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Archive for the ‘The Transformational Capacity Project’ Category

The Kalangala Islands in Lake Victoria

Friday, February 25, 2011

Our first stop on this Uganda scoping trip was Kalangala, the largest town on the Ssese Islands in Lake Victoria. Stephen, the president of SHED (Ssese Health Effort for Development), submitted a comment on the Global Grassroots website in 2009 and was ecstatic to finally welcome us, the first Americans to visit their project. From the instant he met us at the dock after the 3½ hour ferry, he spoke rapidly about their work and the challenges facing the fishing villages on the islands. We talked our way along dirt roads, winding slowly on his motobike, until we reached his office where he spread out pictures and began describing HIV orphans, anti-domestic violence meetings, and the solar drying racks they financed for fisherwomen.

Kalangala (Kah-LAHN-gah-lah) is home to 50,000 people that Stephen described as a hodgepodge of tribes, rebels, and migrants from all over Uganda.  Former child soldiers from the North and others journey to the island, anticipating wealth in the fishing industry, but are usually disappointed. Although most people manage to scrape by fishing and in shoreline villages at boat landing sites, life is difficult. Nearly a quarter of the population has HIV. The situation is not helped by the gender ratio (almost 3 men for every woman, according to SHED), and the consequent spouse sharing and prostitution. Of the island’s 3,000 orphans, many are HIV positive. Although wives are scarce, gender-based violence is the rule. It even trickles down to children: Stephen showed us a photo of an eleven-year old girl raped and impregnated by her father. I was afraid to ask her HIV status.

Visiting SHED felt like meeting Global Grassroots’ Ugandan cousin. Listening to them describe the importance of participatory development and working with stakeholders felt like talking into the mirror. They invite community members to meetings to discuss local issues and encourage them to develop solutions. “Sometimes, their ideas are just brilliant,” one of their leaders said. “The community members know what they need, you know?” Oh, yeah. They have helped students form clubs at schools to promote human rights, they work with police to respond appropriately to rape reports, and they provide mosquito nets to HIV positive orphans. They took us to visit a landing site where, after the women asked, they funded construction of racks to dry fish, which increases profit. Now twenty of the community’s most vulnerable women share the racks and have improved their standard of living. I forgot my camera cord in Rwanda, but there will be plenty of pictures posted when we return!

There is so much more to say about SHED, but we just checked into our hostel and need to head out to a meeting with the Program Director of the Uganda Women’s Network. Hoping this goes equally well!

What Would She Do?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I was recently asked by a friend to participate in an exciting experiment.  The instructions?

You are responsible for creating an organization in which people offer their greatest gifts. Describe it.

The purpose?

The instigators of this experiment propose: “Women will revolutionize how we think about work and have clear ideas for change.  Women have the most to gain from a new organizational model, so it is up to us to take responsibility for creating it… An organization intent on leveraging people’s “greatest gifts” will, in fact, be more effective, efficient, profitable and fulfilling to all stakeholders.”  Over the course of 365 days, they will be posting the viewpoints of 365 women and then working to explore and distill the patterns that arise.

Check this out as it unfolds: http://www.whatwouldshedo.blogspot.com/

And here is my contribution:

My dream organization has its center in a simple office in a natural setting, where the wall-length doors slide open during warm weather and where large windows allow a constant connection with the earth and sky. A shared kitchen with an eclectic mix of chairs, pottery and produce, harvested from a common garden supports individual wellness. Members of this circle connect virtually or in person to collaborate, create, innovate and engage around work that is aligned by a common purpose and has a broad social impact on a global level.

The organization measures its success in terms of its capacity to create systemic transformation leading to a more conscious society. It is inner-driven and outer-focused: individuals engage in their own work towards deeper self-knowledge, while striving collectively to advance positive change for the common good. The organization’s structure, operations, services and outputs are all designed to maximize social value creation, while ensuring environmental and economic sustainability. There is a code to do no harm. The circle does not seek simple consensus, but invites a diversity of perspective and debate for innovation. It engages stakeholders and beneficiaries in ongoing dialogue and evaluation. As a tribe, it recognizes it is a member of a universal, living ecosystem, and thus is open to its own evolution and even its own dissolution if that is the highest need.

Individuals invited and drawn to this collective are given time to explore, identify, nurture and apply their greatest gifts, passions, and talents. Then they commit to making their unique contribution towards the organization’s vision. Though there is a leadership structure that guides the tribe, there is participation at all levels in setting strategy, goals and objectives. Teams are formed primarily on a project basis for a specific scope of work, while ongoing operational and administrative needs are handled through shared responsibility with a spirit of service.

The organization insists on an equitable investment in both inner growth and outer work. It encourages daily practice for personal growth, and provides for structure and coaching along a path for professional development. When its members need solitude for renewal, reflection or creative processes, they can easily access the adjacent healing/yoga/ meditation rooms, organic garden, library, walking trails, and a musical/artistic white space – or not come in at all.

Core operational values include: integrity, open communication, human understanding, shared knowledge, active learning, and experimentation. Time schedules honor an individual’s circadian and creative rhythms, and so the space may have occupants at odd hours of the day and sometimes no one at all. People are compensated based on their social value creation, which may change with each project depending upon roles. Performance is assessed by the whole community, and trust allows colleagues to challenge and support each other in pushing beyond their individual growth edges. Collectively, the tribe is both a microcosm of and an advocate for a whole, just and compassionate society.

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