Empowering the Poor With Sustainable Management Structure
On my first day of work at Micato Safaris, my first job out of undergrad, my boss called me into his office to discuss my role and give me some tips before embarking on what would be a valuable three-year journey of personal and professional development. He said to me, “the best manager is a lazy one.” Seeing as I was a young, obedient literalist at the time, I was confused for obvious reasons. Despite my limited knowledge, I was quite sure that there was no room for laziness in the workplace.
As he went on to explain his facetious claim, the moment of sheer panic that I had made a poor decision to work for this company passed. The point he was trying to introduce was that the key to successful management is to hire well-equipped, hardworking, adaptable staff. Then, train them well, and put your trust in them as you delegate responsibilities. This allows the manager to focus on strategic design that impacts the company as a whole and other such managerial undertakings – none of which involve anything close to idleness.
Nuru’s fifth Foundation Team is already in its second trimester on the ground, but the Healthcare program is still developing. It is not to say that we totally lack structure, but rather as we work hard to hone in on an exact CHW (Community Health Worker) model, it becomes increasingly evident that we need a clear division of efforts.
In my experience, this is where many NGOs go wrong. Money is allocated to a project. Westerner comes in to implement. Money dries up. The Westerner leaves. And the cycle repeats without long-term impact because the local leadership has not been properly developed or given the appropriate tools so to carry on the efforts. And, while foreign aid is truly trending toward genuine sustainability models, this practice is easier communicated than successfully implemented.
Always up for a challenge, this is exactly the foundation Nuru is built upon. We seek to employ the poorest of the poor, and help the staff leverage their valuable local knowledge while promoting technical and management skills. As for Healthcare, we have finished physically mapping households and health facilities, now it is time to map our management plan to ensure we reach those houses.
Before deciding that investing in Community Health Workers was the most effective path to improving health in our community, Nuru tested several other options, including mobile clinics, hosting ‘Children’s Health Days,’ and upgrading permanent clinics. During these activities our staff members were assigned one task at a time. As the previous Healthcare Program Manager and Field Manager learned more about each person’s capabilities, their duties became more regular, but when changes were made in the program few roles remained relevant. People thrive when they have significant responsibilities and feel that their efforts are legitimate steps towards achieving goals. Having a set of job description also eliminates a lot of confusion and pressure at all levels. For me this means micromanagement and initiative exclusively on my behalf will cease, my ‘laziness’ will increase – aka trust, delegation and ownership by the true owners of Nuru will amplify.
The tiered skeleton will remain – Community Development Committee Members (CDC) and Field Managers will work closely with the Healthcare Program Manager to oversee the Field Managers, who ‘rank’ above the Field Officers, who ‘rank’ above CHWs. However, we will also implement roles with on-going management responsibilities that are pertinent to our long term goals. Plus we have an new additional level that needs managing – the CHWs! New roles are beginning to include additional responsibilities such as materials, communication and commodities management.
While in Kenya I have thought at length about my time at Micato and other organizations that allowed me to grow personally and professionally. I can attribute that growth directly to being given space to operate, which often times included failing, and also the reward of confidence after success. The team here has the same right to learn as I had, and I hope to allow them that. Already I have seen an increased excitement and work ethic, driven by a sense of personal investment and confidence. The Healthcare staff is extremely capable; they just need the opportunity to thrive. They need to feel that they are Nuru, not just that they work for Nuru.