Navshika Beeharry: Adding accountability and value to foreign volunteering efforts in Africa

Navshika Beeharry is a British-Mauritian blogger, speaker, and interculturalist.

She shares her experience of volunteering overseas and advocates for intercultural awareness to be at the heart of charity and aid efforts to improve foreign assistance in the motherland.

In this article, she also provides consultancy for sustainability advice, strategy development and/or content creation.

Shika, as she is fondly called, believes it is important for NGOs to develop empowering stories of self-managed income/resources to challenge the mindset that success derives from external donors as opposed to the people themselves.

In 2015, when she returned home from a volunteer placement in Tanzania, she founded “Becoming Africquainted” as an initiative to candidly recounting the life-changing memories she made, including some difficult observations of when Western intercultural communication goes badly wrong.

Since then, it has grown into a platform of its own that provides discussion and resources to all aspiring volunteers or expats, encouraging them to undertake their service overseas responsibly and respectfully.


Shika on Intercultural Awareness

For Shika, intercultural awareness is an unmissable step that any foreign volunteer must be willing to take to better know their own cultural limitations and how to healthily navigate new ones.

However, this must be reciprocated by host communities within Africa too, by ensuring they take responsibility for their own narrative and how they wish for it to be told and remembered long after any volunteer exchange has ended.

It will take time to help visitors to form new associations of Africa they see, but the benefits to sewing two-way intercultural connections are fruitful and increasingly necessary for the prosperity of the interconnected world we live in.

Volunteer exchanges can be measured by the quality of relationships being built – @Shika_Bee Click To Tweet



To be a successful foreign volunteer, Shika believes it begins with an understanding of yourself / skillset and a genuine desire to be of service to someone. Such a person is often thought to be self-sacrificing with care for their wider community and an unrelenting passion to contribute to a cause bigger than themselves.

However, to be able to add accountability and value to foreign volunteering efforts in Africa, one needs to;

1. Have a good knowledge of the country and organization whose aims you would like to champion.

Each summer in Africa, this ‘higher cause’ has all too often displayed itself as ‘saviourism’, ‘privilege’ and ‘Western ideas’ – to name a few.

What usually begins as a selfless summer trip quickly manifests itself into self-serving behavior when culture shock takes over, conditions become unfavorable to live in and personal expectations are not met.

These circumstances fuel a type of instinctive desire to fix things that do not exist ‘back home’.

Though the intention may come from a good place, the means by which it is executed becomes misplaced and frequently results in misunderstanding and conflict.

Why?

A lack of intercultural awareness. A large number of young people in the West – diaspora included – are conditioned into thinking that volunteering overseas is a worthy extra-curricular life experience or a means of personal development.

These reasons are problematic because they refer to an underlying tone of personal gain that volunteering is based upon.

The emphasis is rarely ever to learn about culture itself – something which really should underpin any healthy volunteer exchange.

2. Acquire traits that enable you to observe, recognize, perceive and positively respond to new and unfamiliar intercultural interactions.

Some markers of intercultural awareness within international development are:

  • Humility – being receptive to, and accepting of, new and unfamiliar situations
  • Patience – in recognizing that positive outcomes take time to reveal themselves
  • Humanity – acting humanely with a trusted concern for the community being served.

These traits are not something we can quantify or expect anyone to learn quickly in a crash-course.

But volunteer exchanges can be measured by the quality of relationships being built, along with their participation and respect for our cultures once they arrive.

One indication of this lies in how well volunteer behaviors are recognized and reciprocated by the communities which they serve.

3. Volunteers should be given guided self-reflection time.

This is to serve like one-to-one inductions in a paid workplace where their observations and experiences are discussed to foster a dialogue which enables them to explain their realities so that they can be better understood.

Doing this not only prevents them from distancing themselves from problems they see by claiming ignorance, but it also provides a space for healthy goals to be set, contributions to be assessed and accountability to take place.

This is important to help redefine the negative African post-colonial perceptions that many foreign volunteers have unconsciously grown up with.

After all, what better way to rewrite the story than if told it ourselves to those who do have a desire to listen, by virtue of visiting the continent first-hand?

A good start for non-profit-organisations is to offer their own guides into standards of behavior that outlines an interpretation of volunteer ideas and expectations during their stay.

This formalizes the process whilst mitigating the risk of volunteers unhelpfully referring back to their (often biased) perception of problems and methods of solving them.


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Lebogang Motlalekgosi: You need these qualities to start a crocheting business

Its evident that nowadays, our young moguls are doing what they are passionate about, rather than what the status quo dictates to them. After completing her BA in Humanities, with a major in sociology and environmental science, Lebogang Motlalekgosi struggled to find a job, but that did not break her spirit as she decided to use her crocheting skills and follow her passion. She became a mogul at 27 years old when she started a crocheting business, and she seems to be doing quite well. “Being able to crochet things people can use in their daily lives is what gets me falling in love with it every day”, she confesses. Ms. Motlalekgosi states that she does not limit herself when it comes to her crocheting business. She makes a variety of product that suit a wide range of audience, from baby booties, blankets, as well as wearables for kids and adults. Motlalekgosi says she draws inspiration from everywhere, but she started this business because of her sister who is one of the people who believe in her.

“I learned how to crochet when I was about 9 years old Click To Tweet

Which four qualities does one need, in order to venture into this unusual business?

  1. Patience: Crochet is about math which may mean counting tons of stitches and it can be quiet exhausting especially when numbers are not your friend like me. 2. Creativity: Possibilities are endless with crochet. There is so much one can make from clothing to décor items. You just have to be willing to keep re-inventing and learning. 3. Determination: Like with any other business, you need to be determined to make it a success through research, investing your time, and energy. 4. Love: I believe by pouring your heart into everything, fall in love with your craft and others eventually will.  

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Inspiration is everywhere but I started this business because of my sister Johannah, who is one of the people who really believed in me sometimes more than I believed in myself. I am also inspired every time I finish a product because it not only boosts my confidence but it inspires me to want to learn more and make more products.
Work hard and work some more: Believe in your craft more than anyone else. Click To Tweet
 

What are the four tips you can give to someone who wants to venture into the crocheting business?

Research: Buy books and find other resources that will help you improve your craft. Experiment: don’t limit yourself to just one product, try other things as well, it will do wonders for your confidence. Don’t give up even when you feel like it: Especially when the math doesn’t add up, as it usually does when making a new product. Work hard and work some more: Believe in your craft more than anyone else.  

How do you overcome challenges?

Some of the materials are not easily accessible, but I overcome that by working with what I have and making the most of it.

 

What is your most outstanding achievement so far?

For me, every single order is an outstanding achievement. Nothing is more fulfilling to me than
watching a customer smile when trying out a product I made and telling me how much they love it because I pour my energy, love and time into every product.
 

Describe your typical Monday morning.

Haha, my Monday mornings are random in terms of activities. On one Monday I could wake up and head straight to the couch and start crocheting while others begin with a little workout. My evenings are usually characterized by preparing supper for my family, watching my favorite series while crocheting.

Do you know of any entrepreneur with an unusual business idea?
Share their story here.

10 steps to making better, boss-like decisions

she hive london she leads africa

This 10-step-process for high level decision-making was presented by Professor Simon Gifford of the IE School of Business. Gifford is a lecturer, entrepreneur, and experienced consultant.

Gifford spoke to the women of SheHive Accra 2016 about using this 10-step-process to make better business decisions, just like the senior executives he coaches.

1. Recognize that there is a decision to be made

Often times, we are presented with a decision but do not realize it. Acknowledging that a decision must be made is a crucial step in running a successful business. Then ask, is this an operational or strategic decision?

An operational decision is one that is made often and about the day-to-day of your business. Strategic decisions are one off, long term decisions that can change the course of your business.  If the decision is operational, this level of decision-making processing is not necessary. But if it strategic, then follow along.

2. Frame the problem

Sometimes, the real question is at higher or lower level than the immediate concern you are faced with. But knowing this requires introspection. We may believe that the problem is one thing when it is actually another.

To make the right decisions, ask the right questions and be aware of your capabilities and resources.

3. Define your objectives

What are you trying to achieve by making the decision? For example, are you aiming at being more profitable, increasing your market share (they are both related but may not the same), or increasing exposure?

Which of these objectives are related and may overlap? The questions and decisions they pose are different. Be sure to identify your objectives.

4. Understand your context

In other words, situational appraisal: understand what’s happening in the market now.

Where does your industry stand? Where is the global market going? What do think will happen to your industry or market in the future?

5. Evaluate the situation

Though similar to step 4, this scenario analysis is at a firm or business level. Take the business out of its current context and understand the situation you face in a future context.

What market or external forces affect your decision? What issues in your work capacity, resources, or operations affect the decisions that you will make?

Professor Simon Gifford
Professor Simon Gifford with SheHive Accra 2016 Participants

6. Generate some options

What possible decisions you can make? Most times, companies look at it from binary perspective – we either do or don’t do something.

Create a list of responses or options to the issue you’re facing, breaking them down to a small, manageable list. Role play the options through the scenarios you outlined in steps 4 and 5.

7. Option evaluation

Take all your options and evaluate them against the objectives. You may have set more than one objectives. So weigh your objectives.

How does each decision fair against each objective? Which options holds the highest tally for the objectives you care about?

8. Make a decision

Choose the option that fares best against your option, then perform a risk analysis. Do this narration: you implement that option and things go horribly wrong – what could have been wrong? Can you stand the outcome of the worst case scenario?

Make recommendations and negotiate with your key stakeholders. Then decide and commit. (In this step, you should discuss how you will break ties as well).

9. Implement your decision

At this stage get the people involved in the implementation of the option into the decision making process.

Considerations about these stakeholders should have been made in step 1 but at this point, bring them in to discuss the decision, how it was made, and considerations of best and worst case scenario.

10. Evaluate your decision

There should be continuity between the evaluation and implementation steps so that changes can be made.

Profession Gifford concluded by stressing the important of due diligence and process in high level decision making. While this 10-step-process can be easily laid out, enrolling this process in real time takes a lot of effort and resources.

But, the rewards to making well thought out decisions is tremendous on the business, organizational, and personal level.