Listen and Learn

During a workshop this week with the Kigali-based storytelling/mission-branding organization, Resonate, the Learning Team at Raising Voices and I were charged with the task of articulating our values as a team and developing a vision statement to help guide our work towards realizing the world we wish to bring to fruition in the coming years.

Throughout the process, I reflected on my own personal values and how they aligned with those of the team. I found myself both encouraged and inspired by the universality of the values that guided our work as individuals and the unique ways that we were able to articulate them to construct our identity as a learning organization. I found myself incredibly proud to be a part of a team that supports the amplification of voices of women and children who have suffered at the hands of men not only in Uganda, but around the world.

What was more was the pride I felt in that moment for being a part of a team that seeks to inculcate a learning culture in a violence-prevention NGO and inspire such a culture throughout the field as a whole. I truly believe that this process is integral to countering one of the biggest fallacies of development work in general.

I have spent a number of years of my life working and volunteering with organizations that pride themselves in their respective models. So much so that they fail to take the time to listen not only to the individuals their programmes seek to benefit, but to their own staff. I have seen Americans and other Westerners come into East Africa, assuming they know what is best for the local population, paying lip service to contextual programmatic development through conversations with local communities, and then establishing a set of practices that remains rigid and unalterable by the local staff that know the communities better than these outsiders ever can.

A learning organization respects and values the input, innovations and ideas of each and every member of its staff. It recognizes that each individual is a piece of a composite whole, and each is equally capable of bringing new knowledge and new ways of looking at our work that holds the potential to change the entire field of violence prevention. I truly believe if more NGOs operated like this, civil society would be far better positioned to help those that they seek to help in their work, wherever they are in the world.