Here’s a breakdown of what I’ve been up to at work last week:
I was in Tamale, the capital of the Northern Region 4 hours south of Navrongo where I stay, for our DDA (District Director of Agric) Fellowship. It was the last of 5 workshops where we bring the directors together from different districts to share ideas, problem solve together, learn about specific issues they’re interested in (like value chains), work on some leadership development such as different leadership styles and reflecting on their strengths and weaknesses. At this session they presented on their change projects that they came up with and held each other accountable for – they basically shared progress and what happened. One director’s project was around Performance Based Incentives where he and his staff established a criteria and team to assess field staff on how well they’ve done and rewarding them (incentive) with either material or non-material things such as extra fuel money, a certificate and public recognition, work materials like rubber boots, being allowed to attend a workshop, etc. Another director’s project was to keep detailed records of fertilizer transactions and numbers and analyze this data – for a clearer description have a look at my colleague Erin’s comments: http://perspectives.ewb.ca/static/erinperspective.html
And on top of all that, for me it was a fun time because they all joke around a lot and have lots of laughs – which is one of the things I love about some people here – and it just made the day more enjoyable. On the other hand, they also gave each other feedback (positive and constructive) which is not a common practice among civil servants or anyone as far as I’ve heard and seen here.
Megan, an EWB staff from a neighbouring district, came to my district and met with 2 AEA field staff Greg and Clement and I in the field on an AEA field exchange, which is something Megan has been piloting. It’s basically scheduling and encouraging field staff to think about what they want to learn from other field staff. So we don’t chose for them or dictate and they get to decide based on what they want to know, this could be how to measure a yield plot, or how to do a business plan with a group, or some composting methods or whatever they feel is important to learn from each other. We just play the ‘middle-man’ and organize things so that it happens. We’re aware that it’s not sustainable but it’s an interesting experiment to see how peer to peer learning can happen and if it’s useful or not.
I helped run the Agriculture as a Business (AAB) workshop for field staff at the district, and to my surprise just about all the AEAs showed up which I found incredible since everyone knew the director was out of town. I think it went pretty well, even though I never know how good workshops are because I’ve seen a bunch of them that people are used to attending and the engagement level is never that high. But I was happy that Greg and Clement facilitated the majority of it so it wasn’t just me, I played a smaller role which is how it should be, while the two of them gained some experience facilitating rather than the usual being on the receiving end, and I think it was good that they were promoting the AAB tool as a way to help build strong farmer groups. I’m also unsure about if people will actually use it or not but the director is mandating the use of the AAB tool to strengthen farmer groups so I’m optimistic. EWB is planning on doing an evaluation of the AAB tool to try and measure the results, not to get donor funding but to know how beneficial it is based on some evidence rather than just our personal experience and gut feelings. So I’m hoping to be a part of this evaluation work in the near.
I went to the regional office and had a transition meeting with Megan before we departed for the EWB West African Retreat – where our Ghana and Burkina Faso staff come together to share information and ideas while holding workshops and presentations – and have some fun too. Megan is leaving Ghana next week so I’ll be the only EWB person in the Upper East Region, which means I’ll be working at the regional office in Bolga part time, maybe only once a week. I’m still learning about what this work will entail and what it will look like, but part of it will be attending monthly meetings that the regional director holds with all the district directors, working with the monitoring and evaluation department a bit on district reporting systems, and also being the face/mouth of EWB here and trying to build relationships with the regional director and regional officers to include them in our work and see how we can work together. I think another aspect of my role might entail visiting districts that we’ve previously worked in to see what’s happening, where they are at, are they even using AAB, what changes have they made and so on.
So that’s what has been happening with work lately, in a nutshell it’s mostly learn as you go which means plan and strategize but you have to be flexible and take action when an opportunity presents itself and react and make changes when things don’t go as planned; basically working in uncertainty.