A young man wants to climb a palm tree to cut down palm fruit and sell it, and he wants to do it as fast as possible. An old man overhears him. The old man builds him a simple and strong ladder, but he says to the young man, “One day, you will have to learn how to properly climb the tree with a harness”. The young man is in a hurry and uses the ladder, but he is only able to cut down the low hanging palm kernels, and he is not able to reach all the fruit. When he realizes that he will not get good returns on this, the young man gives back the ladder, and says to the old man that he wants to learn how to properly harvest the palm tree. So the old man teaches the young man how to attach the harness around the palm tree. He tells him how to climb the tree and how to be safe while cutting down the palm fruit. The young man is able to do it, and he is thrilled. But his family’s plot has many trees on it. While the memory is still fresh, the boy sets out to train his family and neighbors how to harvest quickly. Soon they harvest all the palm trees together, and they are able to get a good price for selling it. All because the boy was ready to share with others the process, so that the whole village can prosper.
This is the story OneVillage Partners Coordinators tell to community volunteers when introducing our newest program, Lead. The story is a metaphor, that if we can inspire leadership in one, many will benefit. The Lead Program was born out of the desire to build on the impressive momentum that grew from the Community Action Groups in our partner communities, and harness that energy into innovative and constructive development work, led by the communities. As we approached the end of the Community Action Program in three of our partner communities, we asked, “What’s next? What will our relationship look like?” The communities answered the question thoughtfully. They requested cross-village collaboration, a toolkit of development tools, and access to funding.
OneVillage Partners sought to create a platform where ideas and knowledge could be exchanged, and leadership skills in community development could be sharpened and shared. We are piloting the Lead program with three communities that have been with OneVillage Partners since 2015 and have each implemented three different projects through the Community Action Program.
Zainab Sesay, a Program Committee member from Mamboma, is a young mother. She participated in the NOW (Nurturing Opportunities for Women) Program, and wants to better her leadership skills through Lead. She says, “the NOW Program helped my own family develop. My husband and I communicate better, and our children are benefitting because we are able to invest in their futures. I thought if I could l learn to lead development inside my own household, I could learn to lead in the community.”
During OneVillage Partners’ programs, community volunteers are trained on project planning, project management, and monitoring and evaluation. The community volunteers learn these skills and practice them over the course of three different project cycles, each time with less and less involvement from OneVillage Partners. The Lead Program takes community volunteers to the next level. They are trained on proposal writing and reporting, and they are tasked with writing proposals for funding for a development project in their communities. After first-draft proposals are delivered, OneVillage Partners provides feedback that Program Committees incorporate before presenting their final project proposals. OneVillage Partners will choose the best proposals to provide funding for based on a series of criteria
“Lead pushes our partner communities to the next level. It’s changing people’s attitudes to be more confident and to think outside the box,” says Sheku Gassimu, the Community Action Manager for OneVillage Partners. “I like to think of OneVillage Partners as development coaches.”
“I love that Lead emphasizes collaboration not just within the community, but also across villages through the different trainings,” said Mamie Peter, Program Committee member from Mamboma. “It energizes us, and we get more ideas for future development.”
Stay tuned to learn how our exciting new pilot program evolves, and how the Lead partner communities continue to inspire change and development in their communities and beyond.