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Community values driving change in Somalia

Updated: Jan 7, 2022

2021 has been a year of transformation and driving change. In February, I started an expat post working as an International Finance Manager for a mine action INGO based within South Somalia and Somaliland country offices.

After a year of global uncertainty, nationwide lockdowns, social movements, sector-wide consciousness on localising international development efforts, I had a pressing need to make changes in my own life. That for me was to move closer to national actors who are implementing development projects and a country-based mission was a perfect opportunity.

I think for many sector professionals working to make a difference, the immediate focus can be on ‘self’. The practice of looking inwards and being infatuated with our own direct inputs. What are my core responsibilities? How well am I being perceived? Have I met my deadlines? My deliverables. My contributions. My impact.

At the very start of my mission, I found myself often looking inward and approaching work and challenges as though I was the only person in the room. This approach is a short taxi ride to burn-out! Often characteristic of a perceived overwhelming set of responsibilities, needing to continuously work overtime, needing to be everywhere at all times, not enough time for self-care and feeling trapped within this cycle.

It wasn’t until the summer after taking some time out to do volunteering and returning back in Somalia with a new perspective. I started to notice a wonderful team of determined hard-working individuals with a passion to drive their country programmes forward.

A team-building trip allowed me to get to know my team and also the beautiful and preserved landscapes outside of Hargeisa. We took a few supplies and camped out by the beach in Bulaxaar, we swam, explored, talked, resolved a food shortage and we came together and worked effortlessly together. I felt a warm embrace of being apart of a network that was far stronger than me and more capable of accomplishing anything that could be done by my sole efforts.

It was through observing the tenacity of our finance officers and drive to take on new responsibilities that we were able to complete training on procurement procedures.

It was through their attention to detail and desire for efficiency that our procurement practices were continuously monitored and process improvement implemented to ensure value for money and transparency when completing purchasing.

It was through acknowledging our logistics team's drive to take ownership of supplier selection process and utilise tools to streamline purchase ordering that we were able to identify cost savings, to review policies and understand supplier contracts that required renegotiation.

It was through the joint efforts of finance, logistics, programme coordination and operations departments that we were able to shift from direct purchasing to a complete procurement process for our country HQ food supplies.

My team members taught me the importance of community. Acknowledgement of people, their strengths, capabilities and interests. Working alongside members of your team to amplify their strengths and support in overcoming weaknesses. Reflecting and problem solving with colleagues. Encourage each other to come up with new ideas. Delegating responsibilities. Acknowledging contributions and rewarding progress.

Community is my new mantra for implementing any change process! Community is a lasting memory of my mission in Somalia, it is a value I will hold dear and a means for remembering all those wholesome relationships built during my time there.

I’ve learnt that it’s not what you achieve but how you go about achieving that is of real importance. And in the how, the focus should be to empower others to own and deliver the change we want to achieve. That way, your mission may come to an end but the work is continuously driven forward long after you.

It’s great for us humanitarians to share our experiences, I’ve learnt from so many others who were kind enough to share their unique journeys and solutions to problems. Join our Facebook learning community where we continue to share learnings and experiences with one another every day.

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