Task and Practical Management

By Laura Veith with Wendi Walsh, Kathleen Swirski and Pat Hughes

The women in the nine Conversations frequently mentioned the need for basic project management and fundraising skills.  For example, Winnie in Uganda has a dream to start a day care center.  “If a working mother leaves her baby in the hands of someone she trusts, she will be more productive at work!” she says.  Although Winnie is currently helping women, she has no formal training in these areas.  She would love to get tailored trainings to enhance her skills, including Early Childhood Development skills.  Winnie’s other wildest dream is to modernize the village where she plans to retire.  She plans to have piped water, schools and programs for women in the neighborhood so that they can develop together.  Some of these are very technical skills that are beyond the scope of this Capacity Guide, but the lessons contained here will hopefully help women like Winnie get the education they need to be successful.

This chapter offers some hands-on suggestions for becoming more effective at certain tasks of practical management, for example, fund-raising, public speaking, mentoring, using social media and goal-setting.  Other sections are offered more as starting points.  The sections on project management, mobilizing and entrepreneurial strategies provide brief introductions to lengthy subjects. They are included here to give readers an overview of the subject and to point you in a direction to go if you wish to pursue these subjects in more depth.  As Irene in Uganda points out, “many women have studied these subjects but they cannot easily apply them practically.”  She believes this forum is a good opportunity to network and share skills in these areas.

Fundraising (also known as Friend-raising)

Fundraising is not really about raising money; rather, fundraising is about raising awareness of the mission and need, and asking people to participate in meeting that need and accomplishing that goal.  Participation can take the form of money, in-kind services, and volunteer hours.  What is important to remember is that it is easier to get a donation when the donor is connected to you (a family member or friend) and/or the mission of what you want to accomplish.

Two key points to remember about friend-raising: (1) Remember that “no” is always an acceptable answer and not an indication of your relationship or their belief in the mission.  “No” usually means not at this time.  You can always ask again later.  (2) Start with a circle of those closest to you and your organization and continue to increase the size of that circle by having those friends and family start telling your organization’s story.  It becomes the friend-of-a-friend model where the friend circle keeps enlarging.  Described below are few tools you might use in your friend-raising campaign.

Case Statement – The case statement is a single page document that tells the “what” and “why” parts of your story in a simple format with some images.  The case statement helps you be clear about what your organization wants to do and what it will take to accomplish it, and typically includes sections describing:

  • who we are, what we do
  • in the process of doing our job, we learned about a situation in our community
  • here’s what we think we can do about it
  • here’s how much it will cost
  • we have a plan for meeting that cost, and here’s how you can help

The Developing Women’s Leadership ~ Around the Globe Case Statement is below.

Donor List – It is important to think about whom you will ask, for what and for how much.  This may feel a bit calculated, but it will help you focus your limited resources on the conversations that are most likely to produce a donation.  You cannot be everywhere and ask everyone, so it is helpful to become specific about whom you approach.

Tell Everyone – When people ask you what’s new, tell them about the amazing project you are working on.  Do not immediately ask them to donate, but see if they respond with interest.  If it looks like they are interested, set up another time to discuss the mission and needs of the project.  Then you can do an ask.  If it does not look like they are interested, ask if they might know anyone interested in this work.  Opening a door to a potential donor is just as valuable as receiving a donation.  It’s all about raising awareness.

Energy and Encouragement – It takes much energy to friend-raise.  You may feel discouraged because the donations do not just pour in and your goal seems unattainable.  Remember that you are doing great things, and, sometimes, great things take a long time.  You may need to implement your goal over time to match the way donations are actually raised.  In the end, you have still accomplished the goal, so it does not matter how long it took, only that the goal was accomplished. Patience and persistence are critical.

Project Management Basics

The logistics of project management can be daunting but it helps to understand what is meant by the term “project,” and to be aware that there is an internationally accepted guidebook available to assist in the project management process.

A project is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result, with a definite beginning and end.  The end of the project is reached when the project objectives are met, or when the project is terminated because its objectives will not or cannot be met, or the need for the project no longer exists” (The Project Management Body Of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide, p. 1).  A project can have social, economic, and environmental impacts that far outlive the project, itself.  Its temporary nature does not necessarily mean the project has a short duration.  Projects vary in length, influence, and complexity and engage teams of people, with other resources, to accomplish project objectives.

Project Management is the “application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to meet the project requirements…and is accomplished through the appropriate application and integration of … logically grouped project management processes.” (PMBOK, p. 2).  Briefly, Project Management can be considered a process by which we manage projects from beginning to end within these five phases:

Project Management can be used at work and at home.  Its methodology and vocabulary helps us “speak the same language” globally as we work on projects together in virtual (not co-located) teams and provides us insights into the people connections we may need to get our work done.

The Project Management Body Of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide is published by the Project Management Institute (www.pmi.org), a globally recognized project management standards, best practices, professional code and educational organization.  The Guide “provides guidelines for managing individual projects and defines project management related concepts.”  Project management practitioners can become certified in project management standards, code of ethics and professional conduct, which apply globally.  A couple of helpful websites on this topic include http://management.about.com/cs/projectmanagement/a/PM101.htm and on the Wikipedia website at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_management.

Effective Communication

In this section we’ll look at the tools of public speaking, mentoring and use of the social media to enhance communication on behalf of the many important projects in which women are involved.  In one particularly special story, Claudine of Burkina Faso, explains how she got the permission and approval of the village chief to pursue her work with on behalf of women and girls.  Her communication approach is what made her successful.  Below is the story in her words.

Men have the full power on all humankind in the village. Mostly, they proudly argue that they have the power in deciding everything relating to women and girls in the village.  We had to pass by what we called “Men Road” so that we could reach easily and frankly women.

Otherwise, as all women are aware of the probable evictions she could face, no one would have had the courage to pay attention to the Association even if they profoundly aspire to adhere and to be an active member, since the know the great benefits they could gain from it.

The women of my group made a friendship with a young man who helped us learn appropriate ways to converse with the chiefs.  At the time of the meeting, the chief was assisted by all his advisers.  As guests, we were supposed to be the first to introduce the subject of our visit. But only after the drinking water we were served, a sign of acceptance and welcoming, and also only after the chief authorized that we could speak.

As the leader of our group, I left my chair to sit down on the ground, a sign of humility and respect to the elders. This was a very surprising but appreciated action, since none of the group believed that, “women from the town” would accept to sit down directly on the ground and get dirty.  But this was the ultimate and fundamental behavior we needed to adopt to immediately mark points, and it was done.

We stated our aims are to empower the whole village even if women are our main targets.  We ensured that we are aware that women could not do anything if men don’t agree and are not opened to be of help.  We ensured also that men help would be critical tool for us to reach our objectives.  We ensured that working with women doesn’t mean to work against men. It rather means empowering men through women.

We argued that when best practices from women of the village will be recognized and widespread, every man from the village would feel proud of being from that village.

We related success stories and gently requested men points of view.  Finally, we clearly stated that, “we seek for the comprehension, strong commitment, protection and opened support of men in the village to have our work be successful, and concluded that our current approach is to seek for authorization and recognition of who has the incontestable right and power. Because, like a well-known proverb in our settings: “No stranger should show up without authorization or permission of whom may give it.”

This conclusion touched the sensibility of the chief who promptly expressed his joy.  He was proud to hear those things from women.

Then, he stated: “I feel proud since women have decided to grow our village and to introduce new thoughts and projects that will benefit the whole components of the village. As a flexible, equal and progressive Chief, I urge you, my advisers to pass on and widespread the information to the whole village and to be the first model in supporting the association.”

Public Speaking

Stella in Uganda is passionate about her involvement in church work where the group engages in community service such as painting a nursery school and sponsoring children each month.  Stella feels the church group is a great place to continue to enhance her leadership abilities.  In order to be more effective and assertive in this work, Stella wants to build skills in communication, especially public speaking. Similarly, the women in Guatemala want to learn how to present projects and “know how to negotiate or reach agreements that benefit their communities.”  They also mentioned the need to improve their ability in public speaking, to “articulate very well the power to convey ideas.”

Many people say that speaking in front of a group makes them more afraid than anything else.  The reasons for improving public speaking skills are diverse: some people want to overcome their anxiety, others want to learn how to organize their thoughts better, and others are looking to inspire people to action.  A few tips to help leaders become more comfortable speaking in public follow:

Know the topic inside and out.  This means doing research, talking to people, and considering stories and experiences that can help make your point.  Even if you have a script you will be more convincing if you can speak naturally rather than using the voice that goes with reciting a speech.  Knowing the topic well will also make it easier to answer questions and to refer back to ideas.  Rehearsal is the key to success, whether you’re speaking to a large or small group, or preparing for a critical conversation with just one other person.  Think about what you want to say and how you want to say it.   Think about how you want the person to feel after you are done, and what action, if any, you want them to take.  There are several ways you can rehearse:

  • Rehearse in front of the mirror. It will feel awkward at first, but after a while you’ll get used to it and you can see your body language which might be distracting from your message.
  • Record yourself with a video camera and watch yourself.  Pay attention to your body language and how you talk.  Most of us need to slow down.  Many of us have distracting mannerisms such as flipping hair or fidgeting with our fingers.  There may be unnecessary breaks in your speech, such as “um” or “ah” that take away from your message.  Are you speaking clearly? If you were in the audience would you follow or would you lose interest?
  • Practice in front of friends.  Ask them for feedback (based on the same questions as if you were video recording yourself).   Have them ask questions about your subject, starting with easy questions and building up to more difficult ones.  This will help you have a conversation about your topic and sound knowledgeable and confident.

One of the keys to a successful speech or presentation is to know to whom you are talking and to anticipate how they might react to the way you present your message. Who is your audience?  What do they need or want?  Are they more likely to be convinced based on the logic of an idea, on the emotion conveyed in a story, or by your credibility?

Another important reminder is to relax, which is probably easier said than done.  But once you remember that you are talking about your passion, or your creation, you will settle down.  Focus on what you love about your project, not your nervousness.  Your audience wants you to succeed, they want to hear what you have to say, and they will pick up on your emotions, so even if you are nervous try not to show it.  Share the kind of energy that you would like to see and most likely that is what will emerge.  If you do something you wish you hadn’t, don’t apologize – you are probably the only one who noticed your mistake.  Your audience is much less critical of you than you are of yourself.

Finally, remember the more you do it, the easier it will come.  If an opportunity arises for you to speak publicly take advantage of it, it will make you a better speaker.  A good resource for practicing public speaking is Toastmaster’s International, which has tips and free resources at http://www.toastmasters.org/.   You could also start your own speaking practice club, or include small presentations at team meetings or at future gatherings of the Conversation Circles.

Mentoring

Mentoring is included in this section on effective communication because mentoring is about one caring person conveying her knowledge to another, giving that “student” direction and feedback on emerging skills, and helping that person to grow in her abilities.  Formal mentoring is an intentional learning relationship focused on meeting mentee learning goals.  A mentor acts as an advisor, teacher, sponsor, or confidant.  Mentoring is a relationship based on mutual respect and support.  With the mentee, the mentor helps create a guiding map filled with processes, tools and questions that will help her mentee know how to approach new situations as they arise and help her move in the direction she wants to go.

Irene in Uganda views mentoring as a part of her duty to other women striving to become more engaged and effective in their communities. “Being a more advantaged woman than the members of my group, I feel the urge to pass on skills to enable them to improve their social and financial status,” she says.  Elida in Guatemala travels to another village to learn new subjects, and returns to her community to share with other women what she has learned.

We can think of mentoring as having three stages. The beginning stage is about preparation and negotiation.  Mentors and mentees need to reflect on what they want out of the mentoring relationship, what the expectations are, learning goals of the mentee, criteria for success, coming up with a process and structure for meeting times and locations, agreements about confidentiality and boundaries, and figuring out the responsibilities of each person.

The middle ground is the space of goals, action and learning.  Mentors and mentees build a learning relationship to nurture mentee growth.  Together, they set up a safe, supportive, accepting environment.  The mentee is generally in charge of deciding her goals and desired learning, and the mentor can share her gifts of perspective, experience, feedback, and passion for learning, without expecting anything in return.  Mentors should help mentees become self-directed, independent learners beyond the mentoring relationship.

The end stage is about bringing closure to the mentoring relationship.  This usually includes a meeting to reflect on the primary lessons learned, celebration of the relationship, and making agreements about follow-up or future check-ins.

Mentors often are hesitant about knowing how to behave in a mentoring relationship.  How much advice should they give?  How much responsibility should they take on?  Briefly stated, the responsibility belongs with the mentee, and the mentor is there to guide, but not to take any assignments nor to do the work for the mentee.  You are there to help the mentee find solutions to their own problems and challenges.  Mentors can model a love for learning and improving, and can help cultivate courage and risk taking in the mentee.  As a mentor you will want to share your stories when they fit the conversation and give support as well as challenge to help mentees stretch.  Show curiosity, and ask questions that seek a deeper level of understanding and reflection, such as:

  • If you could handle that situation again, what would you do differently?
  • What have you learned about… that you didn’t expect to learn?
  • What was the most challenging part of the task?
  • What were your reasons for doing…?

Avoid asking questions that suggest you already have the answer, such as: Wouldn’t it be more effective if you did…?  And be sure to ask questions to check on the effectiveness of the mentoring process, such as: What would make our next meeting better?

The most important characteristic of a good mentor is listening.  When you are deeply listening, you will find that you don’t know what to say next, because you were so focused on listening!  Deeply listening means you are trying to learn, not instructing or pushing your own agenda, and that you give undivided attention and set aside other demands and distractions.  Learn to be comfortable with silence, and allow your mentee to form her own thoughts rather than jumping in with a solution.  Be patient and allow your mentee to make mistakes.

Social Media Basics

Social media offers a relatively new and ever-evolving set of tools.  Some of the most popular services today are facebook, twitter, pinterest, google+, youtube, WordPress and LinkedIn.  Each service has different purposes, opportunities and audiences.  This guide will not go into how to use these specific services, rather, we will focus on some basic principles that apply to any tool that is currently available or may be developed in the near future.

Social networks take conversations online.  They are not always happening real time, but they leave a record of all that has been said.  When used effectively they are very powerful tools for marketing, raising awareness, creating new connections and maintaining existing connections across time and space.

There are several ways one can be involved in this social network conversation.  Creators are the people who start conversations.  They write about their topic, create images and share their own creations with their network.  They invite conversation, ask questions and move the conversation forward.  Participants actively participate in the conversations that the Creators start.  Collectors look for content and organize it by themes, which makes it easy for others to find and process information.  And Spectators observe.  They do not participate in the conversation, but simply listen, and are aware and informed of what is happening in the social media sphere.  Knowing what type of participant you are or would like to be will help you choose the services that are right for you.

While there are significant differences between online and in-person communication, knowing your audience is important no matter where you communicate.  Following are some general rules to keep in mind when social networking:

  • Social networking is all about sharing information.  Eighty per cent of content should be sharing information (this can be information that you created), but only 20% should be self-promotion.  By sharing information you add value to the conversation and you come across as credible, knowledgeable and trustworthy.
  • Everything you share online creates a record, even if you delete it.  So before you post, ask yourself if you really want to post and what value it offers.  If you have any doubt, it is a good idea to wait or to rephrase the post.
  • Build a list of your connections by looking for people and organizations that are doing similar work, as well as those who are geographically close. Start sharing their posts, tag them and start a conversation.  That is the best way to get noticed and start a relationship.
  • Pick one network to start with.  Once you understand that you can add another.  The social media sphere can be daunting, so start small and have a plan. What are you trying to accomplish by using these tools?  What are you communicating and to whom?  Being organized and having a clear vision can save time and help you be more effective in your communication.
  • Reuse and recycle your content.  Think about how you can reuse content you’ve already written, such as a mission statement or article, and repurpose it for a different medium.
  • Test and analyze communication strategies.  See what types of posts get the most response.  Mix it up and learn from your audience.

Organizing

Many women in the Conversations discussed ways they have organized themselves and others to accomplish their projects, and said that more skill in this area is needed by all groups they work with.  This section covers some basics of mobilizing and entrepreneurial strategies.

Mobilizing

Julie in Uganda is a well-educated woman who works for an inter-religious council in the arenas of justice and peace.  She has a lot of experience trying to bring about conflict transformation and peace building, and says that mobilization skills are key to her work. “One needs to mobilize key people to rally behind the cause,” she says.  “Through mobilization you help the stakeholders to see what was, what is and what should be, so that everyone is brought on the same page.”  Julie says mobilization requires the use of many skills, including participation, consultation, dialogue, decision-making, ownership, planning, consensus building and evaluation.  Equally important are resource mobilization skills, so groups can gain the resources they need to do their work.

One definition of mobilization offered by the Community Empowerment Collective is “getting the group to take action and organizing itself to increase their capacity and strength.”  Simply setting up structures, such as a committee with officers and volunteers, is not action.  Mobilizing means moving and getting something done.  Along the way leaders need to engage others in deciding what actions to take, who will take them, how to document and communicate the actions, and how to keep moving forward.

In resource mobilization, often a core professional group works to bring in money, supporters, attention of the media, alliances with those in power, and to refine the organizational structure to optimize its effectiveness.  Social movements need resource mobilization to be effective, because experience has shown that dissent and grievances alone will not generate the desired social change.

“… Having the ability to influence others and make them move in a particular direction is a very important skill in leadership. Leadership is often defined as the ability to persuade or influence others to do something they could not have done without the leader’s persuasion.”

 Lidieth, Nicaragua Convener

Entrepreneurial Strategies

In the Conversations these women had, the qualities of entrepreneurship thinking came up frequently.  Weub in Ethiopia said, “For those who are working in organizations the main issue is to update oneself and manage to be competitive.  So lack of training, new knowledge and modern thinking are the main issues.”

There are many definitions of an entrepreneur, but the one that resonates for this Project is Peter Drucker’s 1964 definition: “An entrepreneur searches for change, responds to it and exploits opportunities.  Innovation is a specific tool of an entrepreneur hence an effective entrepreneur converts a source into a resource.” (source: Wikipedia)  By that definition all of us, and all of you involved in this Project, are entrepreneurs.  Presented here as a part of entrepreneurial strategies, this list of traits can serve as a helpful checklist for staying on track when undertaking new projects.

Entrepreneurs start by seeing a gap, an issue or a problem, and instead of accepting what is, they look for solutions, which includes reframing the problem into an opportunity.

  • Passionate and compassionate – You will spend a lot of time on your selected topic, so you better love it and feel really excited about it!  Remember that others care, too, and be empathetic toward those you want to help. They know their situation best, and they may have some great ideas.
  • Resourceful self-starter – Things won’t get done unless someone does them.  Look for a natural place to start, a point that’s easy and makes sense.  Focus on the what, and the how will follow.   You may not have access to all the resources you need, so you will need to be resourceful.  Think differently and come up with innovative solutions.  Instead of asking, What do I need?  Ask, What do I need this to do and what are the ways I can accomplish this?  Who do I know who might know how to do this (or knows someone who does)?
  • See and recognize patterns – This is an analytical part of being an entrepreneur, where we must be observant and understand relationships.
  • Able to connect with diverse groups of people, build a great team – You can’t do everything, and you can’t do it alone. You will need support and you will need a team of people with different strengths that can work together.
  • Self-honesty and integrity – Be true to yourself.  You will make many decisions in your journey as a self-starter and entrepreneur.  There are times when you may be uncertain about a decision. One way to evaluate whether you should do something is to ask yourself, When making this decision, do I feel heavy or do I feel light?  This is a pretty good indicator of whether your decision aligns with your core beliefs.
  • Learn from failure, be persistent – A common saying among entrepreneurs is “Fail early, fail often.”  We don’t learn nearly as much from success as we do from failure.  The key is to keep trying.  When trying to invent the light bulb, Thomas Edison is quoted as saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  Filter out the pieces that don’t work and collect the pieces that do work, and slowly you will succeed in your own way.
  • Creative – Creativity is how we show up in the world and how we solve problems – two key ingredients of entrepreneurship.  Diverse experiences become fodder for finding creative solutions and possibilities.  Inspiration often comes from the most unexpected sources, so when looking for a solution, look to nature and different industries and organizations who may have already tackled your problem.

Goal-Setting

The magic of goal-setting is that it helps us get really clear about that which we want to accomplish.  When we are abundantly clear in our intention, it is as if the universe conspires to help us.  Clear goals focus our energy.  One way to ensure that goals are powerful is by using the acronym SMART: Specific, Measureable, Acceptable, Realistic, Time-bound.

Specific – A goal is specific when you provide enough detail so that there is no indecision.  A goal of “collaborate better” is non-specific.  A more specific goal is: “ensure that core staff share planning time to collaborate on the XXX project.”

Measurable – Your goal should include tangible measurement of completion. It feels good to see something accomplished. Equally important, you will be able to prove to yourself (and others) that you were successful and your time wasn’t wasted.  For example, a goal of  “collaborate better” is not easily measured.  A more measureable goal is “ensure that core staff share planning and discussion time twice per week to collaborate on the XXX project.”

Acceptable – Your goal should be acceptable to you and the people who are living with it.  You know best your strengths and weaknesses, and can use this information to maximize your chances of success.

Realistic – Goals should have a reasonable likelihood they can be accomplished.  Don’t set goals that you are unlikely to follow through, that will only create disappointment.  It’s better to set fewer realistic goals where you can be successful than it is to set unattainable goals. Success breeds success!  Start small with what you can do, experience the joys of meeting your goal, and gradually increase the amount of work that you ask of yourself.

Time bound – Say when you plan to complete your goal, i.e., by next Tuesday, by the end of first quarter, etc.  Anything that will take more than a year should be broken into smaller timeframes.

Conclusion

The practical skills of fundraising, “friend-raising,” project management, public speaking, mentoring others, implementing social media basics, being entrepreneurial, mobilizing, as well as using goal-setting to be clear and stay focused, can help leaders succeed with their projects.  Combined with the skills previously described in the self-care and group process sections, these skills compose the bulk of the skills the women in the Conversations indicated they want to improve, so they can better serve their families and communities. There are many places to gain these skills including community colleges, watching and working with friends and other leaders who do it well, and taking on volunteer work.