Friday, 22 April 2016

New Beginnings

New Beginnings

First and foremost, hello and welcome to the blog for the second cohort of ICS volunteers working with the Women Support and Activist Group (WOSAG) based in Tamale, Northern Region of Ghana. We are all incredibly excited to begin work with WOSAG where over the next nine weeks we will be establishing two girls’ groups in local schools and supporting two existing women’s groups to help create sustainable systems of peer and mentor based education on domestic violence, women’s rights, and sexual and reproductive health. Through this blog we will be detailing our progress on a weekly basis and reflecting upon both project and personal development.

Group photo outside the office
Tasked with writing the first blog post for our cohort we are advancing with some fear. Unsure at this stage exactly on either the tone or content of future posts, we are nervous to begin a series of blogs and in any way dictate how they will be written. What’s more, starting afresh has left us facing the tyranny of the empty page with little to yet document in terms of project development or community impact. In short, we feel like we’ve been thrown in Lake Volta and told to swim out.

So far we have yet to truly begin our project work and instead have been focusing on the less riveting tasks of risk assessing our compound and establishing our expenses from our training last week. However, beginning any new project always presents its own distinct challenges. Much as the new blog creates nervousness in the choice of setting a new direction, this is amplified several times over at the project level. Discussions over how we are going to build on the work of the last cohort – whose detailed research established a need for women’s and girls’ groups in Banvim and Kanvili – have demonstrated the difficulties of starting (relatively) afresh and making direction-setting decisions which will guide not only our work but that of future cohorts as well.

For many of us, straight from the relatively confined and determined structures of school, university and work, this is a new experience to gain, a skill to perfect. Whereas most of us are used to timetables which control our time, the next essay which guides our focus, or a boss who dictates our task, this freedom and opportunity are oddly disabling. Despite the fact that our future selves will be infinitely better equipped to set the direction of project and understand the outcomes of our decisions, it is precisely these things that we are required to practice at the beginning of our time here in Tamale.
This issue has clearly presented itself in both project management and social media – the areas this blog’s authors are working in. For social media, decisions have been made over how to organise multiple different accounts and maintain high quality output to draw and maintain attention whilst not creating too Herculean a workload. One such decision was to not only maintain the WOSAG page, but also to create a WOSAG profile to allow us to be more pro-active online and minimise the confusion of having multiple administrators. In order to ensure sustainability, user guides will be created for the project partner and future cohorts.

Writers hard at work

The task of project management has also required us to make quick decisions on currently uncertain criteria. Working at the beginning of the project and casting deadlines into the future is certainly a daunting exercise; questions over the timing of awareness raising sessions and peer education have had to be made yet we are not yet sure if our projected timeline will be feasible. Obviously, much like with social media, we are all aware that this plan may have to change but such a prospect creates its own questions. How will we be able to cope with a sudden change of plan? Will our team be able to cope with the stress of uncertainty further down the road?

Here perhaps we can find a silver lining to our slow start, for whilst uncertain about our own abilities in guiding the project, we have succeeded in building a team that will be able to quickly adapt to any changes we need to make in the future. This is not only essential for our enjoyment of the project, but also allows us to create a more resilient team than one which might be well guided but lacks this essential team spirit. From our respective pre-departure training, to first meeting our Ghanaian and UK counterparts at in-country training we have built strong friendships. In fact, the extra time we have been afforded by the slow pace of inevitable bureaucracy has allowed us to socialise and learn each other’s strengths. Perhaps then, our frustrations at a slow start and our apprehension at setting the direction has allowed us to build something more sustainable – a team resilient enough to cope with the challenges we will inevitably face.

Authors: Matthew Willmore and Raphael Tinati

Edited: Emma Irven

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful article, I can tell you guys are ready for the task, it may be daunting but there is a stronger force in you, passion that will keep you going through the times. Enjoy your placement.