In 2012 Somalia lay at a crossroads. Two decades of war had left the region devastated, bereft of a functional government and without even the most basic services such as schools or clinics, a society shattered by violent extremism and conflict between rival clans and warlords.

The year heralded great change. African Union forces regained control of the capital Mogadishu, driving out insurgents from strongholds across the south, laying the groundwork for a fragile transition to the country’s first democratically elected administration.

Yet, in one of the most volatile and dangerous regions on earth, progress remained precarious and expectations low. In a context such as this, how do you establish even the most basic conditions essential to peace and stability?

Wasafiri’s Director and lead of our Stabilisation & Conflict Practice Area, Hamish Wilson was deployed to the British Embassy in the newly created post of Senior Stabilisation Adviser in early 2012. His most pressing requirement was to help bolster the precious political and security gains being made in newly recaptured cities across Southern Somalia. The challenge was made even more daunting by severe constraints on access and with few partners willing to work in the most dangerous areas.

In response, Hamish established a dedicated cross-departmental Stabilisation Team supported by a flexible funding mechanism – an innovation in the British Government’s stabilisation efforts worldwide. The team built a portfolio that grew rapidly to USD17m worth of projects delivered across seven of the hardest to reach and most strategically important locations in the region, playing a key role in:

  • Reconstructing offices and community centres in each of Mogadishu’s 16 districts
  • Rebuilding bridges, roads, stadiums and street lighting in 5 newly ‘liberated’ cities
  • Recovering over 1000 bombs and explosives in Baidoa
  • Restoring five community radio stations
  • Training 500 women and young men in vocational skills
  • Rebuilding over 10 markets supporting hundreds of new jobs
  • Tackling conflicts between the 6 major clans of the Central Regions
  • Building the capacity of the Ministry of Interior, President & Prime Minister’s Offices

Few organisations have been able to move as quickly or as responsively to the ever-changing situation in Somalia. As a result, the British Government has helped lay the foundations for the effective delivery of longer-term recovery efforts vital to eventual peace and stability.

In keeping with the global shift towards recognising resilience as a vital component of humanitarian and development work, Christian Aid has embraced resilience-building as key to achieving its overall vision of eradicating worldwide poverty.

Enshrined in its 2012 Partnership for Change strategy as the power of individuals and communities to live with dignity, responding successfully to disasters, opportunities and risks they face, Christian Aid realised that significant changes were needed at an operational level to translate this concept of resilience into effective programming.

Wasafiri was called on to support Christian Aid in meeting this challenge by helping to plan and deliver a workshop in April 2013, bringing together programme staff from over 25 countries to share learning and best practice on resilience. Key lessons and actions were generated in the areas of integration, empowering analysis and planning, adapting Christian Aid’s Resilient Livelihoods Framework to context-specific risks, and measuring the effective performance of the Framework.

Armed with these invaluable insights, participants left the workshop committed and empowered to pioneer Christian Aid’s resilient livelihoods work in their day-to-day efforts to combat poverty around the world.

Click here for blogs, photos and videos from the workshop.

At the L’Aquila G8 Summit in 2009, African leaders called upon the international community to coordinate support for agriculture on the continent through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) as the leading African-owned initiative. They also called upon donors to do this in a manner embodying principles of aid effectiveness such as coordination, harmonisation, alignment and respect for country leadership.

At HQ level, this was to be achieved by donor agencies through CAADP’s Development Partners Task Team, which would provide a single point of contact for the AUC, NPCA and other African partners to communicate with the international community, and for donors to communicate in a consistent way with their field offices regarding how to advance support for CAADP.

Wasafiri was hired by 4 successive chairs of the task team to coordinate and support its activities, and over the course of 3 years, Wasafiri consultants provided much-valued continuity in managing the engagement of development partners with CAADP. Wasafiri was additionally charged with achieving the following key priorities for multi-stakeholder agreement in the context of CAADP:

  • Facilitating the Addis Consensus on Guidelines for Donor Support to CAADP at a country-level;Producing the Guidelines for Non-State Actor participation in CAADP;
  • Developing a CAADP Mutual Accountability Framework; and
  • Catalysing Grow Africa as the CAADP vehicle for generating private-sector investment.

The on-going alignment and commitment of donors has been key to enabling CAADP’s unprecedented progress in driving agricultural transformation on the continent, with CAADP held up as an international example of best practice for improved donor coordination. With Wasafiri’s support, the CAADP Development Partners Task Team has been the linchpin of working relationships between donors and African partners in advancing this historic progress.


Christian Aid’s recently launched global strategy, Partnership for Change, emphasizes that in order for Community Health and HIV programmes supported by the organisation to be more effective, they must move away from an exclusive focus on service delivery and directly address the systems and structures keeping people in poverty, a major barrier to accessing healthcare.

To assist in realising this goal, Wasafiri supported Christian Aid in designing and delivering a ‘Community Health for All’ workshop in Nairobi for relevant partner and programme staff, held in January 2013. The workshop agenda was framed around the three pillars of Christian Aid’s Community Health and HIV work, namely: ensuring sound health development approaches, equitable institutions and equitable social norms, which if addressed systematically, create an improved enabling environment for people to access health services.

The gathering provided those participating with an opportunity to explore what the shift in focus entailed by the new strategy means in practice for their current work, and what active steps to take to boost the performance of their programmes.

Partner and programme staff were equipped with concrete learnings and recommendations to help them apply the strategy in their own specific working contexts, so as to enable entire communities to exercise and claim their rights to essential health services.

Click here to visit blogs, photos, and videos from the workshop


With dramatic changes taking place in the nature of the HIV epidemic since the introduction of antiretroviral therapy, and consequent shifts in the global response to HIV (together with the onset of donor fatigue), Catholic aid agency CAFOD recognised the need to strengthen its HIV response in the global HIV hub of Southern Africa through a dedicated regional strategy.


Wasafiri has been instrumental in developing that strategy with CAFOD and its partners. As an initial step in this process, Wasafiri undertook a review in 2013 of CAFOD-funded HIV programmes run by 13 partners in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, formulating recommendations for ways to strengthen CAFOD’s HIV work in the region. Wasafiri also designed and facilitated a partner workshop in Zambia to validate the findings of the review, and was tasked with compiling the outcomes of the workshop and developing the regional strategy.

The strategy produced provides guidance to CAFOD staff and partners in their efforts to address the evolving challenge of HIV in Southern Africa by shaping CAFOD’s organisational and programmatic response to HIV in the region for the next three to five years.

Taking into account the intervening changes in the epidemic and the local contexts of the countries identified, the strategy outlines appropriate adaptations to programming and partner support to ensure the gains already made in Southern Africa in the fight against HIV are maintained and further advanced.

This is an historic time for the war ravaged country of Somalia. The comparatively smooth transition to a new government headed by ex-peace activist and educational campaigner turned president – the 57 year old Hasan Sheikh Mohamad – has generated a new wave of optimism for the region’s future. This buoyant mood builds upon the rapid progress being made in the fight against radical Islamic group Al Shabaab, who until late last year, held much of southern Somalia under its sway. Now, thanks to unprecedented regional military cooperation bringing together Ugandan, Burundian, Kenyan forces, with Ethiopian troops, Somalia’s iconic capital of Mogadishu has been reclaimed, and the prized southern port city of Kismayo has all but been recaptured. Al Shabaab are well and truly on the back foot, and their future looks bleak.

And Somalis are seizing the moment for themselves. Members of the diaspora are flooding back to the country from as far afield as Australia, Norway and the United States, bringing with them a spirited entrepreneurialism and cash. Capitalising on the growing stability, new enterprises are springing up across the battle scarred streets of Mogadishu. Freshly painted coffee shops, newly constructed hotels, and electronics stores laden with the newest appliances from Dubai all are materialising from the rubble that has defined the past 20 years.

Of course, much remains to be done to ensure this brief moment in time heralds a sustained recovery from a history bleached by entrenched conflict, crippling corruption, and oppressive regimes. Somalia has often been described as ‘the world’s most failed state’, a label which rightly angers many Somali’s nowdays. Yet there is no denying that the region remains dangerously fragile. The biggest risk is that this volatile time of political transition sparks more fracturing rather than unification, incites new conflict rather than peaceful settlement over timeworn issues.

The balance hangs in the hands of the Somalis themselves. Yet the regional powers have a critical role to play in ensuring their support is not driven by self-interest at the expense of wider stability. And the international community, in Somalia’s case a growing range of actors with increasingly diverse interests, must remain consistent and coherent in its support of the country’s rebirth.

My role as Senior Stabilisation Adviser for the British Office for Somalia, sees me heading a team at the sharp end of the international community’s assistance to the region. We are charged with working in areas newly ‘liberated’ by military forces, helping to restore stability, and create the conditions for longer term recovery.  It is certainly no easy task, yet the early signs of progress are appearing – we are supporting Somalis to establish local administrations, implement community security programmes and rebuild basic infrastructure like roads and markets.

Yet one-off stabilisation projects will only go part way to solve the problem. The real challenge in such a fragmented, fractured landscape, to Somalis and internationals alike, is to find new ways of forging concerted action. Action that brings together the Somali businessman from London keen to invest in his old neighbourhood, with the newly appointed District Governor, with a group of young unemployed men, with the women from the local market, with the head of the African Union military unit, alongside the police commissioner… to decide for themselves what the real problems are, and how they are going to solve them together.

Crack that, and the rubble of Somalia’s history may just be swept aside once and for all.

2011 saw the worst drought in 60 years for the Horn of Africa, affecting over 13 million people and leading to famine due to the combination of regional instability, weak governance, a fragile agricultural economy, and low resilience within communities. Six months later, a similar story unfolded in the Sahel, affecting a further 18 million people.

The traditional humanitarian response was failing to create long-term solutions, and at worst was locking people in to a cycle of dependency and vulnerability. A new paradigm was needed that would take an integrated approach to building resilience, by coordinating humanitarian action, with security measures, agricultural growth, disaster risk reduction, long-term safety nets and better governance. This paradigm would require a new level of coordination across humanitarian and development agencies, and with national and regional governments. In 2012, the Global Alliance for Action for Drought Resilience and Growth was launched by African governments and international partners to put resilience at the heart of their efforts in the Horn of Africa and Sahel.

Wasafiri Consulting was called upon to provide independent facilitation of the first meeting of the Global Alliance in mid-2012. Over 2 days, the meeting brought together the international community behind a common understanding of how they could work together to end famine in the Horn of Africa and Sahel – forever. Delegates left with a commitment to collaborate with together and hold each other mutually accountable, and a clear set of actions that would sustain their momentum over the coming year.

The Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) was established on 25 January 2011, following a merger of 14 organisations and agencies. Implementation of the merger was initiated in June 2011, with most of the senior leadership appointed in July of the same year. While the first few months post-integration proceeded smoothly, the complexity of the endeavour was considerable, with the fourteen merged organisations and agencies bringing with them a diversity of mind-sets, cultures, systems, values and processes.

In order to capitalise on the opportunities presented by this ambitious and complex venture, the RBC’s senior leadership determined to accelerate the transition, proposing that a senior leadership retreat be held in December, 2011. The leadership felt that this programme warranted support from an external consulting organisation specialised in facilitating complex change processes and developing high-performance leadership teams. Wasafiri was called in to perform that role.

Our team carried out an organisational analysis, comprising a set of perception surveys of leaders and staff, as well as face-to-face interviews. Although widespread dissatisfaction emerged with the RBC’s present state, so too did optimism for the organisation’s future and commitment to overcoming present obstacles.

The leadership retreat, conducted immediately following the organisational analysis, was geared to accelerating this transition, and to building stronger synergies across the RBC’s constituent entities and their leaders under a common mission, vision and plan of action. The programme was facilitated in such a way as to generate concerted, strategic action by this leadership group – so fundamental to the success of this bold undertaking.

The response from participants indicated that the retreat was extremely successful in achieving its ambitious aims and outcomes. Though much hard work still lies ahead, solid foundations have been laid for effectively managing the change process.

The context: In 2008, farmers in Helmand province of Afghanistan cultivated over 60% of the world’s total opium crop, undermining security, governance, and licit economic growth. Developing sustainable, alternative livelihoods presents a vast challenge amidst one of the world’s most complex and insecure of environments.

Wasafiri’s role: Wasafiri consultant Hamish Wilson was engaged by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) to manage the US15million 2009-10 Helmand Alternative Livelihoods Programme – arguably one of the largest and most visible stabilisation projects of 2009.

Generating action: Initial indications suggest the programme has strengthened local governance and the legitimacy of the provincial government, while stimulating economic growth and further rural development.

The context: One in five adults in Zambia is HIV+. The scale of the problem facing the country is vast and shows no signs of declining. Leadership is required in new and urgent ways if the pandemic is to be overcome.

Wasafiri’s role: Wasafiri consultant, Martin Kalungu-Banda, led a journey of innovation for a cross-sectoral gathering of Zambian leaders in order to discover new ways to tackle the crisis. The ambition was to achieve a breakthrough in thinking and action by through a unique change process. This implied:

  • Facilitating innovative cross-institutional, cross-sectoral collaboration and innovation
  • Techniques to overcome barriers and blockages to breakthrough action
  • Prototyping solutions across individual, community, national and possibly global levels.

Generating action: New ways have been found to grow the uptake of testing and treatment services, and a public consensus has been reached between bishops and Former African Heads of State. Overall, a methodology has been found through which business, government and civil society sector could meaningfully collaborate, identify systemic forces and develop innovative solutions.