I have just returned from a whirlwind week in Dessie located in the Amhara Region. There’s a livelihood project in Dessie which, in this instance, highlights the new health clinic that has helped improve the lives of the children born in and around this community. The clinic is located within the community so mothers are able to access medical attention without having to travel very far.
Flying into Lalibella, then driving to Dessie was absolutely breathtaking. The terrain in that part of the country is mountainous so it was a winding road expedition. I’ve included some pictures of the road trip and several others highlighting the nature of my trip.
Most importantly, I travelled there to conduct a workshop on using one’s communication skills and case study writing. Writing case studies is another one of my assignments while here in Ethiopia. I’ve argued that this is something that should come from the field. I strongly believe that the field is where the real stories are born. These case studies highlight projects that have been funded by donors who learn in depth details about where the funds as going. A colleague travelled with me to work on the technical side of case study writing (photo taking and photo-caption writing).
Anyway, enlightening the field staff about the importance of communication, which links to writing case studies was a beneficial exercise. I talked about the types of communications (listening, speaking, reading, writing), about barriers (semantics, emotions, attitudes/perceptions, role expectation, nonverbal cues, personal and organizational factors). I introduced the idea of flexible thinking. I explained how this behavior can help enable and drive change; encouraged them to see beyond the obvious, and try to look at the communities they serve as helping their family members rather than working on a project with timelines.
My colleague and I divided the 15 attendees into 3 teams. We shared some examples, role played, then we all travelled to a village within the project area for a practical field level exercise so each team could develop a case study; each team working with a separate beneficiary (mother). When we returned, the teams remained partnered to complete their case studies and made presentations. Afterwards, they were given the opportunity to critique one another.
We felt accomplished because we met our objectives: attendees were able to write case studies; to write photo captions; acquired basic knowledge in understanding the need for communication, recognized its barriers, and understood why flexible thinking is important in their daily interactions. I also designed a survey for attendees to provide feedback.
This was one of the most inspiring field trips because I believe I was able to introduce flexible thinking, building relationships while enabling and driving change.