join in with. In one of my earlier blogs I wrote about how the homeless children were inspired by watching the acrobats practise and then started to try out the tricks themselves. After a while an older lad came along and helped them to do the exercises. All fairly informal and unstructured and – it seemed to me – thus easier for the children to accept.

The children are just there and can join in the activities much as they wish. This unobtrusive style impresses me. Some join the primary school classes in KCC, which are fast-track to help those who earlier dropped out of school to finish their obligatory primary education (this lasts as arule 7 years from the age of about 7 onwards). Although the schooling by KCC is officially recognised by the local government it makes no financial contribution to the work apart from providing the property rent-free. One of the workers, Hassan, couldn’t give me figures off the top of his head yesterday when I asked, but the ‘success’ rate – judged by the number of children who stay and don’t go back to the streets – is high.

The children get counselling and if they have parents, the KCC staff visit them together with the children. The attempts to get them to return home and for the parents to accept them again sometimes work. If this is not possible (or if it is put off for a while, as the situation for both sides is too difficult) and if the child settles in in KCC then he (rarely a she) can move into the KCC house which they call a shelter. At the moment there are three children at the shelter and six staying at the KCC centre who could move there as well. The shelter is fairly new and is in the process of getting registered officially. This should help KCC to fund the project better. At the moment, KCC struggles to get enough money to finance the work, even though it only costs around Fr.2.00 or £1.50 per day and child for food and clothing, and the volunteers – at the moment – are working for free!

The second area which has impressed me is the ‘Rehabilitation Programme’ for children who have committed minor offences. By law they cannot be sent to prison, and KCC offers an alternative which is funded by UNICEF as a pilot project. It works like this: The children are collected from the police station or courts and informed of the programme. They have to appear every day at KCC and a programme of activities within KCC is worked out for each of them every week. They also receive counselling and the KCC-team telephones or visits their families together with the children every week. A lawyer comes into the centre and talks with the children and then with the staff, also weekly.

The children’s progress is assessed after 3 months and if necessary the programme is prolonged. As it’s a pilot project it’s all being monitored quite closely. I haven’t had time to acquaint myself with the programme in detail, but it seems to be very successful and appreciated by the powers that be. As with the work with homeless children the secret of KCC’s success seems to be the informal setting with an attractive choice of things to do in an accepting atmosphere.

An interim balance

8. Juni 2014
An interim balance: How far have we moved from the pioneer and into the differentiation phase?

Two thirds through my time with KCC and time to draw an interim balance. In my blog from 22nd May I wrote about the main areas I planned to work on and when I look at them now, then I am quite happy about the progress so far.
In terms of my basic message I have tried to support and encourage KCC in two complementary areas. On the one hand strengthening the consultation procedures within KCC, so that the volunteers know their views are important, these are listened to and that they flow into the decision-making processes. (This didn’t happen sufficiently, for example, in the decisions last year concerning payments for the volunteers which led to the crisis). On the other hand ensuring that the Board of Directors is aware of its role and responsibility to make clear decisions, which are written down, followed and well communicated. In the past these two areas have been neglected, so that it was often unclear who was making decisions and what decisions were being made at all. And if decisions were made at all, they were sometimes not carried out or quickly superseded by a new one.

So what did I do in practical terms? Firstly, I concentrated on making an organisational chart (also very good for me so that I got a good picture of the organisation’s structure). It has been a very fruitful exercise. The chart had to be remade many times as people and tasks got found, as it became clear that assumed structures were wrong or made no sense. Sometimes I didn’t find it easy to hold back from saying that a particular hierarchical construction in a department seemed to have more to do with historical reasons and is in many ways confusing and unclear. I emphasised that the structure seemed wrong when viewed from outside the organisation, but as long as everybody involved know who does what and where to go if they have a question, then my opinion doesn’t really matter.

After the organisational chart was more or less sorted out I wanted to concentrate on clarifying the roles and responsibilities of all staff posts and meetings, so that all in KCC know what they are expected to do and what they can expect of others. It was clear from the beginning that we wouldn’t be able to finish this while I’m here, but I hope in the case of the most unclear jobs to talk with all the relevant people and to make a first draft of the job descriptions. I’m half way through this now. I’ll also have made a start at clarifying the roles and powers of the various committees. When I came there was no one taking minutes of the meetings of the Board of Directors but now someone has been found and he’ll start today. When all these measures are in place then things should be better ordered and clearer for everybody; something for which they are very thankful. (They realise that the positive aspects of flexibility, openness to everything new etc. has its downside in not knowing where one should start with the work, feeling overwhelmed etc.).

I’ve already written about the bad state of the book-keeping. Further work with Sakina, the Finance Director, has only confirmed this. She and I have revised the procedures within the department and we’ve written a description of the state of the bookkeeping so that the expert who’s coming via Molly’s Network to introduce a new book-keeping system will have an idea of what to expect before he or she starts. I wanted to help her prepare a budget, but the accounts for 2013 are so incomplete, it is proving impossible to use previous experience as a basis for a start. At best we’ll get a rudimentary budget completed based on the imperfect information from 2013 and without consideration of new initiatives or planned changes.

Each department has so-called action plans which are outdated but are now being checked and pursued where possible. Only the ‘Office and Administration’ didn’t have one and Rashid and I have made a draft of that. He’s very pleased at last to have a picture of what he’s supposed to do. Without the plan he had no systematic overview and basically felt paralysed. Importantly, KCC’s strategy paper is long out-of-date and needed to be renewed. We had no time for a wide ranging review and arguably it wasn’t necessary considering all the other things going on, so I played the role of secretary – or perhaps more the midwife – with Nas and Rashid and we drafted a new strategy. We’ll present this and the Office Action plan to the Board of Directors today.

I wrote on May 22nd of my involvement in a dispute with a major funder. (I offered to mediate as it was causing a lot of uncertainty, even bad blood, and absorbing too much time and energy). Well, when I met the other side, I found that their wish to be flexible combined with what I see as a lack of professionalism, were making the situation worse. I rewrote the assessment of what KCC had achieved, as their first one was often imprecise, vague and far too long, so that the funders, understandably, I think, were very unhappy with it. (As KCC recognise themselves they are in great need in training in report-writing). At the same time they’ve been carrying out their own investigations, which I expect to show that they themselves have unwittingly contributed to the problems. So now I’m not so pessimistic and, contrary to my initial fears, maybe the agreement will be restarted. The major result has been though, that KCC no longer prostrate themselves in front of the big funder (you think I’m exaggerating? Well maybe if they aren’t doing this physically, they have been in every other way). They accept they may not get the much needed financial support, but are no longer prepared to continually cower down, and quite right so!

So, how far have we moved from the pioneer and into the differentiation phase? A good start I would say, but there are lots of pitfalls on the way yet. Clarifying things and writing them down on paper is all well and good, but far more important is a change in the mind-set (see my opening remarks on my basic message) and here only time will tell if my five weeks here have helped or not. On that sobering note I’ll sign off.

Working on the organisational structure with the volunteers

Some more blog posts from Rick in Tanzania:

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Yesterday we had a second meeting with the volunteers. At the first one, a week ago, after introducing myself and explaining my role, I started off by giving telling them of my thoughts and feelings about the organisation. As my Swahili is embarrassingly poor considering how many lessons I have had and as a lot of those present speak little or no English, Nas, the Executive Chairman, translated for me.

After saying how impressed I was by so much of KCC I turned to the problems which Molly’s Network and I had identified, in particular the lack of clarity and written procedures and what I think the next step must be. I was glad to hear a lot of agreement.

I then presented an organisational chart which I had drawn up after a few discussions with Nas and Rashid, the General Secretary, and included not just a picture of the present (implicit) structure but also my suggestions for changes. For example that they need someone to take minutes at meetings of the Board of Directors (they haven’t been doing this and so – as is to be expected – people interpret decisions differently or they get forgotten). This prompted a really good discussion with comments on what the volunteers thought was missing, who could fill the vacant positions etc. Besides presenting the chart and getting feedback on it, I was keen that they become familiar and feel confident with a model of working which on the one side encourages consultation but also confirms that the Board of Directors is where the final decisions will be made.

I emphasised that the chart is only a picture, a representation of KCC which is not perfect and can always be changed, but that it’s important that everybody has the same or a similar picture in their heads. When I said that I assumed everybody has had a different picture in their heads, there was a lot of laughter in agreement.

Yesterday’s event was more of a workshop. Unfortunately as we were about to begin, there was a power cut which lasted until evening, one of the many which seem to occur at least daily at the moment. So I couldn’t show the changes made to the organisational chart after their suggestions had been discussed at the Board of Directors. I had really wanted to do this as I know from personal experience that if there’s anything worse for an employee than not being consulted then it’s when having been consulted the suggestions and requests are ignored without an explanation. At the workshop we divided the volunteers into three groups according to the major departments and I asked them to list all the tasks performed in there. Afterwards they presented the results to the whole group. Nas and in particular Rashid got very nervous about my next step. I asked the volunteers to say who does or should do each task. Nas and Rashid were worried I was letting the volunteers decide who does what. I think and hope that I was quite clear about this though. The people being allocated the tasks (which of course they will be already doing in most cases) must have the opportunity to say if they want to do them and if they feel able to do them. And of course also here it’s the Board who make the final decision.

It was a good meeting again going on for almost five hours with a break for lunch together. (If they’re not getting paid then at least they get a free lunch). There was a bit of coming and going; occasionally a young child being was breast fed or handed around. But there was a high level of concentration anyway.

This Saturday far more Swahili was spoken and so I didn’t understand a lot that was said. But after a while I realised this had its good side as it had the great advantage that Rashid and Nas had to take more responsibility for eh process we were going through and in this way gain experience to be able to do this sort of workshop themselves another time. My role became one of giving them tips, answering their questions and generally strengthening their resolve. A good day again.

Monday, 2 June 2014
Volunteering, then and now 

One of the things which impresses all visitors to KCC is that the organisation has from the beginning been run by volunteers. Effectively there are no paid staff – although many, if not all of them, need the money. Altogether there are about thirty volunteers with responsible jobs to do and many others who are around and help out when needed. Many of them spend numerous hours in the week in KCC, having no job to go to and finding this a satisfying way to spend their time. For some things they get travel expenses or something for food; last year many of them received some money, but as I described in my last blogs this triggered off a crisis in the organisation and the funder has stopped further payments, at least for the moment.

KCC reminds me a lot on my own experience as a volunteer when I worked for Bristol Cyrenians after finishing university and having spent years in the sheltered halls of learning wanted to do something different before starting on a ‘career’. That was 40 years ago!! And of course in a totally different world than now. Like the volunteers in KCC we were fired by a pioneering spirit; we wanted to change the world; we worked long hours for next to nothing and our workmates were our friends. Some of the themes have changed (we didn’t talk about sustainability and protecting the environment) and we were more overtly political but some things are similar and it’s great to encounter them again, for example grass roots democracy in action. I loved it then – I still regard it as one of the best times of my life. And here in KCC I’m experiencing it all again. As an outsider, of course, (although the people are so welcoming, that many would probably consider me part of the KCC community) and with a lot more experience and a lot less naivety (I won’t claim to have lost all of that).

KCC doesn’t appear to have any real problems recruiting volunteers. It seems to happen largely organically with people coming round, getting involved in some way or other, being given something to do and, if it works out, giving them a job with more responsibility and so on. There’s a great belief that everyone has some skill or other to develop and to offer and that it is important to find out what that is (they have someone responsible for ‘talent development’). The local volunteers come from Kigamboni; some of them came to begin with as homeless children via the outreach programme and stayed. There are international volunteers as well who seem to be much appreciated (in the Cyrenians as well; some of us fell in love with them and here it seems too). They can often bring in something new and different, e.g. one offered karate classes. Of course there is sometimes a problem of having a vacancy in the organisation but no one with the right skills and interests at the moment. In the course of my work here however I’ve made a couple of suggestions for new posts and suitable candidates prepared to do the job were quickly found.

There are two major problems confronting KCC with its system based on volunteers. One is that people need money to live and if they don’t get any from KCC and have the opportunity to earn some somewhere else they tend to leave. Secondly, the skills needed to run as large and complex an organisation as KCC is now, do not just grow from within the organisation automatically, but usually need some sort of input from outside.

For the second problem there are possibly solutions at hand. Local experts funded by firms as part of their corporate social responsibility policies, such as Molly’s Network, can guide and assist organisations in acquiring management skills. International volunteers with management experience such as myself, can be an invaluable complement to this. The experience of ‘Managers für Menschen’, the organisation in Germany which found me this placement, suggests that there is a lot of interest and potential in placements such as mine. Finally there are various organisations here which offer training courses, also in management related subjects, for free or which would cover the costs of such courses for KCC-volunteers.

The other problem is money and this is much more intractable and – as we have seen – conflictive.

And if they do manage to get money to pay at least some of the volunteers, will they manage to blend the two cultures – paid and voluntary – together? Will the present enthusiasm and dedication get subverted by mammon? I know of examples where this is not the case and paid staff and volunteers work happily side by side, such as in BAS, the advisory service for refugees in Basel. But in Basel the volunteers have an alternative source of income or are doing it to gain experience as lawyers etc.. I’m not sure how it will work here, where the volunteers hardly have alternative sources of income.

I can’t help thinking of the animated debate which we had with our neighbours,  just before I left for Tanzania about the idea of a basic income from the state for everybody. If they had that here, KCC could continue as it does now. And to keep that discussion going – KCC is a great example that people don’t need to be enticed to work by a wage. If the organisation has other attractive offers – friendship, possibilities to share one’s skills etc., that is incentive enough, as long as one has enough to live on.

Umgang mit Unvorhergesehenem

Egal ob der Einsatz in Tanzania, Kambodscha oder Argentinien ist. Als Berater auf Zeit steht man auch einer ganzen Reihe Herausforderungen gegenüber. Sprache, kulturelle Unterschiede, oder aber auch regelmäßiger Stromausfall und knappe Ressourcen…im Einsatz lernt man kreativ zu sein und mit Unvorhergesehenem umzugehen.

Seit Mitte Mai ist ein weiterer Berater auf Zeit in seinem Einsatz in Tanzania. Rick berät in einem Community Projekt im Großraum Dar-es-Salaam. Nach Stromausfällen, schwachem Internet und wahrscheinlich auch den ständigen Netzschwankungen, gibt es seit mittlerweile nun knapp 2 Wochen Probleme mit dem Akku in seinem Laptop. Und so ist die Aktualisierung seines eigenen Blogs und der Einträge bei Manager für Menschen nicht immer reibungslos möglich. Zukünftig werden wir mit Ricks Erlaubnis eine Auswahl aus seinem privaten Blog hier posten.

Viel Spaß beim Lesen!

 

1. Mai 2014 
“Lets start at the very beginning, a very good place to start” (The Sound of Music)
‘Let’s start at the very beginning.’ That’s easy for Julie Andrews to say, but the tale of how I got to go to Kigamboni Community Centre (KCC) is a rather long one, so I won’t start at the beginning.

A few points are important nonetheless. Apart for a short period of unemployment about 12 years ago, I haven’t had a longer break than 3 weeks from work in over 30 years. So the prospect of getting an extra month’s paid leave after having worked for 10 years in HEKS was wonderful, but also a challenge. What to do with this once-in-a-lifetime chance? A month walking in the alps? Or along the coast in Crete? Or doing the rest of the Dales Way in England? All very attractive options. But I also wanted to experience something new and different. So I took up an old idea of being a volunteer in another country. (Fresh out of university 40 years ago I was a full-time volunteer for 6 months working with homeless people, an experience which changed my life radically and positively, so the idea has been dormant for a while). Africa had always fascinated me, especially Tanzania because of its first president, Julius Nyerere, and his African Socialism (I know it failed in many ways, but he was and still is an impressive and revered person). I was in Tanzania two years ago for a couple of weeks (in Moshi at the foot of Kilimanjaro) and had a great time. What to do though for the 5 weeks I’d allowed myself?

Via internet I came across ‘Manager für Menschen’, an organisation based in Germany which links up “qualified managers and experts who would like to spend a meaningful sabbatical in order to involve themselves in a social community development and NGOs requiring short-term missions of experts or consultants”. The general manager, Elke Dieterich, had been inspired to found M4M by her own experiences in Tanzania and was just the person who could help me. With my CV and a letter of motivation she was able to find 3 organisations who were interested in having me help them; I skyped with two of them on the basis of which KCC and I agreed to give it a go!

KCC attracted my interest from the very start because of the vitality and commitment of those involved. In the short space of 7 years the organisation has grown fast and they have built up an impressive array of projects. KCC is currently undergoing an assessment by Molly’s Network, an independent accreditation scheme based in Dar es Salaam which “endorses local organisations that run effective and efficient organisations and achieve impact in their communities” On the 12th May KCC will receive their report and recommendations. Two days later I arrive for my 5 week stint – the timing is coincidental but perfect – and assist KCC in the process of deciding which recommendations to take up and how to implement them. Parallel to this, but less intensively, Molly’s Network will continue to support KCC over the next 18 months.

So that’s my main work for the next five weeks, and I’m really looking forward to it! But in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln (Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”), I want to get to know KCC and the people there first. I guess I won’t be participating in the acrobatics’ classes (take a look at the videos on the website to see why), but maybe I can teach some English or help in other ways. And when I’m not working? Well at the moment I’m especially looking forward to swimming in the Indian Ocean at the beautiful Mikadi Beach which is only a mile or so away from where I’ll be staying. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

 

15. Mai 2014
Arriving in Tanzania
As expecteod it has been quite a plunge into another world in the last couple of days. Just the airports for a start. Doha, Kuwait, where I had changed planes a few hours earlier, was opulent and, seen from the plane, looked like somewhere in a science-fiction film. And then Dar es Salaam which reminded me of the film ‘Casablanca’!

After landing and getting a visa by a process which I didn’t really understand but seemed to work, Nas met me and off we went to Kigamboni in a bajaji, a three wheel vehicle for up to 3 or 4 passengers, along totally congested and potholed roads. It took the best part of an hour and I’m glad it wasn’t any longer. I hadn’t slept much so I had a break and then Nas took me to KCC. It’s just 10 minutes to walk there along busy untarred roads flanked by shops and even more numerous street vendors. Once there, the community centre as such was much as I had imagined thanks to the picture I had been able to make from their website. In the space of a few hours I was able to observe a variety of activities all being led by volunteers and all pursued seriously yet with humour: acrobatics, music, English and computer lessons, theatre and, of course, the ubiquitous football.

In talks with Nas and Rashid, two of the founder members, and Sakina, the financial manager I got my first taste of the work facing me. I won’t go into that now except to say that KCC is facing even more difficulties than I suspected. Importantly though, I have been made very welcome and I feel a lot of trust from those I’ve met. And parallel to this, high hopes and expectations on me. I hope I don’t disappoint them!

Otherwise my first 36 hours here have been spent settling in, trying to catch up on sleep and sorting out sim-cards and internet access. All rather annoying and time consuming. Despite globalisation countries seem to have very different ways of administering even these things. My own impatience and tiredness leading to irritation with electronic devices hasn’t helped either. And that’s a sign to post this and get off to bed. Tomorrow I’m getting up early to go for a run on the Mikadi beach with Nas. Looking forward to that after so much sitting and talking.

 

22. Mai 2014
What am I doing here?
The rhetorical question above shouldn’t be understood as my questioning whether I should be here or not. Far from it. In KCC I’ve found a really impressive grassroots community organisation doing very interesting things and which deserves to be supported. Moreover an organisation with a few problems where I feel I can bring in lots of the experience which I have collected over the years. I’m relishing it!

I think I’ve already written that KCC has just been assessed by a local organisation, Molly’s Network. When making their recommendations they knew I was coming here and made some suggestions as to what I could do. In the meantime I’ve added a couple of things myself and having discussed it all with Nas and Rashid and now have a plan what I want/should do and at the moment it looks realistic!

The problems which KCC face are very typical of a young organisation coming out of its pioneering phase. Until now much has been achieved through the inspiration and dedication of the four founder members. But the informality and spontaneity of the first years do have their disadvantages, as they tend to develop into a lack of consistency and clarity. There was a crisis last year in KCC centring around the former director who then had to leave. (I don’t think it’s rare for a founder to be kicked out or to leave with both sides being disillusioned; it’s happened in at least three of the organisations for which I have worked and I haven’t worked in so many!). And now the next phase is due, in fact overdue. And that’s where I have more experience and feel more at home. (Interestingly the problems which KCC has are not significantly different from those of the organisations I was in. I showed Nas a paper on the subject written by Europeans and he could agree that many of the characteristics of the crisis described there are to be found in KCC today. Any cultural differences aren’t that significant.)

So coming back to my original question, what am I actually doing here?

I’m assisting KCC in 3, maybe 4 areas. Firstly with the bookkeeping. I don’t often use the word ‘shocked’ but here it’s appropriate: I’ve been shocked how neglected their bookkeeping has been. And it’s not just KCC who are at fault: the auditing firm can’t find the audit report for 2012! At KCC expenditure and income are recorded on excel spreadsheets and that’s about it. The amounts aren’t even added up, let alone checked against the bank statements. There’s no formal petty cash account (just money in an envelope) even though cash is the main means of transactions here, etc. etc. Luckily everybody thinks this must be improved and urgently. I heard today that my request that Molly’s Network tries to provide some bookkeeping software and expertise to train and support the finance director will almost certainly be successful. Great news, not just for Sakina, the finance director, but also a confirmation for me. (Of course she should have complained earlier that she was out of her depth, but anyway).

A second area is the organisational structure. It is there basically, but not fully utilized. So for example there are neither job descriptions (in fact some were drawn up two years ago but never implemented) nor an organisational chart. These are all the more urgent as the Board of Directors are planning to pay an allowance to those who have positions of responsibility and need a clear basis for their decisions. Here, as everywhere I guess, money is a sensitive theme, so they have to do this very carefully.

The third piece of work I’ve been asked to do is do a kick-off meeting to develop a new strategy and then help with the first draft. I’m especially looking forward to that as I can bring in my experience as an adult educator which I haven’t used for a long time.

The fourth area I’ll go into on another occasion (it’s a long, complicated story, especially for me coming from the outside): their difficult financial situation, where I’m coaching Nas and Rashid.

All very fascinating and challenging, but I’m really enjoying it.

 

23. Mai 2014
But its not all work
It must be around midday (I haven’t worn a watch since I’ve been here which helps me get in the local attitude towards time!) and I’m typing this into my netbook lying in a hammock on Mikadi beach having had a lovely swim. For a change there are no clouds and as there’s hardly a breeze and the temperature is about 28 degrees (82 F) it’s very pleasantly warm.

One other good thing about Mikadi is that I can eat some different food from that at Nas’. Not that the food there is bad; it’s just rather monotonous. Breakfast is chapatti with brown sugar and tea strongly flavoured with ginger. The evening meal has always been rice up until now with some vegetables, usually a type of spinach, and with a sauce and a smallish bit of fish or meat. For dessert it’s usually a banana but yesterday I saw some mangoes on a street stall and we had thoseWhen I get back toThe shore’s fairly flat here so the tide goes out a long way and swimming is only really possible around high tide. The waves aren’t high so the swishing noise of them going up and down the sand is calming. More like the Mediterranean than the North Sea so one can really swim and not just jump up and down in the waves (although this is what most of the locals do here, probably as many can’t swim). And there’s no underwater tug or drift so it’s very safe. At the moment there are very few people here so if it wasn’t for the disco music coming from next door it would be totally idyllic.
My day started with an early morning jog along the beach with Hassan from KCC. along , It’s really beautiful running on sand.I’ve been warned not to go alone on that stretch of the beach because there’s a chance of being mugged, so I’m glad to have a companion. We don’t talk much during the run which suits me. Because he’s not as fit as I am we don’t go for as long as I would really like, but I’m glad to be able to go at all.

My time at KCC has been fascinating and absorbing as you blog-readers will already know, so I’m glad to be able to get away now and again to think and to relax, which I’ve managed to do here in Mikadi every day lately. For that the beach is perfect and I’m very glad I can get here so easily. It’s only about 500 metres from Nas’ house where I’m staying. Unfortunately I have to leave before it gets dark for safety reasons,