The goal of Nuru’s Leadership Program is to empower local leaders to manage Nuru Kenya in a way that is both sustainable and scalable without Western support. Given this knowledge, we face an important and rather large question – is it even possible for local leaders who are primarily undereducated or informally educated – to be equipped with the high order of thinking and Leadership skills needed to sustain and scale an organization within an environment of erratic or inconsistent change? And, can we do it in a relatively short amount of time – say 5 years?

Currently, Nuru relies on highly trained and skilled Program Managers working alongside of local leaders to strategically develop programs and keep them moving and on target. The Program Managers’ experience and background enable them to see program successes and areas of improvement in ways the Kenyan staff cannot always currently distinguish. This dependence on the expertise and thinking of the Program Manager, is what the Leadership Program must address if we are to attain the critical mass of local leadership Nuru Kenya needs to scale independent of Western staff.

We are unashamedly assuming it is possible to equip local leaders to lead the organization to scale. To meet this challenge, we are not simply designing and testing a set of Leadership curricula – which could be found elsewhere – but designing and testing a Leadership training process that will equip leaders from Nuru’s target population to successfully scale and sustain the organization on their own.

Basic Nuru Leadership Training was the first step in that process – training leaders in the importance of concepts like sustainability, scalability, a holistic approach, and harnessing the power of grassroots groups. It also trained leaders in the values embodied in service minded leadership and connected them to their importance in generating effective leadership.

We just launched the second major step in the process – a 12 week series on “How to give and receive constructive Feedback.” Given the vast number of Leadership skills available to train on – this might seem odd. However, the ability to give constructive Feedback accomplishes two things in an organization. First, it helps create a positive working environment that drives employee motivation and builds energy to grow. Second, it fosters the sharing of knowledge necessary for workers to identify areas of success and opportunities for growth. The ability and freedom to identify what works and what doesn’t work are prerequisites for being able to adapt, change, and innovate on new solutions to problems when they arise – the higher order skills leaders need to sustain and scale organizations.

As we began to research how we might train on this topic, we realized Feedback wasn’t just one skill to teach, but actually a set of skills. In order to give deep and meaningful Feedback, one must first have a detailed understanding of what success in a given task looks like. It requires a deep understanding of the goals you are trying to accomplish and the detailed actions necessary to achieve success. Finally, it involves the ability to communicate one’s observations and analysis with others in an effective way. By equipping local leaders with the ability to analyze progress and communicate areas of strengths and need for improvement with one another, Feedback training is helping local Kenyan leaders develop their independent thinking skills – developing their ability to critically analyze situations so they can begin to think independently of the Program Managers.

Structure of Training:

Important to our training process success is the way we are structuring Feedback training, and others to come. One of the most important but difficult parts to foster in training is the transference of learning from the formal classroom to the job site. To bridge this gap, we’ve developed a project based approach to training. Feedback training is structured in 3 parts:

  • 2 hour Friday sessions – formal classroom trainings and workshop demonstrations where participants learn how to give and receive effective Feedback.
  • 1 hour Monday sessions – Leaders meet in their program teams with Program Managers.  They use a tool we’ve developed (currently called “The Debrief Tool”) to practice weekly reflecting and giving Feedback on their work. Program Managers use their expertise to foster Program Leaders’ ability to identify, observe and name actions of success and areas in need of improvement and change specific to their program areas.
  • 1 hour Thursday practice – Leaders meet in their program teams without Program Managers. Training Team members facilitate practice of Feedback skills. This step is meant to foster the learning and practicing of skill sets independently of Western oversight.