Delivering on the promise

When we started this journey on the SAP Social Sabbatical, we had no idea who or what we would be doing. We knew in general that the 12 of us would be working at a NGO or small business that is helping people in some way. We knew that the project may or may not relate to our core skills. We also knew that there are risks with short-term consulting like what we were about to do.

Can we learn quickly enough? Will we get the culture? Will we have access to decision makers? Can we even make a difference in such a short amount of time?

The challenge we were presented by Vision for Youth was … immense, to be honest. It was bigger than we or even Vision for Youth realized at the beginning.

Confidently though, I can say that Chyna (China), Sunny (India) and I (U.S.) delivered on our final Scope of Work — and were able to add a few extras in.

So what did we do, and how did we do it?

WEEK ONE: Discovery

I always knew that our journey would start with LISTENING — a lot. And it did. We met closely with Violet Ayoub (Executive Director) and Vedastus Sibula (Program Director), interviewed their youth and partners, and conducted a questionnaire among other audiences.

From our pages (and pages) of notes, long list of potential deliverables, and the opportunities that we captured, we went to the drawing board — literally. We created charts to tell the story of V4Y’s organizational structure, their departments, and the (many) opportunities and directions we could take the next three weeks. We knew, from the beginning, that we couldn’t do everything that V4Y was asking of us.

We presented our findings to Violet and Vedastus and came to an agreement on what could go into the final Scope of Work (SOW). We captured all of the other ideas that we came up with so that they can work on them at a later point in time with our work as a foundation.

WEEKS TWO & THREE: Build. Validate. Build.

Next, the three of us dove very deep into our main deliverables: the organization’s strategy (Sunny and Chyna) and their marketing kit/strategy (me). We of course all helped each other on both primary areas. Later in week three, Chyna took the plunge into HR documentation and delivered amazingly on them.

These two weeks we adopted a cadence of building, then validating, building again, then validating again, to make sure that we were on the right track. I have to say that our amazing support from Violet and Vedastus and their dedicated attention really helped us succeed here.

“Look like you’re working!” (jk — we’re actually working!)

WEEK FOUR: Delivery

We spent days with V4Y leadership sifting through all of our documentation, tweaking here, clarifying there, adjusting there for language or organizational culture or needs. It was a smooth but exhausting process, for us and for Violet. The Tuesday of our last week morphed into an all-day session (8:30am to 11pm), finalizing, reviewing, editing everything, and painting the complete picture for V4Y.

Working dinner on our last night! (Herbs & Spices Ethiopian)

Wednesday, we presented over the course of five hours to all V4Y staff, ensuring they understood their new focus areas, messaging, strategic 2022 targets and their marketing materials and branding. On Thursday, we finalized delivery (think Google Drive), our 90-day implementation plan and document map for the 37 documents we were handing over.

We finished the last details and reviews with Violet and the team at 6pm over a celebratory Ethiopian dinner at a local restaurant. We went back to our original SOW, went down the list item by item, and checked everything off — we had delivered!

Reflections

In her opening remarks at our final presentation, Violet said that she feels like Vision for Youth got “the best team.” It was humbling and flattering (P.S. all the teams were amazing!). We were presented with Maasai shukas (pictures coming later) which was an honor.

Violet has shared many times that she learned a lot being so close to us for four weeks. Not only the technical stuff, but with how Chyna, Sunny and I worked together and approached problems. We ate lunch with them every day (I will miss the ugali and vegetables, and especially the beans and corn!). We laughed (a lot). Our heads hurt together!

We debated, negotiated, navigated and launched a realistic package that has given V4Y a coherent and focused strategy (with numbers). We were partners with V4Y — consultants, yes, but also listeners, learners, teachers and, sometimes, architects.

I’m thrilled to be part of the V4Y family now, and to see how they evolve to help even more youth throughout Arusha region and expanding into Manyara, Kilimanjaro and Tanga regions.

So what did I learn? I learned how to use ugali as a spoon with my hands. I learned how to translate between individuals who communicate differently — in ways that I haven’t ever experienced before. I learned that “sawa” means okay. I learned that sometimes simple is better, and sometimes you need the complex stuff too. I learned more about every single component of a marketing and brand kit. I learned that I don’t always know what an audience will like. I learned that Bollywood music is hugely popular among Tanzanian youth. I learned that sometimes complex slides can be more beautiful. I learned the importance of a focused strategy.

At the end of it all, I know that we made a difference. In the process, we will really impact the youth of Northern Tanzania. Our work will help more youth get access to reproductive health education, more opportunities to start their own businesses, and a greater involvement in their government and representing Tanzania at the East African Community level. These are things that Tanzania sorely needs, and the demand for Vision for Youth’s services is immense — and increasing.

The work that Violet, Vedastus and the team are doing is amazing, and I am so thankful to them for welcoming the three of us into their lives, making us feel at home, nourishing our bodies and our minds, and, most of all, making this world a brighter place, one young man and woman at a time.

Asante sana! Thank you very much!

PS: I feel one more post coming in a week or two, on my personal “safari” (journey) in Tanzania and with my 12 SAP colleagues from around the world.


Originally published by Clay Thompson on August 6, 2017. For more by Clay, visit his publication here.