Reflections from our first ever Field Coordinator retreat
Our field team works in seven different languages and come from nearly a dozen different tribes. They are spread across six offices in two countries. And yet, we are one team. Our mission? Ending extreme poverty.
From San Carlos, CA to Kitale, Kenya, the Village Enterprise offices are a combined 15,000 kilometers apart. We work across borders and time zones. I can’t count the number of times in a week when we fiddle with our computers asking, “Can you hear me? How about now?”
The days our team spends interacting face-to-face are precious.
Last week, our 11 field coordinators (FCs) gathered in Soroti to kick off the new year with a week of learning, listening, and growing. Our field coordinators are critical to our ability to deliver a high quality program. Each one oversees the work of 4-6 business mentors (each of whom holds a portfolio of 30-45 businesses per year), organizes Village Enterprise training programs, perform spot checks on businesses, and disburse and monitor grants. They must understand every nuance of our model, and be able to nimbly adapt it to local conditions. Many of them have been with Village Enterprise for a very long time, and most started as business mentors themselves.
This first ever Field Coordinator Retreat was inspired by a desire to learn from one another and harmonize program implementation across all areas of operation. “We felt it was important to give the FCs opportunities to have face-to-face interaction and learn from each other’s varied experiences,” explains Kenya Assistant Country Director Nancy Chumo.
In Northern Uganda, our team works in post conflict rehabilitation. In Western Kenya, we battle rising inequality. Conflicts over land and oil pose obstacles to our work in Western Uganda while drought conditions and unpredictable rains affect programming in Eastern Uganda. In every area of operation, our team faces challenges that perplex the entire development industry—we have a lot to learn from one another.
During the retreat, the team spent sessions reflecting upon the varying challenges and implementation needs that arise in our various areas of operation. Trainings were conducted on report writing, data collection, team management, and more.
But what makes experiences like the Field Coordinator retreat special? Is it creating synergies and conducting SWOT analyses? Agreeing on benchmarks and investing in capacity building? No, those activities deepen competence but they don’t deepen relationships.
The FC retreat is special because we sit with someone we don’t know at dinner. Because our interactions aren’t constrained by poor Skype connections or frequent power outages.
Because we have the chance to remember that we are one team, with one goal.
“We need to establish a strong relationships between all our offices and create a good rapport to work as one body,” Zita Akwero who serves as our FC in Nwoya District reflects. “When we understand each other individually, we build stronger individuals, stronger teams and lastly a stronger organization at large,” says Kenya FC Nancy Shikuri.