By: Jerry Sellanga, Kenya Communications and Partnerships Manager
Life is a book. One chapter ends, another one begins. After working for three years within the wildlife conservation sector, I felt it was time to find a new challenge for my career. Its always a bitter sweet feeling to leave a place you enjoyed working and made great friends but I believe in pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
Thursday, the 28th of November was officially my first day with Amani Institute and I got to witness the presentations by the Social Innovation Management (SIM) Class 9 on the social innovation projects that they had been working on during the immersion phase.Held at Pawa254, a creative arts hub in Nairobi, the event was certainly worth attending. As a newbie to the Amani world, I was struck by how cohesive and cogent the presentations were. Diversity is one of the standout features of the SIM Program and the Fellows (from Kenya and 9 other countries), exhibited exceptional mastery of their social innovations and responded to all questions from the panelists with such poise. Several of the Fellows had their family members in attendance which is always a good thing. At the end of the day, we do what we do for our loved ones and their validation after such an intensive 4-month immersion phase in the Amani SIM Course must have meant the world to the Fellows.
The sense of community within the Amani Fellows also stood out to me. They were cheering loudly after each presentation and the camaraderie between them was palpable. This was underscored by the fact that Jessica , who completed her immersion phase in India, graduated in Kenya and the Kenya Fellows embraced her wholeheartedly, without reservation.
On my second day, I joined two of my colleagues (Caroline Gerstch and Caroline Nyambura) for a training at the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Regional Leadership Center at Kenyatta University. Amani is responsible for delivering the Civil Leadership Track with YALI till 2019. I got to witness trainings for over 50 Students on the MBTI Personality Indicator as a foundation for them to understand and know themselves. Amani believes in the concept of fully knowing yourself before you can lead others.
It was interesting to hear the collective “oohs” by the class as they discovered via practice how the different elements of their personalities were reflected in their thought processes and actions.
Three quarters of Africa’s population is below the age of 35, making it imperative to instill the proper values, skills and mindsets in the youth. If we are to unlock Africa’s untapped potential, developing enlightened youth with transformative leadership skills is key to leading Africa’s transition to a modernized, developed era.
On Tuesday, I had my first day at the Amani Institute Head Office. It was great to finally meet the entire Kenya team and get settled into what will be my new working environment. It was especially interesting to find out that I am the only male member of the Amani Kenya team (we need to empower the boy child, ha!) We had our first team meeting and the Amani team was gracious enough to host a welcome lunch for me. This also provided a platform for me to learn more about the team members and how I can potentially collaborate with them.
On Saturday, I was privileged to join the graduation of the 6th Cohort of the Amani Leadership and Management for Impact (ALMI) program.
ALMI is a 5-month modular program geared towards developing leadership talent in small and growing businesses and consequently equipping them with the necessary soft skills to successfully scale up their business operations. Research has proven that the biggest challenge that small and growing businesses face as they attempt to scale up their operations is not finance, but rather the required human capital. As with all Amani programs, it’s less about the theoretical aspects and more of getting things done by practical actions. To this end, the participants each presented their business innovation projects (BIPs). The BIPs are a way for the managers to use the combination of skills they have learnt during ALMI to solve a current business problem within their workspace or an innovation that will enhance efficiency and productivity. Several employees from the organizations that nominated the Fellows were in attendance and it was great to have them witness the solutions that will hopefully bring more value to their respective businesses.
All in all, I’d say I’ve loved my first week at Amani Institute. There is a lot to take in from a learning perspective from all the programs, our partners, new colleagues and getting to grips with a new industry but I’m enjoying the challenge.
As I said at the team meeting, I do not come with all the answers but with an open mind, a willingness to learn and a desire to see Amani scale to higher heights. Right now, it’s all hands on deck to make sure I deliver on my role. Onwards and upwards!