Live from the VIA Water Sharing Skills Seminar

30 project leaders assembled


Live from the Sharing Skills Seminar

On day 2 of this Seminar, it is with great pleasure that we tell you a little bit about the journey so far. Assembled right now in Nairobi, Kenya, are 30 project leaders from 9 African countries from all of our current VIA Water projects. Some have just started, some are already well underway, and for a few participants, the ink on their VIA Water contracts has not even dried yet. Three days of working on their project management and leadership skills, to ‘grow as a leader to let your project bloom’ is what we promised them.

On Sunday evening, most of us gathered at Maanzoni Lodge, a beautiful green getaway outside of Nairobi. Sadly some of our participants had to join us a day later; some trouble at Nairobi airport meant they had to land in Tanzania first…luckily, on Tuesday we had a complete group to continue the Seminar with.

One of our main objectives was for the participants to get to know each other. As you might have already noticed, we are firm believers in the idea that you enrich knowledge by sharing it with others, and in the idea that this ultimately leads to better innovations and a higher level of development. And what better fellow experts to share with and learn from, than the fellow VIA Water projects? Unfortunately, in the day-to-day situation, with work to do and a project to run, finding the time to do this can be difficult. Besides that, it can be hard to share openly with people you have never met, sometimes even from another country. And from day 1, this is exactly what happened. During lunches and exercises, everyone got to know each other, and linkages between projects and subjects are being made.

We also wanted to invest in improving leadership skills; running an innovation is not an easy task. Before coming to Nairobi, we asked the participants to fill in a so-called DISC survey; a test to determine some of your main character traits. Pui Yee Chan of MDF built a workshop from this, showing participants how different personality types (can) respond to each other, and which ways of communication work best when working in a team with different types of people. For many, the results were an eye-opener: ‘reading the report was like looking into a mirror’. One other participant: ‘I realise now why my co-worker is reacting the way she does, and I’ve learned some new ways of approaching her’.

We get many questions and requests for support in project management. VIA Water Fund Manager Dick Bouman provided the participants with a thorough presentation on several topics in project management; talking about Risk Management, Relationship Skills (stakeholder management), Finances, Monitoring & Evaluation, and the Theory of Change, after which the participants set to work applying these skills by working on a case study.

The programme of the seminar had also been built based on our experiences of the past two years. One thing we noticed, is that many things are ‘lost in translation’ between our projects and ourselves. This is why we wanted to take a closer look at intercultural differences, and how this results in certain ways of communication. We did this by studying the statistics about several countries, but it also came up during many of the conversations we had during lunches and dinners, highly enriching the understanding amongst participants and staff.

On the final day of the Seminar, we will dive into communicating about a project, have a networking lunch with guests from our network. Then, we will close the Seminar with an official Ceremony before everyone goes their separate ways – taking home with them many new or improved skills, a lot of extra knowledge, but most of all: a whole new group of peers to share their VIA Water experience with.