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.

The context: With three-quarters of Africa’s poor living in rural areas and depending on agriculture for their livelihoods, governments recognise that boosting agricultural productivity offers a key strategy for alleviating poverty and hunger. In 2009, the African Union’s plan for agriculture (CAADP) reached critical momentum with 20 countries working on new robust plans for agriculture. At the same time, the international community sought avenues through which to invest in tackling the food crisis, which now means 1 billion people, are hungry. CAADP provided a great opportunity, but only if African governments and Development Partners could establish ways of working together.

Wasafiri’s role: Wasafiri consultant Ian Randall, pulled together a team including Liberal Seburikoko, to facilitate a meeting at the UN in Addis Ababa, through which 18 African and 15 donor governments came to a common agreement on how to work together on CAADP. The resulting guidelines can be downloaded here. Since then Ian has worked for DFID, GIZ and USAID to support co-ordination between Development Partners as they align behind CAADP.

Generating action: The meeting was dubbed “The Addis Consensus” and heralded as a watershed moment in effective partnership by the international community to tackle the food crisis. Many African governments are developing strong agricultural plans that look set to receive additional donor finance. In Rwanda, the CAADP plan has seen agricultural growth leap from .7% to 15% and donors recently pledged a further $83 million.

Ian Randall facilitating a session

Ian Randall facilitating a session