Ben Hoogendorn, a tireless humanitarian of many decades based in British Columbia Canada, a former Executive Director of China Concern and a former Executive Director of Food for the Hungry, Canada talked about his experience and insights in successful exit strategies for organizations with development relationships with communities.
1. What do you think are successful exits require?
Successful entry and exits require a high level of trust that comes from strong and loving relationships.
It is not possible to have a successful exit unless the community has understood from the very beginning (before any programming or funds were introduced) that there is a timeline for the agency to exit. If that is not well understood the community leaders will not see the necessity of engaging everyone in the process of being able to identify and solve their own problems.
Many communities fail to understand this and the result is ongoing chronic poverty, or a best-case scenario of lingering in a state of dependency on outside resources, but never reaching their potential. Giving back the dignity that has often been stripped from marginalized groups and empowering the leaders are key to being able to exit successfully.
Community leaders must understand and be able to communicate the message of developing their own assets in order to become self-sustaining. People need to know they are not victims but part of the solution to a better life.
2. How to prepare?
Besides the common problems of marginalization, injustice, and oppression that result in many communities stuck in a cycle of poverty there is often a lot of chaos, disorganization, and lack of structured leadership.
Even if the issues of marginalization, injustice and oppression have been identified and overcome but there isn't strong gender-balanced leadership within a practical and functioning structure, communities will soon fall back into a state of disorganized chaos.
Everyone in the community needs to understand their value and worth and that their skills, time and talents are valuable to the rest of the community. Dependency is believing you "can't", but a healthy community working together "can."
3.What pitfalls to avoid?
It is very easy for an agency to become part of the problem by remaining in a relief mode far too long before moving into a rehabilitation and development mode. So when beginning to work with any community that is in a relief situation you must respond with the mindset of moving out of this type of aid and introduce programs that will bring sustainability in the early stages.
Be sure to fulfill all of the commitments made and just as careful not to "give" more that you had originally communicated.
Be very careful not to align yourself with any one particular group that may not represent everyone in the community. Doing that can isolate some members of the community resulting in disputes and jealousies that will hinder progress at almost every level. When beginning any program it is important to involve everyone to participate in the discussions. Because many cultures do not recognize women in leadership you need to be intentional to include women in the discussions and decision making.
(To be continued...)
Diaspora, immigrant communities, global travellers and citizens offer more than global stories and exciting exotic foods-they hold several assets that needed to be maximized. Cultural knowledge, international perspectives, remittance, know-how, linguistic fluency, heritage, connections. These are some of the links that needed to be made in the minds of decision makers, executives, planners, leaders, and doers.
In this day and age, the local is global and the global is local. People that are comfortable with the binary of either local or global is obviously missing the whole point. It is the same people demanding a practitioner to either specialize or die. I would say specialize and die!
Here are some of the pointers to bring full circle the wealth of international and intercultural assets found in the diaspora/ immigrant/ and international/global citizens.
1. Companies, organizations, and governments are beginning to reflect the diversity found in the population, consumers, employee base, and their neighborhoods. This brings back to the question- the global is local and the local is global. It is no longer a foreign idea to seek out global talent from the pool that is right in your backyard at the same time look for global ideas to enhance your local situation.
2. The global remittance should result in improved lives of families working overseas and the kinds of infrastructure, support and growth opportunities should reflect that in each country.
3. The bridge between the new country and the old country must give way to a fluid interconnectivity that is not alien but an inherent identity of the immigrant community. Our sense of nationalism comes from our sense of humanity. Regardless of whether we have strong clear ties to another nation, the same ills, sets of problems and issues beset other places, and there is more reason to collaborate than to compete for competition’s sake!
4. Companies with global reach across the world cannot afford to alienate local cultural characteristics that made each country, region, cultural group, tribe, and community different and unique. McDonald's with the global franchise can afford to culturally adapt to the local taste in order to compete with the local favorite. Cultural intelligence is a pre-requisite for a successful business internationally.
5. It is time for globally trained people to push back and be proud of where they come from, the countries and locations they worked, the things that they have seen and experienced, the cultures they have tasted, learned, and imbibed. This sets them apart from the competition. Do not forget your assets and relegate it to lower import just because you have moved to a new country and wanted to assimilate and not appear different- be proud about it.
The next generation of jobs and employment and careers for the near future are those that cannot be done by robots and artificial intelligence. Are you honing that intercultural, international, and global expertise and talents that you possess? Bring it out and dominate your field.
Succession is such a difficult process. Non-profits, churches, hospitals, boys scout councils, businesses – all encounter the familiar--how to succeed the founder and continue the mission of the organization.
Too many times, the founder has overstayed its welcome. Unless by death and violent overthrow, the founder who has created the organization and put all his life and efforts to building it, refuse to step down and allow new blood to come into the organization. For a lot of founders who poured their whole life into it, they do not see it as a given. They are either in denial and ego had its way.
Regardless, the organization is suffering while the founder is still alive and able to create more havoc and instability by being present, running the show, but not necessarily present mentally, physically, strategically, and socially/charisma to function effectively with its role as a CEO and spokesperson for the organization. The second-in-line cannot function with its duties and responsibilities and will always be obstructed in its aim to make reforms and set things straight.
I have seen organizations suffer because of lack of ability to force down the issue on an aging founder who refused to vacate his position despite and in spite of the Board or the people in the organization telling him to retire and go fishing. The Board at that point were either inutile or bunch of friends, colleagues, and people who have been co-dependent on the founder and also refuse to vacate their posts or provide a public opposition. Those that resisted the founder were all gone. The rest of the staff were very demoralized and confused, and it showed in all aspects of the organization.
It was good in the beginning. The founder has brought an enormous amount of goodwill, social capital, and networks with its great charisma and ability to command a following. The organization for many years enjoyed successful funding and financial support from people who admired the founder and its expanded networks.
This wasn't the case anymore. For some time, the founders’ health, mental faculties, and charisma have deteriorated. The issue is no longer when is he going to retire but what can be done now to prevent a very sad ending both for the founder and the organization.
An immediate, short-term and long-term succession plan should be drawn and agreed by all important parties including the founder. A person who has been known and respected by the founder can be asked to facilitate this process. He will be recognized and celebrated as a founder for many years. This is not a good succession planning. This is crisis management. Some organizations have sacrificed tomorrow’s organizational health for today’s convenience. They refuse to deal with the elephant in the room.
With stakeholders, staff, funding from donors, the non-profit organization is not a property of the founder but a public entity and as such, it is a public trust. Peter Drucker said that "what decides whether a non-profit institution succeeds or fails is its ability to attract and to hold committed people. Once its loses its capacity, it’s downhill for the institution, and this is terribly hard to reverse."