“Akwaaba, Tamara and Kait!”
With open arms and friendly faces, Tamara Bauer, leadership studies instructor, and Kait Long, program administrator, were welcomed into the country of Ghana this October. Bauer and Long had the unique opportunity to facilitate adaptive and strength-based leadership training to African leaders working in both the environmental and health-care sectors while deepening their relationship with two of our Kansas State Mandela Washington Fellows graduates: Ruby Goka and Stephen Ofori.
Bauer and Long received a Reciprocal Exchange grant, a component of the Mandela Washington Fellowship. This grant supports diverse projects and allows Americans to travel to Africa to engage in meaningful work and build upon connections developed with young African Leaders during their Mandela Washington Fellowship.
The first workshop that Bauer and Long facilitated took place in Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana. The workshop engaged leaders working in the environmental sector, focusing on the overall approaches to exercising adaptive leadership. Adaptive leadership is the ‘practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive’ (Heifetz, et al., 2009). Bauer and Long created a space for participants to identify their aspirations for their organization or area of work and the current reality while sharing tools and language to make progress.
“It was amazing to see the progress the workshop participants were making in the environmental sector. We learned from managers of conserved forests and zoos, individuals working in sustainable crop production, and college students studying natural resource management,” said Long. “Their work is inspiring and is creating safer, cleaner communities for individuals and families in the Ashanti region.”
The second workshop delivered training to department heads and hospital administration at Volta Regional Hospital in Ho, that Ruby Goka, 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow, works at as a dentist.
“We know that leadership begins with self – and that understanding self is essential in order to create change with others and with our communities,” said Bauer. “The workshop integrated research, readings, and frameworks from Gallup’s StrengthsQuest. Participants completed a Strengths assessment prior to the session and copies of their personalized report were given during the workshop.”
Throughout the workshops, participants learned more about building strengths-based teams and how engagement and employee satisfaction can increase when individuals deploy their strengths.
The workshop helped participants see how capitalizing on individual and group strengths can allow participants to see their teams in new ways. Participants were introduced to the strengths philosophy, which puts a focus on appreciating others while strategically creating a culture where strengths are noticed and recognized.
“The pressures on the individuals who work at the hospital are many, and creating the time and space for department heads and administrators in the hospital to identify and talk through leadership opportunities to better their overall work and purpose was invaluable,” Bauer said.
While in Kumasi, Bauer and Long traveled to Mamponteng to visit Our Lady of Grace Senior High School. Mary Lynn and Warren Staley, friends and supporters of the Staley School, have led and financially contributed to the construction of the secondary high school. Stephen Ofori, 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow, and his colleagues joined them as well. After touring the campus and meeting with students, Stephen and his colleagues intend to partner with the school and begin a student club as part of A Rocha Ghana youth clubs.
“It was a special experience to visit Ruby and Stephen, to meet their colleagues and visit them in their own communities. Even with hearing much about their work during their time at K-State, physically being present and learning with them was a unique opportunity,” Long said.
Before embarking on the journey back home, Long and Bauer were able to connect with our 2018 Ghanaian Fellow, Abigail Larbi, on their final day in Accra. “We all spent the day together, and we were able to introduce Abigail and Ruby to one another. We believe their relationship could lead to additional collaborations across the country,” Long said.
“Overall, the opportunity to travel to Ghana and see Ruby, Stephen and Abigail in their communities and places of work was a phenomenal learning experience,” said Bauer. “This reciprocal grant allowed us the chance to collaborate in new ways and build even stronger understandings among one another and collective work as we seek to exercise leadership in our changing world.”