From the 15th to the 16th of January, the ASC team took 2 days away from the office for the annual teambuilding and strategic planning meeting. At the start of the meeting, members expressed their desire for the trip to both strengthen the team cohesion and to gain greater clarity on the plans and priorities for the coming year. The programme structure included a time of reflection on our strengths and weaknesses as a team, discussion on the strategic direction of the ASC, and each individual team member’s plans regarding their specific areas of responsibility. New opportunities or areas for further development would also be discussed, as well as who would be responsible for these areas. These would then be integrated into an ASC plan for 2015, and a consideration of how all these activities could build into longer term plans.
We began by reflecting on our strengths and weaknesses as a team, and getting creative with ways to address difficulties and build our relationships. The strengths we agreed on were that although we are a small team, we are accomplishing a lot, and everyone on the team is committed and motivated, creating an enabling environment to work in. Weaknesses included a tendency to work in silos, and not be involved in what others are doing, as well as failing to involve others sufficiently in what we are doing. Possible reasons for this tendency included having a strong focus on our own areas of responsibility, and being very busy. It was also emphasised that better communication could help in all areas of our teamwork to build a sense of cohesion and be able to support and strengthen each other. Overall, there was a sense that despite the challenges, we are a solid team who work well together and are achieving a lot.
In response to this discussion, we identified various strategies to build and strengthen our team over the coming year. This included activities such as the continuation of our monthly lunches together, the suggestion to take a day every quarter to spend time together reflecting on team dynamics, and doing more informal activities together, such as the Khaya FM relay challenge. We also renewed our commitment to communicate sufficiently and find opportunities to learn about the work others are involved in, and take part whenever we can.
Following on from this, we explored the plans for each member of the team in the coming year.
Among the items discussed was the African Solidarity Caravan, which is being developed into a long-term programme, which Africa Week in May will form a key part of. Furthermore, the energy around the idea of a physical caravan will be explored in order to determine whether this is a realistic possibility. Also on the solidarity agenda will be a focus on solidarity support, with plans to increase support work to Swaziland, as well as an exploration of possible strategies to get involved in Lesotho.
On the skills front, the ASC intends to explore options to increase the number and variety of skills courses that we offer, drawing on the expertise that we have to assist others working in a variety of contexts. At the top of this list is the plan to hold a local Applied Conflict Transformation course this year, which will be adapted towards those living and working in South African communities, such as the Local Peace Committee members and members of SASOWNET, as well as members from other civil society organisations working in a local context.
SASOWNET will also be an important area for development, with projects that will centre around capacity building, especially the development of organisational management skills, conflict transformation and dialogue facilitation training and language skills. The Local Peace Committees will also undergo capacity building workshops, and we will seek to expand the LPC infrastructures by identifying other areas in which this work can be developed.
In 2015 the ASC is scheduled for a 5-year evaluation process, that will review the programmes and projects to date, and the strategic direction of the organisation. This will be accompanied by a 5 year planning procedure, in which the strategic direction for the next period of time will be consolidated. The newly elected Steering Committee will come into action this year, which will require a set up and transition process, and also open up new opportunities for the future.
Two major areas alluded to throughout our discussions were capacity building and resource mobilisation, which cross-cut all the programmes and plans. Capacity building for the ASC might include training in project management, report writing and similar skills, but also includes how the existing staff manage their time and resources across the various ASC initiatives so as to ensure that each area gets sufficient attention. Finally, we will seek to find additional capacity to support the programmes, for example, through hiring 2 new interns to join the team. As for resource mobilisation, there will be a strong push in each area to find new ways of supporting the work, through means such as grant and funding applications, as well as partnership development and income generating activities.
Each area was discussed in depth with regards to potential strategies, time frames and the need for capacity, allowing for a clear collective understanding on the way forward in 2015 and the activities taking place. A 2015 calendar was drawn up detailing plans for the year, and action is already underway in developing all areas discussed.