Opportunity Colaboration: Creating Wealth to counter Poverty
Opportunity Collaboration conference was held on 15th-20th October and I had a chance to be amongst the three hundred plus delegates. My trip to Ixtapa the city hosting the conference was an experience in itself. at least 22 hours of flight only to come into contact with heat I never expected. The air was humid at least 28 or so degrees celcius. The theme of the conference being on poverty that added a burden on my shoulder since as a leader I never stop thinking about the needs of the poor women and girls I serve in Kenya. However, the serene landscape of the beach resort which was our venue of conference was relaxing and the smiles of the delegates reconnecting from last years event was an assurance that something extraordinarily good was to come out of the five days conference.
My worry though was I had not seen the woman that my heart so longed for. Jensine M Larsen, the founder and CEO of World Pulse Media. At the opening ceremony, when I was anxious to possibly spot her from amongst the many delegates, Whitney Smith founder of Girls for Glocal Change was right there with the news that Jensine would be delayed but hopefully she should come before the conference ends. I had a prayer item "Oh God, make it possible that I should meet my angel in this time and space."
The program begun with wellness for the lovers of yoga, soon after was breakfast until 9 am when all delegates would gather for their various colloquium for good sessions and in their groups discuss the on readings which aimed at understanding the qualities and role of a leader. Our readings included The letter from Birmingham by Martin Luther King Jr, from which I learnt the being an effective leader needs tenacity and keep course to your vision even when faced with opposition.
The mid morning sessions were a point of connection for delegates. Each had a pre-scheduled meeting with another to share experiences and discuss ways in which they could collaborate. My prescheduled meeting were open though because since I was busy on the campaign trail in the month of September I could not find time to run through the delegates roster and schedule for meetings with those that I share a vision with. But that was not a fail as such since all delegates were welcoming and open to meetings anyway.
All lunches were coupled with conversational and networking meetings dubbed Cluster- folks. I was able to make meaningful contacts with amongst other, Linn Kincannon the Director of Thriive (www.thriive.org ) and Anne Petersen the Founder of Global Philanthropy Alliance (www.globalphilanthropyalliance.org) Both organizations make small grants to support local organization to achieve sustainable community development.
The Cordes fellowship was a one hour leadership training clinic for the four days of the conference. There were fifty fellows in attendance, drawn from the diverse geographical and career backgrounds but bonded by the spirit of social entrepreneurship. The course module included Models of Financial sustainability facilitated by Sharl Berenbach, head of micro enterprise development at the USAID. Sharl explained that both non profit organization in this time and age must grow from the bench mark of financial stability to financial sustainability and further to financial self sufficiency where the organization can raise their own incomes to cater for their operation and program costs.
On day two of the conference, Ron Cordes who also funded the Cordes fellowship coached us on how lead a superior management team. I learnt from this session that a good leader must know what needs to be done and takes action to do what needs to be done. Key point of attention was his question “ what do you look for in the people you hire”? Now that got me thinking about my staff. Often because of a low operational budget , I have only been able to hire people from the local community who we train on job to execute the plans of our programs. This has been the cheap but very costly at the end as I rarely get new ideas from staff that may help in progressing the organization. Cordes advices that as founders we should hire people smarter than ourselves and we can be sure that they will run with the vision and add value to it. I get the point, but how do we fund their salaries at the end of the day when our financial capacity is low?
On day three, Jim Fruchterman, CEO Bentech, was there to answer my question by emphasizing that our organizations cannot live on lonely islands. We must co-exist in the ecosystem of non-profit, for profit, and hybrid organization thus building successful partnerships is a requirement. Two heads are better than one and so in business partners are needed to bring to the table perspectives, talents, resources, judgment, initiative, motivation, creativity and other core attributes. However, to make partnerships work, there has to be a relationship that allows one ‘s deficiencies to be complemented by the other. Choose your partners wisely!
Final clinic was on the topic that rarely leaves the conversations of non- profit leaders like myself- MONEY . Anne- marie Burgoyne, Portfolio Director at Draper Richards Foundation tried answer the questions that bother most of us these being ; how much money do we need? Where can we find it? How do we make it enough for all our needs? The discussion here was that while for profit organizations can easily find the ground for financial stability and sustainability, non-profit organizations struggle with the same because there are no explicit models to match nonprofit needs to funding sources thus promising programs that would otherwise have an impact to social justice are cut, curtailed or fail to take off.
I don’t know about you, but I have found myself in situations where I have had to close down project stations or programs because of lack of funding . One tip though to this dilemma as Anne-marie shared is to consider grant money from funders as a seed that must secure a harvest and a seed for next season. We must ensure that our programs are designed with a touch of financial sustainability and financial self-sustainability if they must survive to other generations.
After the Cordes Leadership clinic, fellow joined other delegates for the Colloquium Challenge. I was a contributor to the challenge Half the Sky is Falling which aimed to discuss the empowerment of women and what we as leader must do as advocates of gender/ women issues noting that many of the cases of violence against women, HIV/AIDS infections , maternal deaths, illiteracy, unemployment amongst other issues are a result of poverty.
Am almost through with the conference but not before I meet my angel – Jensine. It was yet another Conversational Cluster Fork and networking dinner that I finally met my angel. The joy in my heart as we embraced cannot be described. Through Jensine and the World Pulse I was selected as a Cordes fellow and the encouragement I received from the World pulse Team saw me through to the conference venue. I have so much gratitude to give back and this was the time to share my heart out in Joy. Thank you Jensine!
Lessons I learnt
The Opportunity Collaboration conference opened my eyes to see why we must grow from discussing poverty not as a condition but on the basis of what causes it. The reason is simply because poverty is the lack of preparation, opportunities, entrepreneurial spirit and visionary leadership. As a matter of economic development, for many years, I considered myself disadvantaged because having lost my parents to HIV/AIDS at age 14 and denied the right to inherit made me down trodden. Now that is a poverty mentality. What counts is not being fortunate to inherit or win a lottery but preparing early enough to take hold of opportunities. With an entrepreneurial drive put the vision into action. Then align yourself with the order of the day and finding the right partners who can run with the vision you carry. It is about creating wealth to counter the causes of poverty. All these need a team built on the pillars of opportunity and collaboration where opportunity is using obstacles as stepping stones to a build a life you want and collaboration finding a partnership that inspires and brings fruition to both parties.