East Africa Leadership Forum Inspires

Raphael Okumu, Executive Director of Tears Kenya, a long-time strategic Pangea East Africa partner prepared this inspiring summary of the East African Leadership Forum that took place in Kenya in June 2016. The 3-day retreat was sponsored by Pangea Giving with support from Segal Family Foundation.

Pangea Giving believes in a long term partnership with grass roots development partners as foundation for lasting and sustainable community transformation. With over 8 years partnership relationship, Pangea is supporting eight grass-root organizations working in East Africa on women’s empowerment, education and health; agricultural and food security, environmental conservation and youth development.

Amazingly, the leaders have similar issues and challenges, with each demonstrating competency on various talents to survive in the challenging environment. During a site visit by Pangea’s Africa Pod  in 2015, the idea of convening these leaders where an agenda is set by their needs and conversation shaped by their interests became a priority.  Shortly thereafter, a planning team was convened to organize an opportunity for peer learning, experience sharing, capacity development and networking among the local grassroots leaders in Kenya, Burundi and Tanzania.

In June, eleven leaders from Kenya, Burundi and Tanzania convened for three days of reflections, shared learning and peer support on various competencies. The East Africa Leadership Forum was born. 

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We began by sharing our personal stories and reflecting on the question, what keeps us as leaders awake at night? Among the emerging issues included family and work balance, given that majority of the organizations are led by founding leaders who are “everything” that organization needs, and staffing and staff retention, given that majority of projects are of short duration hence once a project is completed the competent staff exits creating gaps in staffing.

Governance, specifically Board development, is a common theme among the organizations. We also grappled with the need to address changing funding priorities that motivates many nonprofits to focus on donor driven programming rather than community driven needs since fundraising is also biased towards organizational existence. Leaders also cited cultural issues and gender as determinant factors in programming. The majority of East African communities live in a cultural context, hence any programming should integrate gender and culture.


Bob and MaryAnn Ness

The EALF  2016 enjoyed the valuable experience from the moderator Bob Ness, the founder of Global Leadership Forum, on leadership and organizational development and MaryAnn Ness. Both are long time Pangea supporters. Thanks also to Dandelion Africa for hosting the forum at their beautiful rural guesthouse near Nakuru, and also taking the group on a field tour of their projects.

We are grateful to the Pangea Giving Africa Pod and Segal Family Foundation for believing in and facilitating the forum.

The partners in the EALF are motivated and have initiated local interest resource sharing and exchange visits to strengthen our program management. Strategically EALF enhanced the co-partnership relationship between the leaders and organizations, and helped us think more creatively about how to make our community work and personal commitment sustainable for the long run. We hope to meet again face to face in EALF 2017 in Burundi.

We are yet to understand the meaning of sustainability, we are yet to explore what success is to our lives. ~Raphael Okumu