Action_Talks

ActionTalks is an opportunity for cross-cultural knowledge sharing. We welcome our African and European partners to to share from their experiences and give advice. HR&S Sweden, HR&S Branches and Action10 meet to reflect on important matters, in addition RISE members and potential RISE members are welcome to pitch their business scaling ideas.

Within the planning and evaluation tool that we use (ROPE), learning lessons and taking informed decisions is key. ActionTalks meeting notes are compiled when possible, and then we use this material to reflect, learn lessons and take informed decisions. Meeting notes are compiled below.

 

 HR&S with Action10, is a creative  and innovative social enterprise seeking solutions to complicated questions. While we move forward nicely we also make mistakes. We actually give ourselves room for making mistakes, as long as we learn from them and take informed decisions; mistakes shall not be repeated, shall only happen if they could not have been avoided, and if someone has suffered as a consequence of an HR&S mistake, we shall ask for forgiveness and repair any damage that we may have caused. With the above in mind it is obvious that “lessons learned and informed decisions” is key to the HR&S operations.

cross-cultural respect

8 April 2021

Attending:
Millicent SIFUNA, Kenya (taking notes)
Cecilia ÖMAN, Sweden (making small presentation, reviewing the notes)
Stephanie MAÏGA, Burkina Faso
Evelyn FUNJIKA, Zambia
Kanekwa ZYAMBO, Zambia
Moses MURUNGU, Uganda
Milohum DZAGLI, Togo
Aghama JESUROBO , Nigeria
Elvis AUSTINS, Nigeria (only partly, due to internet challenges)

CROSS-CULTURAL RESPECT (ACTION 10 and HR&S RISE CENTRES)

The following is a compilation of different views of team leaders from different countries brainstorming on the topic above. Seven countries were represented, Kenya, Nigeria, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Burkina Faso, and Sweden.

What could motivate people to join our team?

  1. The brand of the institution. What is our brand? People like to associate themselves with a successful brand. A way to attract serious-minded people is to share the impact of our work and the number of people from different backgrounds that are members of our institution.
  2. If they know our mission and our impact and if it aligns with what they want, as their vision, it is easy to volunteer with us. This could then be a form of fulfillment. Moreover, it will be something those who choose to work with us want to invest in. Thus, passion will drive such kinds of individuals. We should thus be able to communicate our impact to get people whose interest or passion aligns with it, even if they are not going to benefit financially.
  3. Action10-HR&S offers opportunities to do things freely while learning from mistakes.
  4. Area of development (social development) also tend to attract positive, supportive and active people with intrinsic motivation, thus ensuring a good working environment.

What skills are required while introducing people into the team?

  1. Select volunteers from experience.
  2. Volunteers themselves should clarify what they are going to do and how they can offer their service.
  3. How would the work invested in Action10-HR&S constrain them in relation to other things they want to do?

Views about cross-cultural respect

Reflections on interest in cultures-respecting-other-cultures.

  1. Not keeping people out. Understanding them while not judging.
  2. People are held accountable based on our Ten Actions and core values. People are free, but they should not go overboard. The Ten Actions and core values are our guiding principles.
  3. We continue to experience the post-colonial attitude. Solving this is by identifying and addressing it now and then. We should also understand how to identify the post-colonial attitude. Talk about post-colonial attitude openly and list down the different aspects of it, so that it is easily recognized when it happens. Whoever is in the situation should know best. Look into literature and find scientific findings also from the African literature.
  4. HR&S does not encourage the savior mentality, so a lot of conflicts are saved. We should strive to develop strategies that kill the ‘helping mentality; which HR&S has ensured already. Equal partnership is key.
  5. Set understanding of language. Communication is key. Best way to discuss with other people. E.g., In Togo, you have to be friendly to get attention. It would be best if you also were patient. Not to offend someone. Respect for each other. Giving a chance to ask questions. Listen to each other. Give time. Be understanding. Give a chance to ask questions or share thoughts about what you are saying.
  6. Know what to sell, know the culture of the people to whom you want to sell the service.
  7. If we are supporting a social entrepreneur who are introducing projects in communities rooted deeply in culture, our partner the RISE member must know how to talk to people. That is also why we are firm on our Action No.1; “needs and user driven”, ensuring that projects introduced in communities have been requested for by the community already and is being implemented by one of the community member. Our partner social entrepreneur is supported to hold several meetings with the community and chief of the community, the Elders etc.
  8. If potential ideal customers do not understand why they have to pay for a service, we should break down the cost of the structure.

Farm Business School in Nigeria- A PITCH

4 May 2022

Attending:
Elvis AUSTINS, presenter.
Hannah HÖRL,  note taker.
Millicent, Paul, Moses, Mariam, Elvis, Atwine, Kevin and Evelyn attended from Africa and Carlos, Cecilia, Anne, and Jasminka from Sweden.

Notes from the presentations
On the 4th of May we had the privilege to partake in a very inspiring ActionTalk by Mr Elvis Austins, team-leader of HR&S Branch Nigeria. During this month ActionTalk, Elvis kindly presented his backyard garden project and his aim to develop a farm business school programme. Elvis, who was awarded the annual global innovation award for his “Spell Africa” project in 2013 is embarking to new shores with a project centred around the idea of improving food security while also pitching the idea of organic and sustainable farming methods.

The idea of his farm business school is to make farming possible anywhere and everywhere. Food scarcity and insecurity has become a global challenge and Nigeria is especially affected with a minimum of 9.2 million Nigerians facing food insecurities between March and May this year alone. Austins outlined many reasons to explain the phenomenon, highlighting a lack of knowledge about modern farm practices which respectively leads to fewer people engaging into farming since it often does not prove profitable. Another reason for food scarcity is the lack of proper storage and preservation resulting in fresh produce often going bad before it can reach consumption.

Austins aims to target both major issues with his agricultural training programme. He developed an educational system providing information and training about both organic farming practices and innovative storage methods, such as specially isolated “storage boxes”. Those storage chambers are capable of achieving a temperature reduction of 15 degrees compared to the outside temperature by only using isolation foam- no electricity needed! He also uses compost incinerators turning food waste into valuable and highly fertile compost, usable in his backyard farming system since it does not produce any unpleasant smells as one might expect.

In addition to his ambition to change the current Nigerian farming practices with a cross- generational approach, he aims to change the stereotype of the poor hard working farmer by showing how yields can increase by using modern, organic methods. Backyard farming as a possible solution to food scarcity is a promising project even for less rural areas since it only requires a couple of square meters and allows families to be less dependant on an unstable market.

Education and community action, both factors are perfectly united in Austins’ backyard farming project ensuring learning beyond the class room entire communities can profit from!

Our three RISE members in Kenya

1 June 2022

Attendance
– Millicent Sifuna,  Ann Chebet, Mariam Swaleh, Kevin Werunga, (presenters) Kenya
– Joel Mafabi, Moses Murungi, Uganda
– Stéphanie Maïga, Burkina Faso
– Alexis Akotchaye, Milohum Dzagli, Togo
– Hannah Hörl (note taker), Patrik Nilsson, Nicole Vestling, Cecilia Öman, Felicia Simonsson, Action10
Joshua Okoduwa, Global Giving

Notes from the presentations
This month’s ActionTalk was centred around the HR&S Kenya branch which is led by Millicent Sifuna with the support of Ann Chebet, Kevin Werunga and Mariam Swaleh. On the 1st of June the team introduced us to three local RISE entrepreneurs and their projects and business ideas.

Firstly, Mariam presented the VEEMA household project initiated by Virginia Njeri. Virgina specialises in house hold items, focusing on textile items needed to equip bedrooms. Her speciality is the production of bed runners which are in high demand due to the increase of tourism rates in Kenya. The VEEMA business strategy includes extensive online marketing through platforms such as Facebook. Unfortunately, despite great demand, orders were lost occasionally due to lack of materials and the financial inability to produce in bulk. This was reason for Virginia to request and receive a loan from Action10. In the future, Virginia hopes to manufacture in larger quantities thus providing employment to delivery personnel, tailors and wholesalers while becoming an independent, female business owner (ambition). Businesses were facing a tremendous amount of struggles in addition to the professional and financial setbacks caused by the lack of tourism and decreased market demand during the pandemic. In challenging times like these it is even more impressive that entrepreneurs such as Virginia stayed on their toes, ready to tackle the problems in order to pursue her goal to become the leading producer of bed runners in Kenya while empowering her neighbourhood through employment opportunities.

The second entrepreneur Team Kenya presented to us was Frederick Ating’a and his project DOLAS CREATION. Ever since he can remember, Frederick has been fascinated by the traditional African clothing his grandfather used to wear. The idea to create his own line of fashion was inspired by the traditional African patterns and fabrics. After Frederick had grown frustrated with the institutions he was working for, he decided to turn his passion for designing into reality and since then aspires to develop and empower his community Kibera, an area near Nairobi which is known for its high unemployment rates and povert, by providing employment and training programmes. DOLAS CREATION’s vision is to become the nation’s most inclusive business representing marginalised craftsmen and artisans, to provide great service and to raise enthusiasm for African fashion. Frederick has been facing some challenges due to lack of equipment and skilled workers, competition with clothing produced outside of Kenya and a lack of medial visibility (outcome challenges). This was reason for Frederick to request and receive a loan from Action10. In order to overcome those challenges, he also aims to recruit and train at least two artisans, purchase the materials and machines needed as well as opening an online marketing platform (ambition).

The last presentation put together by Kevin Werunga, portrayed the AMANI WOMEN GROUP. The group, currently not only constituted by female members, was founded in 1995 as a seller group for cash crop pyrethrum. AMANI came together in order to help individual members to improve their living standards by paying a small weekly sum into a common account which, accumulated, could function as a table bank project. Setting a little money aside every week can help to establish a community bank members can borrow money from, reinvesting in different projects. Even though the group was able to purchase land in 2011 the little money paid into the bank was hardly enough to create sufficient capital (outcome challenge). This was reason for the AMANI WOMEN GROUP to request and receive a loan from Action10. Tackling those issues AMANI WOMEN GROUP also established some guidelines, such as maximum loan provided, fixed monthly contributions and the necessity to always pay back the loan. The process is highly organised and monitored by the group meetings, two treasurers and one secretary. Their aim is to see people from the village develop, become independent from the housing market by constructing their own houses and potentially set up a common business with all group members (ambition).

How does the future in Kenya look like? As Millicent phrases it, it is already amazing enough that those entrepreneurs continued to fight through the harsh times of COVID despite a broken market. For now, marketing and branding seems to be the priority in order to move forwards with their businesses.

Three potentially new RISE members in Uganda

6 July 2022

Attending:
Anna Vretto (Presenter from Uganda)
David Mwanje (Presenter from Uganda)
Agnes Nabwire (Presenter from Uganda)
Kevin Werunga (Branch Kenya)
Teega-Wendé Clarisse (partly, Branch Burkina Faso)
Stephanie Maiga (partly, Branch Burkina Faso)
Cecilia Öman (Founder of Action10)
Felicia Simonsson (Team Sweden: taking notes)
Freja Falkenberg (Team Media)
Nicole Vrestling (Team Sweden)

Topic: Listened to three different business pitches from Uganda, and had discussions about challenges and their future.

Pitch 1 _ Anna Vretto
Anna is from the Bukoto ghetto area in Kampala. She is 38 years old and has a number or diplomas on different subjects. She saw a difficulty for unprivileged women in Uganda between the age of 20-40 to provide for themselves as single mums.
Anna is member of a SACCO of 26 women and her proposal to Action10HR&S is to help scaling the capital of the SACCO. Anna’s idea is to lend money to women’s small businesses. In the SACCO everyone contributes with 1,000 Uganda Shilling (EUR 0,3) per day and the loan is  20,000 Uganda Shilling (EUR 5).
Her business proposal: Lend 10 million Ugandan Schillings (EUR 2,600).

Pitch 2_ David Mwanje
David is from Kampala. David is running a business that supports events and event decorations. The business was started in 2014, it was registered in 2019 but does not have an official bank account yet. He has 6 participants. They did not yet develop any annual reports and they do not have auditing reports.
David explained to us that during some seasons/months like January, April, November, and December there is a high demand for his businesses in Uganda, but in other months the demand from customers is deficient and, therefore, they don’t earn enough money.
His business proposal: Loan 10 million Ugandan schillings (28 000 sek) for 2 years. Payback schedule: Monthly payback to Action10 according to our interest (10% per year)

 

Pitch 3

Agnes Nabwire: Kampala – Uganda

Agnes explained that there are few specialists that have knowledge about African natural hair in Uganda and therefore there’s a scarcity of these types of salons, and she want to bridge this gap. Agnes has previous experience from doing hair together with her sister, under informal conditions, and now she wants to register a company. Her business is not yet a registered company, but she’s in the process right now and hopefully be registered at the end of this month (July).
Value proposition: Do African hair in a natural manner She also wants to provide people with treatments for health problems related to hair, like Alopecia (hair loss). Therefore, her goal is to employ dermatologists in the future as well.She also wants to expand her business to offer doing nails and sell natural hair products as well as offer snacks in the salon. Her target is specifically women but also children and men. Agnes also wants to give  workshops to train people to do natural hair.
Goals for the future: She wants to hold the percentage of the market and for customers to trust her saloon.
Cecilia asked if she possibly could imagine having internships from Kamwokya, which she answered could be possible.
Her business proposal: Loan 23 million Ugandan schillings (64 300 sek) for 2 years. After one year she will pay a deposit and thereafter a monthly payback. 
Her guarantee: Her salary (Question from Cecilia: Find a second guarantee)

Agnes’s challenges right now (Question from Nicole): The company that holds the biggest percentage of the market in Kampala for natural hair methods is where the customers will continue to go. Therefore, getting customers to try her new saloon will be hard. Important to develop trust for customers. 

Update on Togolese villages

Date: 7 September 2022.

Presenters: M Milohum DZAGLI with support from M Renaud AZIABOR and other members of Team Togo.
Topic: Business pitch – Small scale businesses in rural Togo, A.3.
Attendance: Cecilia ÖMAN, Roxana YAZDANI, Brice Alain KABORE, Milohum Mikesokpo DZAGLI, Carl EMILSSON, Joel MAFABI, Theodros YESHI AREGA, Sylvia, Elvis AUSTINS, Carlos ORTIZ DE ZEVALLOS EGUILUZ, Clarisse TEEGA-WENDÉ, Renaud AZIABOR, Kevin WERUNGA, Hannah HÖRL

On Wednesday 7th, Mr Milohum, team leader of branch Togo, was so kind to present the small scale businesses project in rural Togo.
Mr Milohum is an associate professor in physics and has been an active member of Action10 and HR&S since 2020. In the beginning of his presentation he briefly introduced us to the geography of Togo and showed us were the cooperating villages are located. The Togo branch is currently in contact with about 150 people, nearly exclusively women, and the numbers are growing ever since the programmes establishment in 2020. To put things into context Mr Milohum clarified that many people in the Togolese villages are poor and have only very limited access to financial resources. There are many women in need to add additional income to their families through other means than farm work and seek to run their own business. Unfortunately banks are seldom present in the villages and it is very difficult for women to qualify for a loan or they struggle with the harsh conditions associated. Nevertheless, there is a great variety of business ideas from local produce such as drinks and food to manufactured goods. In order to support those business ideas both start- up support and loans are needed but firstly and foremost, trust needs to be established and sustained with the individuals as well as the community.

So far support was realised through workshops in bookkeeping and finances and regular check- ins with the local business founders which are in close contact with Mr Yawo AHIAKONOU , the ‘man in the field’. The loan takers are handpicked due to certain criteria such as the evaluation of their on-going businesses, which need to be evaluated ‘from scratch’ . Choosing the loan takers thoroughly has paid out and every single participant so far has been able to pay back the loan with interest. Mr Milohum reminded us, that not only employment is created but happiness and families were able to invest their income in schooling for their children.
The end of the presentation was marked by a fruitful discussion and potential new cooperations between the attendees. In the future more survey management is needed to track scientifically how well the loans are used and which problems need to be tackled along the way. The programme has already been extended to another village, Aguduvu, since February 2022. There is also an interest by Branch Burkina Faso to extend the programme to Burkina Faso, where interest in loans is still distant and donations are favoured. Branch Togo is also proposing to offer a language school teaching English.