I spent six months with Save the Children in Ethiopia, initially with Save the Children UK and then (after its merger) Save the Children International. I have attempted to be a source of enthusiam, expertise, ideas, and energy. The placement focused on the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) team, who are technically capable but required training, exposure and encouragement to better express themselves, communicate their work and build their profile, both internally to the organization as well as externally. Developing tools and processes to improve the quality of the program work was also essential.
Some assigned tasks were straightforward and completed early on, others evolved and were added to my plate. The work has, without doubt, been fluid and has required my resourcefulness and flexibility. The number of trainings has increased, and I can say that I have capably and competently contributed and led sessions in these. This will provide a sustainable and lasting impact on staff and their work. I have also developed tools for the WASH team, and these will continue to be used to monitor, learn and improve the quality of their work.
There was a obvious period of volatility and indecision across the organization prior to the completion of the merger, and this was felt by the WASH team. The current staff had to apply to secure their positions. This resulted in ambiguity and disinterest for a period of time by team members, and affected the placement experience. Furthermore, this occurred during the summer period, when other international staff members left Addis Ababa for extended home leave. During the earlier part of my assignment, Addis experienced its usual long gray, cold, and endless rainy period. I had just tasted summer at home and was greeted by the winter season here. This was quite a difficult period me, as my commitment to the work and the organization found few welcoming places to drive change. However I remained exuberant and resourceful, and made the best of what was clearly a difficult time for all.
As I complete this last full day at the organization, I cannot overemphasize how useful this knowledge has been for me. Building relationships, flexible thinking, and enabling and driving change were my three behavioral objectives that were challenging. Realizing that these behaviors may be a novel approach to most, it remained important to me to help build and understand the following issues:
- Process – being open to new ways of working; seeing the big picture; planning
- Content – asking the relevant questions before integrating an idea; message definition and consistency
- Communication – providing general information, knowledge, skill, training
- Accountability – realizing the urgency and relevance of deadlines and timelines
- Culture issues – understanding the beliefs that drive behavioral change
As a PULSE Volunteer, I have been exposed to such an organic setting, transitioning in and out of roles, and working with so many people from diverse backgrounds.
It is my anticipation that I can share the experience and bring some of those learnings as I return to my current role at GSK. There may well be opportunities to introduce some of what I’ve learned as GSK continues its challenging mission: to improve the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.