Leading from Within: Integral Applications to Sustainability in the Niger Delta, Nigeria
Tuesday May 17, 2011, His Excellency the High Commissioner of Canada to Nigeria, Chris Cooter, was on a working visit to One Sky offices in Calabar. This visit marked the conclusion of the 10th of the 12 rounds of Intensives designed for the Leading From Within Project. This project, which started in 2008, was designed to develop more individual leadership and interior capacity of organizational leaders in the area in a peer-supported, gender sensitive environment, along with hard skills development at the organizational level such as project and financial management. The project is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and in partnership with CUSO-VSO. In the past two weeks, activities associated with the 10th round of Intensives had been on. This round was focused on networking for professional excellence. The highlight of this round of Intensives was a Networking Party, which took place at the premises of the One Sky office blocks in Calabar over the week end. Most of the NGOs working in the area were represented. Also in attendance were Governments and International Organizations officials. The event afforded all the participants great opportunity to compare notes on strategies, in atmosphere of conviviality. Many of the participants shared testimonies of amazing transformation in their personal and professional lives. This event is at the core of One Sky’s vision to offer support to other development agencies and play the role of leader among them.
The High Commissioner expressed deep satisfaction with the achievements recorded so far in this project as he listened to the two new developments in the work at the moment. One is the establishment of African Integral Development Network (AIDEN), which advances One Sky’s approach. This approach was clearly articulated thus in the work plan of One Sky for this project right from inception:
One Sky has been involved in the successful development of three environmental networks in Cross River State, Nigeria and the capacity development of four NGOs working with a variety of community based organizations since 2002. The Cross River Environment Project (CRE Project) has been branded a success by everyone involved, including a wide cross section of multilateral and donor agencies. This success is largely because of the formation of a coalition or network approach. Our past involvement has been at the institutional (NGO) and network scale, not the individual scale. Chapter five of the Millennium Assessment Report on “Human Well Being and the Environment” points out the need for multiple scales when addressing development and environmental challenges in a global context. This project is about going deeper into the holarchy of an established and strong civil sector network meshed with the multiple scales of government and socially engaged private sector interests. It is about creating supportive cohorts within organizations that focus on personal leadership development and with mentoring work on breakthrough initiatives.
AIDEN has successfully taken off along this direction, with the 1st International conference held November 2010. Reports of this conference can be viewed on www.integralleadershipreview.com/ January 2011 edition. The Network is now set to organize the 2nd International conference November 14 – 18, 2011 at a grander scale than the 1st. Only last week University of Calabar entered into agreement of collaboration with AIDEN to host the conference, with details as follows:
ADVANCING INTO THE 21ST CENTURY: EXPLORING BEST APPROACHES TO EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP FOR AFRICA
- Revisiting the meaning of leadership
- Integral leadership and sustainable Development in Africa
- The challenge of leadership in a globalized world
- Succession trends and leadership in Africa
- Women and leadership: Exploring ways towards inclusion
- Leadership and Development in Africa
- The role of morality in African leadership
The main objectives of the conference are to provide opportunities for intellectual flowering for the participants; expose them to networking avenues and offer opportunities for like-minded professionals in the academia and other fields to enroll as members of AIDEN. There is also plan to publish the conference proceedings for permanent record. Sponsorship proposals are invited; contacts on this should be forwarded to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also call for proposals for presentations at the conference has gone out. Presentations may be in any format. Abstracts of intended presentations should also be sent to this e-mail address.
The second development in the work at the moment is the incorporation of One Sky Nigeria, to function in the capacity of a local NGO under the ambit of One Sky International. This is to ensure sustainability of the work down to the grassroots. The Executive Director of One Sky, Michael Simpson, last week approved the appointment of Etim Omini as Head-Designate for One Sky Nigeria. Etim is a Member of the Institute of Corporate Administration of Nigeria and has closely been involved in One Sky programs in Nigeria from inception. He has already assumed duty, to work in the foundation team of the current management committee of the One Sky establishment in Nigeria. He transits to full function as the CEO of One Sky Nigeria at the conclusion of the ongoing Leading From Within project. The High Commissioner, impressed with the impacts of the work of the One Sky Team, pledged further support to ensure that the two new developments are consolidated in the next one year. David Ross, the CIDA Head of Operations, who accompanied the High Commissioner, also expressed satisfaction on the improvements recorded since the last time he came to check in on the work, only late last year.
About three months ago, U S – born David Cicerchi joined the One Sky Team in Nigeria. He has considerable experience in International Development and for over three years worked as Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru. His deep understanding of the Integral Framework is very welcome in One Sky. David brings into the work great enthusiasm, amazing cross-cultural insights and overflowing passion for a socially just world and human well being. In the following write up, David reflects on his experience so far in Nigeria.
Building up and Looking Beyond: One Sky Nigeria’s Path as an NGO Leader
What does it take for an NGO to be a leader among NGOs and for society as a whole? One definition of a leader is a person that embodies qualities that allows him or her to influence other people. How can an NGO be a leader in a similar way? In my three months in Calabar, Nigeria, my colleague Dr. Oliver Ngodo and I have been working this question as One Sky Canada, an international NGO based in Smithers, Canada, seeks to localize its administrative structure into the hands of capable Nigerian leaders to create One Sky Nigeria.
Dr. Ngodo and I were hired as co-operants for One Sky Canadian Institute of Sustainable Living through Canada’s international volunteer placement organization, CUSO-VSO. We were charged with the responsibility of setting up a sustainable subsidiary of One Sky Canada in Nigeria, as well as supporting the emerging African Integral Development Network (AIDEN). Nigeria is among the top oil producers in the world, yet statistics indicate that very high proportion of the population live on less than one dollar a day. Furthermore, the Niger Delta region is among the top 10 most polluted ecosystems in the world. It was no accident that One Sky set up its “Leading From Within: Integral Leadership for sustainable change” here. It is perhaps where its vision of an “environmentally sustainable and socially just world” is needed most.
This broader understanding and vision drove me in my initial months to focus on establishing networks of other NGOs and possible donor agencies so that strategic partnerships could work towards innovative solutions. One Sky’s strength here in Calabar has always been as a support for other NGOs. The question has always been: “how can One Sky continue to support capacity and organizational development in the NGO sector here?” One of One Sky’s primary distinctions ever since inception here is the utilization of the Integral International Development methodology as espoused by Gail Hochachka, which unites the strengths of “top-down” conventional and “bottom-up” alternative approaches to development by engaging both the exterior and interior dimensions of the individual and the collective. This is a cutting edge approach that is explicitly found in perhaps no other outfit within the NGO sector in Nigeria. This supplies a clue on how One Sky can be a leader among NGOs here.
Also, in addition to offering support to the NGO sector, One Sky can serve as a leader by modeling some of the most innovative and integrative development methodologies. We at the One Sky Nigeria office have been developing plans to utilize the work of Nobel Peace Laureate, Muhummad Yunus: Microcredit and Social Business. Microcredit seeks to resolve the problem of inadequate access to conventional lending institutions for the poor. In Nigeria, the banking infrastructure is still in the process of growth and development. It is usually difficult for most people who need the services of banks here to secure the services they so badly need because of the rigorous process often required by most of the banks. In comparison to this conventional structure in the banks, microcredit institutions use the idea of social collateral. Since most poor people are deeply embedded in social networks of friends, family, and acquaintances, these relationships put high pressure on them. Under a micro lending model, borrowers associations of about six in a group are formed. Of the six in each group, only 2 receive small loans of about $200 at a time. The other four potential borrowers can only receive their own loans once the first two loans are repaid. Furthermore, the business or economic activity chosen by each borrower must be unanimously accepted by the other members of borrowers in the group. This means that each potential borrower has a keen interest in promoting prompt repayment of the loans of others in their group. And they are usually able to exert enormous pressure on each other, leading to almost 100% rate of repayment. Most micro-lending banks associated with NGOs have a very high repayment rate. The success of micro-lending has been demonstrated throughout the world, particularly through the Grameen Foundation and Bank, but such non-profit micro-lending has just barely taken hold in Nigeria. One Sky, as a leader among NGOs, can serve as a model for the successful adaptation of microcredit in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
Yunus’s second popularized development model, Social business, is a concept that grew out of his experience with microcredit, and has the potential to equally revolutionalize development work. Social businesses are businesses that are set up to solve social or environmental problem. Yunus set up a yogurt production company with Grameen to sell nutritious low-cost yogurt to the poor of Bangladesh. There are such social business enterprises all over the world. In the US, there are companies like Teresa’s Pizza which solve the problem of ex-convict unemployment by training them to bake and sell pizzas. Fresh Box is a high quality sandwich catering business in Ohio that employs homeless people through a strict management structure. Such social businesses serve a social end, but don’t depend on donor charity. Instead, they are run like conventional businesses with financial sustainability as an essential concern. What makes a business social is that instead of returning dividends and high profits to shareholders, they are reinvested in the business in order to expand and provide better services towards the social end. So in this way, the measure of success of a social business is that of an NGO or any development organization. The result may actually turn out to be better than a traditional development project, because in the end, the social benefits continue to grow — without donor charity. One Sky Nigeria’s vision is an environmentally sustainable and socially just world. Microcredit is an efficient way to channel funding to people in real need of funds, and it doesn’t rely on abundant donor resources. Social Business is a way of creating value for customers while also considering a primary drive to make the world a better place.
So how can One Sky be a leader among NGOs? It can focus on its strengths in NGO support and integral leadership training. It can also utilize the most innovative approaches to sustainability that reduce dependency and increase results. Micro-lending and social businesses are great possibilities. But before any of these innovations can be experimented, basic infrastructure must be present. After all, how effectively can an organization plan its projects, contact beneficiaries, organize consultants, and write reports when it has electricity every few days, or inconsistent internet access? Furthermore, and just as important, a successful NGO must, in order for it to be viable, adapt to the cultural and legal framework of the country. What are the rules for administering microcredit to the poor? What is the tax structure for setting up social businesses? Also, One Sky has to manage perceptions. Many NGOs in Nigeria have been set up as scams, whether to import illegal arms or to collect money and run away. One Sky has to correct people’s false perceptions and actively market an accurate image to the public.
So what will One Sky’s path look like as we move forward? Well, it needs to be run by Nigerians, and is designed to serve as model for other NGO’s even if the social, economic, and environmental conditions make it difficult to assume these roles. In order for One Sky to innovate, it must thoroughly pass through and transform conventional approaches to development. As Dr. Ngodo frequently reminds me, we must first master the fundamentals of development work. From there, I would add, the possibilities for expansion and innovation into a more environmentally sustainable and socially just world are endless.
About the Authors
Oliver Ngodo, PhD, University of Malaysia Sarawak, was active politically in Nigeria and in the field of Education. He was an associate editor for Integral Leadership Review before adding Bureau Chief for Sub-Sahara Africa, joining Yene Assegid in that role. He has recently returned to Nigeria to take on the role of Director, AIDEN, under the auspices of One Sky, a Vancouver, Canada NGo working on international development. Oliver can be contacted at email@example.com.
David Cicerchi is a One Sky co-operant for their integral leadership Development Project, “Leading from Within”, and is also responsible for facilitating the transition into One Sky Nigeria and supporting the African Integral Development Network as it expands throughout the Niger Delta of Nigeria. Previously, he was a Peace Corps volunteer assigned to both the Coastal dry forest and the Andes regions of Peru where he worked for three years in Community-Based Environmental Management. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and studied Political Science at Xavier University in Cincinnati. David has been engaging integral theory for at least six years, and is particularly influenced by Transcendental Meditation and Ignatian Spirituality. He currently lives at One Sky Nigeria headquarters in Calabar, Cross River State.