It’s a challenge to implement a broad programme, develop strategies for resilience and find time for professional development—but many AAP teams have managed just that
By Keith Cundale, ILCD Expert, AAP Regional Team
My area of specialisation within the AAP Regional Team has been Institutions, Leadership and Capacity Development (ILCD). For the last three years it has been my role to bring these elements together in ways that benefitted the programme as a whole, the individual country projects and the individuals working within those countries.
It has been an interesting and challenging journey that has been as much about the learning, growth and achievements along the way as the destination itself. That may be a cliché, but clichés are born of reality and this is one that encapsulates some fundamental truths about our work, like the fact that 20 countries pursuing the same five outcomes undertook significantly different approaches and and implemented dis-similar activities to achieve similar goals.
Another typical characteristic of a long journey is that it never goes as smoothly as you planned! Unexpected obstacles occur, detours are taken, steep hills are encountered and, for many different reasons, the speed of the journey changes. So it has been for the ILCD over these last few years: sometimes we have moved swiftly and made good progress, other times there were obstacles or detours to be negotiated.
We didn’t seek out the roadblocks and speedbumps—no one does! Despite our well-laid plans and well-researched route maps we still encountered some unexpected challenges that slowed us down. But when I reflect on that journey, I don’t just recall the challenges and difficulties, but also the insight, the learning, the progress in-spite of setbacks and the enjoyment of work that was interesting, beneficial and ultimately contributed to the long-term advancement of African countries’ climate resilience.
Finding time for learning
‘One of the earliest challenges came in the form of the competing work pressures with which our national colleagues had to contend, making itdifficult for them to find time to concentrate solely on our professional and institutional development work. The AAP project coordinators in particular faced pressures stemming from the range of tasks and stakeholders they were responsible for and to. But, such conflicts are largely inevitable in this type of work, and recognition of this was one of the first steps to finding time to talk about professional development. I certainly admired the way the AAP teams were somehow able to push back these other pressures when we got together and really focus on issues of long-term development and growth.
Sometimes the challenges we encountered were simply bigger than us—such as those faced by our counterparts in Tunisia during the huge changes there—and there was little that could be done but to wait them out. Even more predictable challenge such as a change of government after a general election can bring about some upheaval in the machinery of government, which is the very machinery the AAP is encouraging countries to adjust and develop.
Success under pressure
Despite these obstacles and the detours we encountered, there have been long stretches of progress that moved us far and fast towards our destinations. The period when we launched Leadership for Results, Climate Action Intelligence and the Professional Development Programme saw many countries making rapid and significant progress in responding to the challenges of climate change. It was exhilarating to work with countries that were really rising to the challenge, and it was those times that made the detours and the delays in the journey worthwhile.
During these times of rapid progress and widespread engagement I was able to work with people as they explored new ways of looking at the issues around climate change in their country and found new and effective ways of responding. I am thinking of the AAP teams who broke down the work-plan and creatively designed large-scale work packages that cut across the artificial boundaries of the five AAP outcomes and truly started to have an impact on their country’s development. Or the AAP teams who implemented their project in close alignment with related projects which, while increasing the complexity of what they were doing, saw them benefit from working on similar tasks in coordinated and integrated ways. These are examples of the power that comes from finding new ways of working and from implementing the learning that AAP teams gained from each other through experiences such as the Professional Development Programme.
Not there yet, but much closer
So as we approach the start of a new, post-AAP phase in all of our lives, I am hopeful that the lessons learned as we overcame obstacles and endured detours on this journey will pay dividends in the future. For many of the teams and individuals I have been privileged to work with over the last few years it has been an opportunity to raise the bar in the way they tackle the challenges of climate change. Instead of sitting back and watching events unfold, AAP teams across Africa have grasped the opportunity to change the way that key people think. Or they have introduced new ways of organising work or performing the critical tasks in dealing with the effects of climate change. It has been a pleasure to work with these teams through the various ILCD initiatives as well as those times when I was discharging my responsibilities as Task Manager and providing direct assistance and guidance to a cluster of countries. I believe the learning that has come about as a result of the AAP will help our teams across Africa as they deal with new situations that arise. Instead of sticking to business as usual, I am hopeful that you will all look at what other countries are doing and maybe try new ways of organising work, use new ways of looking at the landscape of climate change and perhaps try new ways of leading and inspiring your colleagues.
In all of these scenarios I believe that the spirit of what the AAP was designed to do will live on in the future work of our community. In this endeavour I wish all of my colleagues across Africa good luck and good results in the years ahead.