Nuru Leadership Turnover to the New Program Manager

It seems like we do this every couple of months and if feels like just yesterday when I came and was transitioning with Chelsea and Tanner to become the new Leadership Program Manager.  Even though it was my second rotation in Kuria, I was stepping into a new program to work with a couple of staff who I had not worked with before.  I was also working on the Leadership program which was touting the importance of shared decision-making and restoring dignity to our local staff and local population.  Now I had to practice what I preached.  Will I take active steps to be less active and be part of the process seeing the team grow instead of stepping in and flexing my muscles?  This is now the challenge for the new PM to continue what I had continued and bring our Leadership staff to a place of strength and autonomy.

The new PM, Jennifer Chizek, comes to us from Michigan having recently received an MA in African Studies from Indiana University.  She will soon be responsible for communicating with the blogosphere and will share her experiences with the Leadership program here on the ground.  Her experience in Africa has mainly been in Ghana so she is very excited to be on this side of the continent.

Turning over the program to a new team is always a challenge.  I have been working very closely with my team and we have forged some close bonds.  It will be difficult to say goodbye.  Aside from personal and professional relationships, I have invested everything of myself into the Leadership program.  It is scary to turn the management of the program over to someone else even if they are highly qualified.  But this is one of the things that attracted me to Nuru in the first place, the work is not about me; it is to bring quality services to those living in poverty with a strategic and focused idea of exiting and allowing the local staff to take over all of the work.  One way to see this through is to bring fresh minds into the project to limit the possibility of western staff burnout and any potential dependencies that may form.  With that in mind I am very excited about the next level the team can go to with Jennifer.  To be fair, I will still stay very much connected to the project in Kenya as I will be regularly meeting with Jennifer and supporting her in her work with the team and the program.  Unlike the last time when I left the Education program and stayed semi-permanently disconnected.

Turnover is also a special time for our team because for the second straight time, they were able to lead a training with the new Foundation Team.  We started writing the lesson several weeks ago in the midst of preparing our FMs and training FOs on Focus Project 1.  Thinking back to the process after having given the lesson to the new team, I feel so proud of them for coming up with a really well-designed lesson, writing a case study and role play, developing questions, practicing several times, and applying feedback from the entire team to allow the actual lesson to be as best as it could be.  In fact, it was a very good lesson which the new Foundation Team not only enjoyed but also learned much from.

I am very excited for how much the team will be able to grow during Jennifer’s time, especially the Field Managers who have been working with us for only two months now.  It will be great to return and be amazed at how much they have grown and how much other leaders at Nuru have grown.


About Thomas Hong

Leadership Program Director — Thomas has worked in education and leadership development in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, India, Mongolia and Uzbekistan. He holds a B.A. in Economics and master’s degree in teaching from the University of Virginia and an MBA in international organizations from the University of Geneva.

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