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Friday, August 7, 2009

YWLP: Helping Young Women Lead with Values and Purpose

By Jennifer Habig

The Young Women's Leadership Program (YWLP) was developed at San Diego Campus of the Center for Creative Leadership for high school sophomores and juniors. The 2009 program, which began in July, is designed to help these young women:

  • Make educational and career choices that are in alignment with their preferences, values, skills, and interests;
  • Confidently choose leadership roles when working with teams;
  • Exhibit improved communication as a team leader; and,
  • Continue education after high school at an institution to help achieve their career goals.

Through interactive activities, discussion, practice and reflection, participants work through the following questions with their peers and CCL staff throughout the week.

  • How do your values impact your actions?
  • How does your personality impact your actions and how do you like to work with others?
  • What do you want to do with your life and how do you get there?
  • How do you clearly and confidently communicate your thoughts and ideas?
  • What is your responsibility to make the world a better place?

The students are subsequently putting what they’ve learned into action as they work in partnership with a nonprofit organization to complete a community service project. Each project team is assigned a mentor to encourage participants to reflect on what they’ve learned and set practical goals.

Graduation will take place on August, 2009 as participants share what they learned while working with their teammates on their service learning project. This occasion allows the students to celebrate their success with community leaders, family, friends and CCL staff.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Visualizing New Futures with Women in Rural Ghana

We met Cheri Baker, a Peace Corps Volunteer working in Ghana, on our recent trip there. Over breakfast we quickly shared some of the tools that CCL has developed with the hope she can put them to good use. We were delighted to receive her dispatch (below).

Work began soon after moving to a very rural village in the Northern Region of Ghana. As a Health/Water and Sanitation Peace Corps Volunteer, my work is incredibly varied and always interesting. Through constant interactions with the villagers in Kpendua, I have learned more than I ever imagined about another culture and its people.

Since I first moved to Kpendua, I have marveled at how strong and hard working the women are. Because I was so impressed with their dedication to their families, a group of village friends and I decided we should start a Women's Group. But at the first meeting, more than 65 women showed up to participate! In time, our one women's group became four separate ones, and our work together ever since has been very worthwhile.

At the majority of our monthly meetings, my Ghanaian counterpart and I teach interactive lessons on HIV/AIDS, nutrition, proper breastfeeding, hand washing, or a topic of a similar nature. For the two strongest and most active groups, we are also trying to create business plans for alternative livelihood projects like corncob charcoal and beekeeping. But the most interesting work I've done with them has been related to the role of a Dagomba (a tribe in Ghana with whom I live) female, gender equality in a village, and leadership development activities.

When I first moved to Kpendua, I used a well-known Peace Corps technique (specifically a PACA tool) in which you begin by posing a positive question to get the group comfortable and more receptive to information gathering, then following up with a more difficult one that makes the group think about some negative aspects of their life.

After a meeting in the capital of Ghana with Lyndon Rego, Steadman Harrison III, and Phillip Brady from CCL, I was able to bring some of CCL's techniques to a village in the North. In three separate women's group meetings, I repeated the same PACA tool…but this time with a very helpful visual aid: CCL's Visual Explorer Cards. And wow, what a difference they made! When I first posed the question to groups of villagers more than a year a go, I just got blank looks in response. When pried, I could get some answers out of the villagers, but the concept and reasoning behind my questioning was too unclear. They couldn't seem to fathom why I was asking them, "What aspects of your life here do you appreciate?" When pushed, they could only answer about tangible things. They'd say, "We like that we have a clinic in our village that serves nine surrounding communities," or "We like that we have a Primary School." I was disappointed to find that that was all I could get out of them. Frustrated at the time, I eventually moved onto other techniques.

But this time around, using the same technique with the Visual Explorer cards made all the difference. While it was still very difficult, the women were very chatty once they understood the concept of the meeting. I started by asking the women, "What is the best thing about living in Kpendua?" (Most villagers I live with trouble with the concept of the word, "best." They also have trouble with the concept of "goals," "improvements," and "future plans," but that's another frustrating story!) When I rephrased the questioning to, "What is already happening in Kpendua that makes you the happiest? What is successful? What is good about living here?" I was able to get a few very informative and interesting responses.

The most impressive answer I repeatedly received was related to the Visual Explorer (VE) that depicts a group of young boys standing with their arms around each other's backs. Through that photo, the women talked about how it's great that everyone here helps each other, specifically to floor compounds (an amazing communal and very musical experience), plaster the mud walls (with a mixture of cow feces and mud), harvest groundnuts, and gather maize for naming ceremonies. Another group commented that they were happy that when a man asks other villagers for communal labor farming, men gladly ride their bicycles to farm to help weed. In addition, they were happy we have meetings and discussions so everyone's voices can be heard.
The photo of the dilapidated house by a riverside drew murmurs of approval. The women said, "The house is very beautiful; it is big and the landlord would be proud to own the house. We are happy that Kpendua has strong mud rooms for strangers (Ghanaian English for "guests") coming to visit because it's nice to have strangers."

It was also interesting to hear a woman exclaim she was "happy because she has strong legs to do all the work that women do daily" and that "It's too hard for the women who can't walk well." All this just from a photo of small baby's feet held in an adult's hand!!

When a woman holding the card of crayons asked the translator if it was a picture of bowls, he explained to her that it doesn't matter what the photo is and that what matters is what she sees. As she grew more comfortable with her thoughts, she made a long speech about how happy bowls make her. She clarified that female villagers use bowls to eat, and food is important. After pushing her to continue, she answered that bowls make her happy because it's nice to serve and share food at baby naming ceremonies and funerals.

Though the inevitable tangible answer did come up repeatedly, it was great to hear what the women thought was going well in their communities. They realized they were lucky to have a competent Nurse who could take care of them when they were sick at our clinic, which serves the nine surrounding communities. Another woman's photo reminded her of mosque, and she explained that Fridays made her very happy because everyone was "praying very seriously." Another woman said she was happy we have a road big enough for lorries to pass through our village. Yet another said it made her happy when there was a full moon because people could walk around freely and see at night. (Kpendua has no electricity.) A woman who said it made her happy to see development in Kpendua discussed the photo of an old woman's eyes. Kpendua has a school, a clinic, a mosque, and light poles waiting for electricity. (Though the district has been claiming that "the electricity will certainly come soon" for more than two years, we do have light poles lying on the ground in the middle of the village!)

And in a response that portrayed a major tradition in the tribe, a woman said she was happy that the elders here are respected and make the major decisions for the rest of the village after looking at a VE of an old lady.

After this question, I asked a new series of questions trying to pry answers out of them about they want to happen in Kpendua. I asked questions like, "What do you see in the photos that makes you sad about living in Kpendua? What is difficult? What can we improve on in Kpendua?" This part of our meetings consistently proved very interesting. I have been here for almost two years, but I can rarely get any concrete answer out of this type of question. No matter how patient I am and how many times I explain that my role as a PCV is not to give money, most people just answer this question by saying that they want me to help them buy a tractor. And get more money. This was the first time I was able to hear what the women really want. The VE cards really helped them open up.

With the VE, I now know that the women with whom I work want a special grinding mill to make shea butter. And on a related note, they want bulk traders to come directly to the village to buy the unprocessed shea nuts. I also learned that they want more Moringa Oleifera trees, a major nutrition project I have been working on with them for about a year. And they want more water, since there are currently only three working boreholes for 3000 people. (There is supposed to be one for every 300 people.) By looking at a VE of an overturned shopping cart, a woman said she wanted to learn how to do beekeeping. (Apparently word of one of my potential upcoming projects has spread!)

They don't want any more lorry accidents (we had a very serious one a few months ago killing seven people from Kpendua and injuring literally everyone else.) And they don't want people to "grow lean" and suffer without enough food. After gazing at the VE photo of a pile of skulls, a women said she didn't want any more warfare within the Dagomba tribe. (An ongoing chieftaincy dispute has split the tribe into two major sides.)

But the most exciting answer for me was when each group mentioned that they want latrines!! In the entire village, I still have the only latrine while everyone continues to go to the African "bush" to use the toilet. The women all agreed that they want latrines so they don't have to go to toilet so far away anymore. This answer made me so excited because my counterpart and I have been talking until we've felt like we were blue in the face trying to desensitize the village to the need for latrines.

Overall, the use of the VE was a huge success. Though one of the women's groups kept asking my counterpart to direct them more with clearer directions, he kept refusing for the sake of the activity. We also spent a great deal of time stressing that there were no wrong answers. They didn't have to know what the picture was of; instead we wanted to hear about anything that they saw. Admittedly, it was also sometimes difficult to get the women to say how the photo related to Kpendua instead of just explaining what they saw in the photo. Even so, I heard more about what aspects of life they want to leave the same and what they want to improve than I have heard in a long time. It was pleasant to hear the women interact so freely with each other, and I enjoyed watching them work together to try to figure out what was on each card. Near the end of each meeting, women were answering the questions very clearly without using the cards. It was the first time they were so open and forthcoming with their responses. It was an amazing change. I will certainly be using these cards again soon!

See the Visual Explorer Blog post with VE pictures imbedded!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Developing Leadership Skills for 10,000 Women in Bangalore

CCL’s Anupam Sirbhaiya delivered a leadership development program for the 10,000 Women program in Bangalore along with Acumen Fund and Indian School of Business. 10,000 Women is an initiative created by Goldman Sachs to increase the number of underserved women receiving a business and management education. The following is excerpted from a report by Nicole Orillac and Sophie Forbes of Acumen Fund:

The training was held on June 27, 2009 in Bangalore, India at the Goldman Sachs offices. A total of 21 participants out of 30 members of the 10,000 Women Bangalore program, attended the training in addition to two ISB professors and a guest speaker.

The key objectives of the training workshop were to:

- Introduce a model for personal development that participants can continue to use;
- Empower participants to come up with a plan on how to stay connected and support each other in the months coming forward;
- Provide practical tools for mentoring each other and their employees

The training workshop was based on a variety of resources, both technical and people, from Acumen Fund, ISB, and CCL and was supported by funding from Goldman Sachs.
The workshop was designed to be one full day. At the start of the training, participants were asked to share what they expected to learn from the workshop. The common expectations from the group were to learn how to motivate their employees, to keep themselves motivated, to sustain and activate the existing network among the 10,000 Women and to reflect about their own personal strengths and weaknesses.

The day began with a session for focused on cohort building. Two activities – Most Admired Person and Questions Carrousel - provided a platform for participants to recognize the similarities in their experience as women entrepreneurs. In the “Questions Carrousel” activity the participants were asked to answer five questions individually and then separate into five groups (one group assigned to each question) to analyze the answers. Most groups identified emerging answer buckets for each question which came as a surprise to the participants.

In Session 2, focus shifted from the collective to the individual. Participants spent time reflecting on a significant event or experience from their past that impacted their lives as women entrepreneurs. Afterwards, the facilitators asked the participants to recollect the experience one more time and analyze if there were any other people involved and the roles these people played. The key take away for participants was the realization that often people take for granted that there are other individuals around them as they go through life experiences and that these people play different supporting roles: some act as advisors, others as sound boards or motivators, etc.

Next, the facilitators linked the lesson drawn in the previous session about supporting roles to CCL’s ‘Assessment-Challenge-Support’ (ACS) model for personal development. Participants understood that the process of learning is dynamic and that to get to the next level of personal development it is common to first go through a “dip” in which productivity decreases and support is required. During these phases it is important to asses the situation, identify the challenge and seek the right form of support.

After having lunch with their Goldman Sachs mentors, participants returned to the training room for a round of putting in practice the ACS Model. Using images, participants assessed their present and future position as entrepreneurs by answering the questions “Where I am today as an entrepreneur? and Where do I want to be?” Subsequently, participants identified individual and collective challenges in their path to be the entrepreneur they would like to be.

Five buckets of collective challenges emerged from the exercise:

1. Finding/recruiting the right people;
2. Market entry strategy (new market/diversifying/expansion);
3. Systems and business processes (Designing and implementing);
4. Getting funds/investors;
5. Personal development.

Later in session 5 the facilitators helped the participants explore different resources available within the group to address the group challenges identified in session 4 and create a framework for support.

Each group developed a different strategy for support. For example, the group working on “Challenge 1: Finding/Recruiting the right people” made a list to classify their peers according to their area of business or expertise and suggested they be the primary contacts to reach out to when looking for candidates with those specific skills or sector experience. On the other hand, the team working on “Challenge 2: Market entry strategy” mapped out the steps that from their experience are key to consider when addressing the challenge in question and volunteered to help their peers in tackling any or multiple of the steps.

To complement the personal development piece of the workshop, participants studied how to communicate important information about performance to subordinates, peers, or superiors in a way that helps them hear what you are saying and identify ways in which they can improve.

The premise being that learning how to give and receive feedback is an important skill for personal development. The training session ended with a review of the day’s lessons learned, a confirmation that the majority of the initial workshop expectations were met and completion of evaluations.

The day concluded with the presentation from Chetna Sinha, the guest speaker of the day. Ms. Chetna Sinha, president of the Mann Deshi Mahila micro-enterprise development bank, shared the challenges she faced in building an enterprise that today has 5 branches, over 86,000 clients and 7,900 members.