A bit on my placement

I’m walking a tight rope balancing being proactive and patient at the same time. My status as far as work is concerned is that CADECO will come up from Blantyre to Lilongwe to meet me today, and then we will all visit the three clients I will be working with. If that doesn’t happen, I’m heading to Blantyre to meet CADECO tomorrow. I was really looking forward to moving into my host family’s house this past weekend, but my first meeting was also pushed back to tomorrow…so I hope I can turn this into a win-win outcome by meeting with CADECO or my host family today. Wish me luck!

I’ve been meaning to explain more about my work because the little that I know is really exciting.

As I mentioned previously, I’ll be working with CADECO, a private sector organizational development consulting firm. Organizational development is a means to achieve financial and organizational sustainability by continually improving the effectiveness of current resources. The tradiational approach was very material focused where training was used to improve donor management in NGO’s, proposal writing, revenue generation, etc. Now, organizational development is about an organization’s ability to solve current problems as well as future problems. This is done by helping organizations become more able to learn in its rapidly changing environment. It looks at culture, structure, external relations, strategy and vision among other dimensions. And the ongoing process is internally led.

I realize that is likely a lot of buzz words, but I’m paraphrasing and synthesizing from Rick James’ “Demystifying Organizational Development”, and Chiku Malunga and Charles Banda’s “Understanding Organizational Sustainability Through African Proverbs.” There’s a lot of rich sophistication that I’d love to discuss with anyone who is interested. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to send them my way.

Chiku and Charles are actually the co-founders of CADECO and have taken the language of organizational development and made it relevant to African leaders through African proverbs. Indirect communication is popular in Africa (I have yet to fully experience it in a business setting, but I’ve heard many stories), and so I think using proverbs is an interesting approach.

Chiku explains proverbs have the advantage that they comprises the identity and collective wisdom of Africans. Proverbs are used in African humour, to confront issues, and build relationships unifying different perspectives. It transcends literacy and thus can be appreciated by anyone. The simple statements can explain complex issues with metaphors that render strong mental imagery that could inspire insight beyond discussion. I enjoy metaphors especially if they have a purpose, so this is really exciting (–yes I’m a nerd), and I’m really curious to see how effective it is when applied within Malawian organizations.

So where I fit into this picture…

CADECO is called to do consulting work with Malawian organizations and together they develop specific action plans. I will be working with three of CADECO’s clients to liason CADECO and the clients as we help to implement the action plan to positively impact the three clients. Also, I will be able to feed back information on how CADECO can improve its work in the future.

This makes for 3.5 months of great learning opportunities and potential impact on four organizations. Of course it comes with great challenges — my greatest concern being balancing the depth and bredth of my understanding of four organizational contexts. It will also be difficult to know the impact on the poor (who I ultimately am working for) since organizational development relies on the ripple effect of change. Still, I’m looking forward to it!

Much love from Malawi.


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4 Comments on “A bit on my placement”

  1. Amit J Says:

    Awesome stories Wayne – keep them coming! Here’s hoping that you meet both of your milestones soon. The proverbs is a very interesting concept, try and post some examples!

  2. mum, Says:

    I agree with Amit. The proverbs sound interesting. Send some across, maybe I can use them with my encounters with difficult people.

    Also, I understand your eager to get started, but hang in there, use the time to familiarize yourself with place, language, culture etc. etc. I am sure you will do
    do wonders.

    Love and kisses,


  3. Mike Says:

    Hey Wayne,

    Really interesting posts! You’re a gifted and articulate writer and awesome at conveying your experiences and thoughts. Keep them coming!

    Sounds like your job with CADECO is a really good fit, and that Chiku and Charles are inspiring people to work with. I noticed CADECO works with several different organizations, including CIDA. Any word on which clients you’ll be working with?

    A quick question: When you mention “indirect communication” are you referring to the practice of presenting one’s thoughts and arguments in a neutral way or without explicitly claiming an opinion as one’s own?

    All the best!

  4. Deryk Says:

    You’re killing me. I need updates!

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