Led by Visionary Leaders, Young Women, and Community Radio
December 20, 2007
I’ve just returned from a productive and inspirational week on campus at the African Women’s University (ARU) in rural western Uganda. It seems fitting to write about innovation in education and in integrated rural development during this holiday season. “The new name for peace is development,” Father Matthiew (Matayo Baylebuga) quoted Pope Paul VI, when he introduced the ARU students to the 60 villagers in the small isolated village of Kabamba last February (See "Customer Co-Design in Rural Uganda: How URDT Empowers Grass Roots Creativity," March 8, 2007, by Patricia B. Seybold, http://www.psgroup.com/detail.aspx?ID=806).
I spent the week teaching my “Introduction to Customer Scenario Mapping (CSM)” course to 51 first- and second-year ARU students and to a key faculty member, Agnes Kadama, who is also the Acting Vice Chancellor of the university as well as the Dean of Students. Agnes, who has experience providing business and non-governmental organizations (NGO) consulting services, is enthusiastic about the applicability of CSM to the rural development challenges in Uganda and the rest of Africa. She likes this participatory approach to consulting and appreciates the quick wins and strategic leverage that a half-day interactive co-design session provides. “This is an entirely new way to do consulting,” she observed. “It’s powerful and delivers results quickly. I’m excited that we’re able to give our students this powerful tool,” she exclaimed.
The ARU students picked up the principles of the methodology quickly because they’ve already been trained in participatory community action planning, in the creative visionary approach, and in systems thinking. They are also good critical thinkers. Their questions were probing. They compared the client-led approach of customer co-design to the basic principles of marketing (requirements gathering, product/service development, test marketing, market positioning, creating compelling value propositions, and providing products and services that have a sustainable profit and/or outcome). They quickly realized that client-co-created products and services are more likely to succeed quickly than are traditional “inside out” product development ideas that then require more market testing and validation.
They wanted to know how to deal with shy thoughtful people as well as outspoken, and sometimes overbearing, leaders. (Invite the leaders to the report outs, rather than the co-design session; put them together on their own team; put one on each team.) They were concerned about whether their clients would be able to envision new and different ways of creating their outcomes, and about how they could plant ideas without unduly influencing their clients (the answer: by asking questions—not proposing solutions).
They understood the art and importance of spawning strategic conversations for action. They immediately understood the value of engaging with multiple stakeholders to co-design “win/win” ecosystems that are aligned around clients’ outcomes and that eliminate or mitigate clients’ critical showstoppers. They grasped the benefits of building monitoring and evaluation (operational metrics) into the design of new processes from the outset. They want (and will probably invent!) more structured approaches to evaluating progress.
One improvisation they introduced to the methodology is quite interesting. In the western, developed world version of this co-design methodology, the sponsoring organizations and partners want to learn what customers are trying to achieve, how they improvise today to achieve their goals, and what they’d ideally like to be able to do. Then, the sponsoring organization typically improves or transforms its products and services to deliver products, services, and processes that make it easier for the clients to achieve their desired outcomes. The ARU students pointed out that their clients are the ones who actually take action—transform processes, develop new techniques, find better ways of doing things. The role of the sponsoring organizations—educational institutions, government agencies, funding agencies (banks, credit unions, micro-finance organizations), non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—is to provide training and resources to help clients reach their own outcomes. So we added an element to our operational scorecards: what NEW actions do the clients want to take to achieve their outcomes, and how will they measure success?
To give you a sense of how Customer Scenario Mapping might be applied in rural villages, here are the scenarios the ARU students proposed and practiced during the training:
- Improve health in our community.
- Launch a successful orphanage to provide care and education for local children who have lost their parents.
- Launch and run a successful school to improve education in our community.
- Launch and run a successful piggery to produce additional income for our family.
- Launch and grow a successful retail business (women’s’ clothing).
- Expand our farming operation from goats to raise and export beef and dairy products.
- Launch and run a successful poultry farm.
- Grow a successful and profitable local business providing valuable services to the community.
- Empower handicapped children through education and community support.
Then, for their “final exam,” they led a workshop with URDT staff members as clients. The staff members’ scenarios included:
- Improve the computers and communications infrastructure on campus within three years.
- Empower a village by providing sustainable Internet and Computer technology for residents in a poor, rural area.
- Increase URDT’s profit-making projects to generate 40% of its ever-expanding (at a rate of 30% per year) operating budget.
- Expand and modernize the URDT Vocational Institute’s metal-working training and services.
- Improve the profitability and assortment of the goods available through the campus store.
- Mainstream girls’ education so that within three years, 90% of rural Ugandan girls are graduating from secondary school and 70% are receiving university education.
A Snapshot of Activities on Campus
The African Women’s’ University is providing a degree in “Community Transformation” to women who wish to be community leaders and social and business entrepreneurs in rural Uganda. It is located on the campus of the Uganda Rural Development Training Programme (URDT), which has been evolving its leadership and training in integrated rural development for 25 years.
The 80-acre campus is beautiful but primitive (no hot water, no real plumbing), only a few very old computers, an inadequate Internet connection, lots of mud during rainy season and dust during the dry seasons.
But here’s what they DO have:
- A staff of incredibly dedicated and visionary
professionals – all of whom work for inadequate and often infrequent
salaries, a 5-hour bone-jarring commute away from their families.
incredibly vibrant and intellectually stimulating on-campus life,
surrounded by a living laboratory in their chosen fields: integrated
rural development and social and business entrepreneurship.
thriving educational community consisting of a vocational institute
which offers courses ranging from accounting to solar technology
maintenance, a girls’ boarding school with a unique co-curriculum and
two-generation education – the girls lead “back home” projects with
their families to increase their household incomes and well being.
community FM radio station which is the main means of promulgating
learning, empowering citizens with information, exposing corruption,
dramatically reducing domestic violence, gender bias, and tribal
conflicts, and increasing citizen participation in civic affairs.
thriving organic farm that provides on-campus training, nourishment,
and best practices in everything from fish farming to pig and poultry
farming to intensive mixed-crop agriculture for small plots of land.
- Training in how to deliver sex education, HIV, and AIDs prevention.
- Training in how to teach villagers sanitation, clean water preservation, and nutrition.
the job training in social work, human rights, and land rights
counseling with highly effective professionals who are making a
difference every day in the lives of the dozens of people who come to
campus for counseling services each week.
training from social and business entrepreneurs who have prospered in
the same circumstances—rural communities—in which the ARU students will
- Microfinance, business planning, and proposal and grant writing on-the-job training.
The week that we visited in mid-December, the Girls’ School and the Institute students were both on holidays. ARU students and most of the Girls’ School and Vocational Institute faculty and staff were still on campus. My husband, Tom Hagan, and I traveled together. While I was busy teaching, he was contributing his considerable entrepreneurial energies to working with staff and helping out with the woefully inadequate computer and internet infrastructure on campus.
~ Patricia B. Seybold, CEO and Sr. Consultant, Patricia Seybold Group
Here’s his trip report:
A Week on the Campus of URDT: a Report by Tom Hagan
Here’s a snapshot of life on campus during the week we were there (December 10-16), provided by my husband, Tom Hagan:
Every morning at 8:00 a.m. everyone at URDT gathers for “The FC,” The Foundation Course, which addresses issues of interest to all participants across the board and allows transmission of URDT’s unique philosophy and approach (described at www.urdt.net). They are often conducted by Mwalimu Musheshe, CEO of URDT, and sometimes consist of videos or talks by invited speakers. The FC on Wednesday began with someone asking him about changes proposed to the Land Law. Musheshe responded with what can only be described as a brilliant lecture on the subject of land tenure in Uganda, starting with the pre-British system in which all land was held in common by each tribe, with the chief acting, in effect, as trustee. All that changed in 1900 with a new system, laid down by Victorian England, which granted big tracts of land to various parties, including the Ugandan kings and other influential Ugandans, with a very big fraction of all Ugandan land “owned” by the British crown. The inequities and inefficiencies that ensued from this misguided colonialist attempt to establish what amounts to feudalism in Uganda have been problematic ever since. Influential landlords with substantial holdings have managed to limit reforms, even after independence, so land tenure remains a continuing problem for people living and working on the land. Without clear title, a farmer cannot build a permanent structure on the land he or she farms, or get a mortgage on land or buildings. Hence the Land Office at URDT, which is much needed to provide expert guidance and advocacy on land tenure questions.
On Tuesday morning, the FC started with viewing a video produced by Aids Action showing their excellent work in Northern Uganda, where civil unrest has raged for years, with the government fighting the Lord’s Resistance Army, a dissident group led by Joseph Kony. The rebellion has produced many IDPs—Internally Displaced Persons, many now living in camps set up for them by the government. After some comments on the video by ARU students, Odembos Maroba, head of URDT’s Human Rights operation, noted that the video had not in fact shown how bad things actually are in the camps. The government set them up, and provides security for them with soldiers who guard them, but has not provided enough food for these camp inhabitants, who are deprived of all their normal income. Many camp residents are starving while the soldiers guarding them have both food and money. As a result, said Odembos, in order to get food for their starving families, some fathers have taken to selling or renting their underage daughters to the soldiers, who use them as sexual slaves, sometimes infecting them with AIDS. This led to a chilling exchange, with some ARU students taking issue with Odembos’ apparent position that the fault was the government’s for not supplying food; the fathers, they said, should also be blamed: even if their families are starving, they should not be selling their children for food.
Thus, in this Year of Our Lord 2007, shortly before Christmas, this gentle but urgent debate, in a mostly Christian country, on whom exactly should be blamed when a desperate father sells his child into sexual slavery to prevent his family from starving. Can you believe it? It happened last week, in the FC, at URDT, in Kagadi, Uganda.
I spent time this week working with Fred Luutu, URDT’s very competent director of IT services, to extend their Ethernet LAN from the Computer Lab to the adjacent FC building, using supplies we had purchased with his help in Kampala’s “Electronics Row” last Saturday. This will make Internet access available to several faculty offices housed in the building, including that of Agnes Kadama, ARU Dean of Students.
The biggest disappointment was the discovery that the WiFi Fred and I installed last March has been shut down—because its availability increased Web usage beyond what URDT can afford. With WiFi, ISP costs ballooned from about $450 per month to almost $800 per month—almost 8 times the price my company, Actioneer, recently paid Comcast for broadband access in Cambridge, MA, with much higher bandwidth and no limit on the amount of data sent or retrieved. Fred and Jacqui Akello are looking to see whether ISP services can be purchased at substantially lower cost. Preliminary results do not look promising.
If we cannot get very much cheaper Web access, we must find a way to finance its high cost, because access to the Web, now very limited, is held to be very important by all, especially the ARU students. In Patty’s Saturday morning CSM session, we went around the room, with each URDT staff member expressing a vision for URDT. Several people mentioned more computers and more Web access, which always drew expressions of approval from all. When my turn came (I was “URDT staff” by virtue of my position as an AFPF Trustee), I described a vision where every person on campus, including all staff and students, including all of ARU and every Vocational Institute and Girls School student, had a laptop computer, with unlimited wideband Internet access available by WiFi everywhere on campus. This vision drew the loudest, most enthusiastic applause of all. These folks WANT computers and Web access!
On Friday I visited small businesses now thriving in Kagadi village, all started by entrepreneurs who are graduates of URDT’s Vocational Institute. They included small manufacturing shops: Kagadi Metal Works, started by Makuru Moses; Furniture Village, a furniture maker started by Charles Ssembatya; Moses & Friends Carpentry; and Joinery, a furniture maker started by Kateeba Moses; and Kagadi Artcraft and Design, a shop making reed furniture started by Semata Joshua with a $250 no-interest loan from Kigadi Village, facilitated by URDT. All displayed finished goods of high quality in front of their shops. I also visited the Kyangaju Restaurant, started by URDT grad Christine Ntuti, and the Women’s Cooperative Bank, also spawned by URDT, where I met the principal officers. These were both clean, orderly places in the bustle of Kagadi’s dusty downtown.
Founder Makuru Moses showed me some of the products made by his Kagadi Metal Works: steel casement window frames, grilles and shutters, garage doors, and other steel components for buildings. He told me that, after training at the URDT Vocational Institute in metal working plus business training and studies in human rights, land rights, and “customer care,” he worked as an employee for several years before striking out on his own. Like every other entrepreneur I spoke with, he had high praise for URDT, saying his training there enabled him to start his business, now outgrowing its original building in Kagadi. He has acquired land in the Industrial Development District nearby to build a larger facility. He proudly showed me his recent Articles of Incorporation, required to bid on contracts with the government and other large buyers. He would grow even faster, he said, if he could find capital to buy a milling machine, another machine tool whose name I did not recognize, and a computer. He needs 35 million Uganda Shillings for this—about $21,000, well beyond the range for microfinance loans. In the US, Moses would be getting calls from leasing companies eager to finance his equipment purchases; it is not clear why this option is not open to him in Kagadi. I intend to explore possible sources of capital in the range of $10,000-$100,000 for businesses like Kagadi Metal Works.
Musheshe invited me to conduct the FC for Friday. I chose as my topic the so-called “Washington Consensus” on economic policy, now showing signs of breaking up. The combination of free trade, free markets, low taxes, privatization, and fiscal responsibility long advocated by the World Bank, the IMF, and almost all economists and politicians except those on the extreme left, is now losing adherents. It has always had critics pointing out that “free trade” agreements almost always allow exceptions, usually favoring the economically stronger trading partner. But now even long-time supporters like economist Paul Samuelson and Hillary Clinton have changed their minds about a policy they previously favored because it supposedly fostered economic growth, and “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
Trade policy is not just remote and abstruse, with no local consequences. Last March, on our way from Hoima to Kampala, Sarah Ntero, Uganda’s first woman PhD and a former MP, wondered why the farmers who once planted maize (corn) along this road she has traveled all her life had recently switched to other crops. The next day, an article in an African financial newspaper explained why: US government subsidies and support for Midwest corn farmers allowed them to put corn on the world market at such low prices that many Ugandan corn planters were forced to find alternate crops. NAFTA has similarly allowed cheap US cotton into Mexico, impoverishing many cotton farmers there, who then migrate to the US, contributing to the illegal immigrant problem.
As if to drive home the point that trade agreements have direct local consequences, 120 Kibaale district farmers, many of them parents of students at URDT’s Girls School, gathered on campus that very afternoon to join a URDT-sponsored group agreeing to grow organic simsim (sesame seeds) and other organic crops for sale to an exporter, who needs assurance of an adequate supply—and who assumes that appropriate trade agreements will enable profitable export of these crops.
During the flight home, Patty found a fascinating stat in a report on URDT’s FM community radio station, KKCR, reflecting URDT’s (and KKCR’s) effect on “awareness and civic and political literacy among the population.” Voter turnout in the region has increased from 45% to 80%.
~ Tom Hagan