By Miles Bredin
If covid has taught us one thing it’s the need to stay connected while isolated. It sounds like an oxymoron and it’s not very original but staying in touch with people is as important with your work, your donors and your partners as it is with your friends and relations.
But we must plan it and do it. Communications people chat for a living and if they stop doing it their work suffers fast. Intentional communication is what we have done for years. But when you’re online you have to do it much more,
It’s our friends and partners who inspired us to do this – without them I fear we would have languished. As the covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on social and economic systems, they sprang into action. Deborah Kimathi at Dignitas is one of our long term friends and her chil-dren gave us a kick up the behind when they began baking cookies and selling them to sup-port young families in Nairobi. Myriam Sidibe at Brands on a Mission inspired us to support the Nairobi Business Compact to address covid-19. With GRIC and AET, we translated Shujaaz posters into KiMaa for use in Maasai areas of Tanzania and Kenya, and helped to get them distributed.
It was things like this that made us realise we needed a plan for action beyond the everyday keeping the train on the tracks. It was exhausting pushing ourselves to do it but it has been hugely rewarding and truly effective. As the wise people at 4SD say, if covid-19 is the problem then people are the solution.
So early in the pandemic, we made plans to keep people at the fore of all we do.
1. At the start of the pandemic, we kept on missing meetings and found we could go days without seeing or even talking to each other. To counter this we introduced an all-hands, morning meeting on Teams, on camera and on time. Individually these meetings can be maddening but together they are magical. With strict agendas to which all can contribute, they keep the ball rolling. And it’s not just little people like us who have been forced to up their game. The rise of Zoom has forced the mighty Mi-crosoft to get its act together – Teams and Office 365 now work and they work really well.
2. We have joined in with meetings and conferences that would not otherwise have re-ceived our attention. We have created intentional time to do this and are now going to include it in our KPIs. Our friends at RELI have mastered the virtual world and have been astonishingly productive over the last eighteen months. The children of East Af-rica are in safe hands.
3. We have added an element of training into our performance management system. You get points for learning how to make movies with James Cameron on Master-Class or cooking with Gordon Ramsay. It doesn’t matter what we’re learning just as long as we’re learning. Never cease to marvel.
4. We have shared our handbook and strategic communications approach for free. It’s not good for the bank balance but it has kept us busy in the worst of times and more importantly has kept us focused on the reason we’re here – to promote social justice in Africa.
5. And finally, we have recruited more people. Who would have thought that recruitment would be easier and better online than it is in person? We worked with professionals at By Appointment Africa and got them to do the winnowing. Then we did some longer and harder interviews. We took out the “seems nice” bias because we had to – and it really worked. The result: we hired a new associate without even meeting her. And she has been a huge success.
So, it’s stunningly simple – people are the special sauce. Involve them in all you do.