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“The Shot In The Arm I Needed”

We launched our Communications and Advocacy Training with the Freetown Cluster earlier this month. Cluster member LAHAI KARGBO is Program Manager for EduNations in Sierra Leone, and here he explains what the Cluster and this training is bringing to him and his work.

At Edunations, our goal is to build schools - and a future - for forgotten children across the continent of Africa, starting in Sierra Leone. I am motivated by constant progress towards this goal, and the goal of community change in Sierra Leone more broadly. In pursuit of these things, I like to implement new ideas, and see them through to fruition; I like to be challenged in my work; I like opportunities to utilise my skills and talents; and I like environments shaped by quality leadership.

And so when I first came across the Freetown Cluster, I was curious.

As I attended a few Cluster meetings, I began to recognise that networking is essential to move our ever-changing society to a higher degree of connection. The Freetown Cluster has taught me – as well as the other members – the idea of being a ‘Connective Leader.’ It has helped me network with other leaders, interact with them, and share in the pursuit of our common goals.

When the opportunity came up to be part of this pilot training in Communication and Advocacy, I signed up hoping to develop a truly engaging and responsive communications and advocacy style, one that will lead to positive results in pursuing the things I care deeply about.

The two-day training was divided into four parts: listening to and understanding your audience; shaping an authentic message rooted in integrity; exploring different tools for impacting and inspiring others, and finally using what we have learnt to make a plan for the future. In each section, we heard from different experts in their field. Sierra Leonean scriptwriter Kemoh (known for the iconic radio play Atunda Ayenda) taught us about using community drama to talk about pressing social issues. Cluster Mobiliser Adbein told us about his passion for stand-up comedy as a tool for social change. Arukah’s Communications Co-ordinator Jake talked to us about crafting a simple and engaging message, based on his experiences at the BBC World Service.

There were plenty of lessons to draw from all this. Here are a couple.

As Elizabeth and Adbein acted out a short drama, I learnt that the success of any relationship relies on the ability to communicate well: it allows us to share our interests, concerns, and support of each other. It helps us to organise our lives, make decisions, and work meaningfully together. I also learnt that effective communication and advocacy is based on the way we talk and listen, how we respond, as well as our body language. Elizabeth encouraged us all that we can learn how to improve the way we communicate because it takes more than words to create a safe, exciting and secure relationship.

And as Jake talked about his work, I picked up a great new tool for communicating my own work. The ‘STAR’ method (standing for ‘Situation’, ‘Task’, ‘Action’ and ‘Result’) has taught me how to reduce my extensive way of story-telling. I have since shared this method with colleagues at Edunations, where we are now using it to move forward with our communications and advocacy work.

All these exercises were innovative and engaging. Jake, Elizabeth, Adbein and Kemoh delivered the subject matter well, kept the group in check, and coordinated the course very well.

Since completing the course, my energy and enthusiasm for communications and advocacy has been very apparent amongst my colleagues. Connecting with the wonderful people at Arukah Network has been the shot in the arm I needed to keep pushing forward even when there have been difficulties and obstacles in the communications path I am walking with my team. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to attend the training, thankful to the whole Arukah Network team, and I hope that I represented and honoured the memory of all that were present.

Find out more about Lahai's work with Edunations by visiting their website.


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