PROJECT-E’s Team International usually comes together twice a year for a Strategy Weekend, whereby volunteers travel to a chosen location and meet up to get to know each other, establish a sense of community, discuss areas that need improvement and propose solutions. This year, due to COVID19 and travel restrictions, members of all Team International departments (Fundraising, Finance, Public Relations, Talent Management and the Management Board) joined a three day Zoom session for PROJECT-E’s first ever remote Strategy Weekend. Hence, on the 21st of August, 24 highly motivated individuals, from different backgrounds, countries, cultures and time zones opened their laptops, logged into Zoom and took part in this unique event, so to meet their colleagues (some for the first time) and engage in constructive debates, workshops and discussions.
Carrying out such a feat online didn’t come without difficulties: compiling a timetable that would fit all participants’ needs and take into account the different time zones was challenging to say the least; staying online for sessions that lasted up to ten hours tested people’s resilience, and some volunteers had to struggle with questionable WI-FI connections to make sure they could participate for the whole event. However, thanks to the organizers’ efforts (namely Stella, Josi and Hanna from the Management Board) the meeting remained as fun, engaging and productive as it possibly could, given the unusual circumstances.
Socializing activities were instrumental in keeping people engaged: while some considered them the highlight of the weekend, they also proved essential for team building. On Friday evening, everybody cooked the same Ethiopian recipe for dinner (each from their own kitchens, but all connected via Zoom), before moving on to playing fun games such as “2 truths and a lie”, which ended up being a favourite. On Saturday, quizzes and races provided much needed energizers in between workshops, presentations and discussions; and a choreographed traditional Ethiopian dance provided volunteers with the chance to do some much needed movement.
Saturday was the most productive day. Most volunteers contributed to the Department updates, where the Department Heads of the different teams gave a brief overview on their department’s work, objectives and issues faced, relating to topics such as funding, media relations, external communications and so on. Volunteers were briefed on the situation in Ethiopia, and on how the Hospitality Institute is adapting and finding ways to carry on despite the challenges posed by COVID19 and civil unrest in the country. Bekhit and Eden carried out an instructive presentation on Ethiopia’s culture, Geography, politics and socio-economic standing, to provide members with some context on the country we are working with.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the day was when participants were divided into smaller groups for three different workshops: one on Critical Whiteness, where discussion focused on the different dimensions of racism, the ‘white saviour complex’, and served as a reminder to check oneself and work towards the goal of not perpetuating this mentality as an institution; one on inter-departmental communication, and how to better coordinate work between departments; and one on how Team International could best collaborate with the PEHI in Addis Ababa.
Sunday started with a refreshing morning group-yoga session, followed by the election of Department Heads and the Management Board: Annika was confirmed and Shannon newly elected as Department Heads of Talent Management; Anne and Hanna remain DHs of Public Relations; Karoline joined Florian as DH in the Fundraising department; Carina was joined by Melanie as newly elected DH of Finance; Josi and Stella continue on the Management Board with Hanna as support in Junior Management.
Given the circumstances, our first online Strategy Weekend was a success: despite the challenge posed by travel restrictions, an online community was formed, and its motivated, creative and talented members still managed to work through the obstacles posed by the global pandemic. Volunteers brainstormed ways to make PROJECT-E more effective, structured and impactful, and it was refreshing to see all members work together and apply themselves to find ways to achieve our common goal of women empowerment.
Written by Lorenzo Gubbini