Storytelling is a crucial part of East African culture. Stories are used to pass on values, morals, and histories through generations. When a parent or grandparents sits down to tell a story, they begin with a simple call and response, beginning by calling out “paukwa?” to which the listener responds “pakawa!” As such, storytelling becomes a participatory experience. In that spirit, I have chosen to name my weekly column “Paukwa Pakawa” with the hope that the stories I share here bring the spirit of our work on the ground to you, the reader. I invite you to join me during my year as Village Enterprise’s Communications Fellow. Let me be your “eyes and ears” here in East Africa. Follow along each week as I share stories and reflections from the field. I encourage you to share your thoughts, reactions, and your own stories in the comments, by email, or on Twitter.
After only one month with Village Enterprise, one thing is clear to me: there is something exciting going on here. From the sense of humor that emanates from bi-weekly meetings with our Business Mentors, to the creativity and imagination of our Innovations team, to the rigor and extent of our Monitoring and Evaluations systems, to the joy of stepping out of the car on Disbursement Day–Village Enterprise’s culture is special. It is an organizational culture that seems to put our mission of ending extreme poverty in Africa within reach.
I invite you to join me during my year as Village Enterprise’s Communications Fellow. Let me be your “eyes and ears” here in East Africa as I bring Village Enterprise’s unique program and powerful impact to life. My role gives me a perspective on the Village Enterprise program that is unlike anyone else’s. I can meet our business owners in their homes and meet our staff in their offices; I have access to both breadth and depth. Using this unique access, I will dive deep into Village Enterprise, uplifting stories, exploring innovations, offering reflections, and considering important questions. In doing so, I hope to bring a vivid and thoughtful understanding of Village Enterprise’s program to our community around the world.
This is an exciting year to be brought onto the team. With the addition of our first Chief Operating Officer to achieve our scaling goals, the release of our RCT results, and new emerging partnerships over the next twelve months, we are in a unique time in our history–a position of growth and potential. With Village Enterprise’s increasing visibility, comes a growing responsibility to fill the role of a thought leader in global development. We look forward to sharing the implications of our program for the eradication of extreme poverty across the globe. In an effort to do so, I hope to offer a holistic, well-rounded, and in-depth look at Village Enterprise’s programming. I intend to use this blog and other platforms to bridge the gap between the industry and the individual experience, to link theory and practice, and to reconcile big questions with daily challenges. Over the next few months I will launch a series examining, in detail, each stage of Village Enterprise’s program. From Targeting to Business Savings Groups I will share stories, challenges, and expert perspectives in order to demonstrate why each step of our innovative program is essential to our impact.
As we dive into this adventure together, you should know one thing, I am a firm believer in people. I believe in the power of narrative, assured that there is immense value in each individual’s story. As such, my mission this year is to use snapshots of our staff and business owners here on the ground to paint a larger picture of what it looks like to end poverty. People like our business owners, those living in extreme poverty in the most rural and remote areas of the developing world, are the people that we talk about far too often in global development. We hold panel discussions, host galas, and participate in Twitter chats all to talk about the extreme poor. I have the opportunity to talk to those living in extreme poverty. In doing so, I hope to uplift their voices–placing their stories where they belong: at the center of the conversation on ending extreme poverty.