Kick-off Conference

There was a very specific tension in the air on that Monday morning. Anticipation. Energy and willingness. Willingness to get started and energy to get back to work.
On Monday September 5th Wale Wale Kenya’s core members, employees, board members, interns as well as one volunteer gathered in the small dancing studio at Wale’s Youth Center facilities. Tables were gathered in the shape of a horseshoe. Chairs and benches arranged along the walls so that everyone fit, just exactly. As small talk settled in the air and people settled in their seats, there was just that tension left – anticipation. Now, the scheduled two-day conference that was to establish the frames and aims for the coming month’s organizational progress could begin!

We were proud that we were able to gather as many as we did. In total, 16 people attended both days. Everybody was welcomed back from a much needed week off after the intense training for, and successful execution of, the Don’t Beat our Future Tour. So, after about two months, time has come to return to business as usual. To renew the energy of our members and to revitalize the goals of our organization. By means of the conference we wanted to cement Wale Wale’s strengths while addressing weaknesses in a constructive way. We used this conference to establish targets for the rest of the year 2016, which will ensure that we are all progressing in the best way.

The Outcome
We were asked to put down on paper the things we wanted to achieve this year, as individuals and as an organization. Here, the many areas which Wale Wale aspire to be involved in at one time became apparent. Discussions were honest and extensive about the ways to approach the different issues and reach the targets everybody could agree were the most urgent. To summarize the main targets can be listed as follows, no priorities intended:

  • Increasing gender balance and general inclusiveness – although we agree that Wale is one of the more inclusive organizations in the area, more can still be done to ice ease the number of girls and women who join us. Especially the core members see an unequal balance of the genders. The issues arises even before we have an opportunity to handle it, hence, the next two points are highly linked to this one.
  • Welcoming new members – the new faces which continuously come around at the Youth Center should feel like they have someone to talk to and a place with us from the first day. So, everyone seemed to agree that if we are more attentive to the newly arrived they will be happier and even more willing to return and contribute to our collective.
  • Improving the connection to the community – this agenda have and will always be one of the core concerns of Wale Wale. We, as an organization, rely on being appropriately recognized and accepted by the parents of our members, the schools whose students we seek to help, and the general community as well. It is also very important to help further the aim of the first point, that parents understand that Wale Wale is not a club for socializing as such. Children and young people come here to develop their talents and grow personally as collectively. So, in the coming months various outreach projects and events will be carried out. For example, we wish to go put some colors on empty walls in Kibera, to invite parents around to see the facilities and the work we do, and to reach out to interested but unaware individuals around the community.
  • Improving communication between projects – this point refers to our internal operations. We quite simply wish to enhance the communication, cooperation and coordination between the areas and projects we are working on. We saw a need to realign the longterm vision of the different ideas which are put in work, so that the projects can naturally complement each other to reach a common goal.
  • Further enhancing the quality of the Academic Follow-Up – the program is working so far. But we still saw room for improvements. The program should be more closely tied to the children. Meaning, we want to establish relationships between the youth at the organization and the children which can function as mentorships that can actively help support the kids. We want to be better at realizing the specific subjects that the individual is struggling with by improving the connection between us, the school and the families involved. Moreover, these efforts should include the children more. We want to be able to track their progress and encourage them to help each other as much as we help them.

Besides these organizational targets, our different creative projects have established realistic but ambitious goals for what should be achieved when we reach January 2017. To name a few the music project is aiming to establish a record label under Wale Wale Kenya, and to publish an EP. The film department is working on a documentary which presents the fruits of our intensive labor that is the Don’t Beat our Future tour to Kisumu. The dancers wants more shows, fundraisers will work for more funds, bloggers wish to generate more opportunities for more people – in general, all of us are motivated and ambitious to maximize the outcome of 2016!

The Process
Petter Eriksson was facilitating the conference and helped ensure that these days were productive. The first day’s activities were directed towards creative thinking and towards setting some targets we could all agree upon. So, just to reboot the brains of the people, we started by doing some creative workshop exercises where we were asked to think about and write down our thoughts concerning a number of points. Firstly, we were asked to consider the three major changes we see in Wale Wale. Secondly, the three major problems of the area which we think Wale Wale is helping to solve. Finally, to further explain these problems, three causes and three effects each about them.

These exercises proved to be very helpful in realigning the ideas that people have about our organization. Everybody pitched in with their views, and although people expressed themselves differently, there was still wide agreement about what Wale Wale represents: As an organization we provide hope for better futures, indiscriminate inclusion in terms of age and gender, and an alternative to corrupt and ineffective NGOs who operate in the area. We still seek to respond to the root causes of perpetuated poverty; lack of motivation and a lack of places to spend time with the support of friends, new and old. Exactly the cause of poverty led into an interesting, and rather entertaining, discussion about whether poverty causes idleness or the other way around. Back and forth the talk went, everyone presenting great arguments. Although these topics are heavy and serious, the mood was playful and people laughed as they tried to explain to each other why they thought either why idleness is just laziness leading to more poverty, or that if you’re living around poverty you will necessarily become idle. By the end of it, the general consensus was that there is no way to determine which causes which. These two elements of life in Kibera enhance, breed and perpetuate each other – the phrase about the hen and the egg was used and accepted to describe the situation.

Now, people were alive, and after lunch it was time to attend to the business at hand. It was at this time that we initiated our efforts to collectively establish the targets of the coming month’s work. As people presented their thoughts on the issue, we started debating the best approaches. Again, as with any progress at Wale, people discussed openly, some louder than others, but everyone’s voice was heard at one point or another. We gradually established the goals both for individuals, the projects and the organization as a whole. As these targets where extensive and the discussions about them even more so, we ended the day with a set of tasks for the next day.

Tuesday came. The energy was slightly less apparent on this morning. However, we knew what had to be done. We needed to make yesterday’s targets and ideas into something more tangible. So, in short, this the 6th of September was dedicated to specifying and putting on paper the steps and elements necessary to reach our targets. To making schedules and plans for how exactly we want to progress. Even though the process this day was less entertaining, the product was just as important if not more so. Below you can view the creative representation of how September looks like.

image
We are planning to create on of these each month. This general plan has a number of functions: All members have an overview of what is going on in the different projects, where to put their energy on that day. Also, it serves as way for new members to easily get an overview of what they want to do and where they can help. The current members can simply take a photo and show it to their friends as a way of encouraging new interested and potential members to feel included and able to understand the work we do from the beginning.

At the end of the day, there was a clear sense of relief in the air that two days of long discussions and productivity were over. But even more clear was how happy everybody had been with the progress and process of the conference. There was a beautiful moment right at the end, when our facilitator Petter opened the floor to anybody and anything – one by one people ended up expressing how grateful they were for Wale and the work that had been done those two days. There is no doubt about the success of September 5th and 6th 2016, so now what is left are the challenges we have set for ourselves. Together, we face these and we shall continue being great!

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