Collaborating in Kenya: Are We Together?

A Ki-Swahili expression one gets used to after a little while on the ground here is tuko pumoja (are we together?). Often used to check for understanding and agreement in conversation or a staff meeting, these words steadily creep more and more into my English usage as well.

That’s the question we always need to be asking over here. Are we on the Foundation Team driving all things? Are we moving things in our own way, in our own direction? Or are we collaborating closely with our Kenyan colleagues – those for whom this project is also their life, and their community’s hope?

With that question in mind, we have taken another step to bring our own work more in line with that of our colleagues. Instead of keeping standing meetings among Foundation Team members for our weekly planning and key decision making discussions, we have moved to combine our meetings with those of our key counterparts – the District Managers (DM) of each department. We’re asking the DM to take the lead in reporting on key accomplishments and challenges in their own programs, and we’re taking steps to make sure the DM take part in all big decisions. They’re now conducting their own strategy sessions parallel to ours, and each side is reporting back to the other.

The goal, of course, is to manage more closely each passing month – ensuring that ‘we are together’ in all key decisions; we want nothing imposed, and nothing decided, without clear consultation and understanding. For if we’re not partners in this, if we’re not together in key decisions, our handoff to complete Kenyan management won’t be effective or complete.

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