Keeping communication lines open

By Alice Wainaina

What do you do when the powers that be block sensible, well-intended change?

I was assisting a children’s charity with a launch of their programme for secondary school children. Although the TOR was focused on the launch, I felt it was imperative to discuss it in the context of the institution’s sustainability. The director was relieved at being able to voice some long-standing fears about sustainability. We considered various scenarios. He eventually decided they had to shift their approach from institutional care to a family-centred approach.

I met later with a team of the charity’s donors who were visiting. While pleased with the plans for the launch, they were clearly uncomfortable with the proposed change of approach. Their fundraising was based on an orphanage-type model. Despite my efforts to explain globally-accepted good practice, they were obviously unconvinced – as after they met with the director, I found myself locked out of any further discussions.

It was hard not to take it personally. I felt upset. I wanted to judge the leader for his lack of leadership. But despite the silence from him and the donor team I had met, I forced myself to keep communicating. I tried to do this with humility and gentleness, but without wavering in my conviction. One section of the donors kept up the communication. These had realised that institutional care was not the best option for the organisation in the long term, nor even for the children. Others, however, still put their own fundraising interests first. Eventually the director of the orphanage also called. He updated me on the children’s progress but did not bring up the issue of sustainability and shift in approach. After his long silence I did not think it prudent to force it on him. I do not know what will happen. The future of the charity is at stake. Sometimes all you can do is watch and pray.

This week, who should we keep communicating with, despite their silence or opposition?
Which situations of power do we need to respond to with humility, gentleness and conviction?

One comment

  1. Keeping communication lines open invariably requires keeping on communicating. In the busy world of consultancy that demands time. It springs from a mind that takes the work as a calling rather than as mere source of income, a quest for impact rather than to just ‘complete this assignment and move on’. Pursuing conviction in a hard terrain, as aptly noted, requires humility, gentleness, and tactful persistence.

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