On the Road with Humentum in Nairobi, Kenya

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April 03, 2018

On the Road with Humentum in Nairobi, Kenya

By Caitlin Holland

Content & Storytelling Lead

Three weeks ago, I headed out for Humentum Week: Nairobi (#NairobiWeek) – my second big “Humentum Week” since Humentum Week: Bangkok in March 2017. Humentum Weeks offer five consecutive days of quality trainings in one convenient location and, since our merger last year, more activities than ever before for all who participate.  

The lineup of events for Nairobi Week was aggressive, and I filled my personal schedule: content gathering and interviews with a photographer and videographer, liaising with a Devex reporter covering our USAID Proposal Development course, and attending all the evening and additional learning events I could, like our learning hackathon, senior leaders' dinner, member roundtable, and reception.

Despite it being the rainy season and large flying termites spawning out of the ground after the daily downpours, I had an incredible time learning more about the vibrant development and learning community in Nairobi. Please take a moment to re-read that sentence. Anyone who knows me knows what a big deal that statement is. I don’t do insects, especially when they gather and swarm like the birds in Alfred Hitchcock’s aptly named 1963 movie “The Birds.” But even outdoor threats couldn’t diminish the creative and enthusiastic vibe that encompassed the week and radiated from our participants and my fellow colleagues. 

What was so special about it? The proximity of giraffes and baby elephants doesn’t hurt, nor does the availability of Tusker cider, but what impressed me most about Nairobi was its people and the impressive amount of passion and expertise behind exactly what we do at Humentum: learning and capacity building for organizations working for social good.

I’ll cover the highlights and my lessons learned below, but for those of you who prefer viewing to reading, click on the video below to see one (or two) seconds a day from each day of Nairobi Week. Click on the image to watch the video!

1) Nairobi is a worldwide hub for learning and capacity development.

I am not a “learning” person, someone who works in learning and development at an organization, but I do like to learn – and I did a lot of that during Nairobi Week’s hackathon. Ross Coxon, Humentum’s director of the learning collaborative, took a model used often in the IT world and brought together some learning professionals, many of whom had joined us for Capacity for Humanity in February, to brainstorm and collaborate around key challenges faced when delivering learning and capacity development to staff and communities. The brainpower in the room was palpable. As Ross said, “there are three learning hubs worldwide: the UK, the US, and Nairobi.” We divided into groups at roundtables, identified a key challenge, discussed why it was a challenge, and then worked on short and long-term solutions. See a little from the small group action below:

 

2) The value of certification – and celebrating success – is alive and well in Nairobi.

I was able to take part in the “graduation ceremony” for our PMD Pro 1: The Essentials of Project Management certificate holders on the third day of Nairobi Week, and it was a blast. A test is offered at the end of every Humentum PMD Pro 1 class, certifying participants in project management for the development sector. Every PMD Pro 1 class has its share of nerves about the culminating exam, but this group had an 100% pass rate! There was singing, a little dancing, and lots of cheering. (Congrats as well to our second group of test takers that week, our FMD Pro: The Essentials of Project Management participants!) Click to view full carousel below.

 

3) Networking in Nairobi > networking elsewhere.

We call it convening in the US: bringing people together to discuss common issues or challenges. We call large events with both convening and training sessions “conferences.” By any name, professionals in Nairobi know how to network and make the most of these events and opportunities. Our Wednesday night reception included people from the trainings and the hackathons that wanted to continue their animated conversations, but it also included new professionals uninvolved in Nairobi Week otherwise who came with their colleagues and friends to meet others and learn more about Humentum. We hope to see those people participating in even more events the next time we’re back! The networking that took place during Nairobi week was a good reminder of the importance of building relationships in the pursuit of common goals.

4) Humentum has the opportunity and ability to be a conduit for the smart and talented professionals who already know the best ways to support and build their countries.

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of the week was our senior leaders’ dinner. The panel of speakers was a perfect trifecta for an engaging and emotional debate over localization – who is in the best position to deliver services and projects that benefit people living in various regions who need support? The panel consisted of leaders from all three sides of the triangle: CEO of Adeso Degan Ali, Zoe Hensby from DFID, and Anthony Okoth from PS Kenya, who respectively presented the perspectives of a Kenya-based organization, a government funding agency, and international organization with a local presence. Degan Ali took us all to church over the need for more direct funding of organizations that are homegrown in the countries they serve, organizations like Adeso, that must fight for the same funding as large international organizations working locally. Anthony talked about the model used with PS Kenya that could be adapted by local organizations looking to work more effectively with funding from the UK and the US, and Zoe agreed with the commentators in the room who felt that both types of organizations have an important role to play in shaping a communities’ future, and assured that funders recognize that. Humentum being the convener for such important debates and conversations was never as clear as it was during this event. The vision and the dedication already exist on all sides, and we can help people share their ideas and spur action through strengthening community.

Want to join us for the next Humentum Week? We'll be in Bangkok in April and Kampala in June. While these weeks don't include all the events that Nairobi Week did, you can take advantage of 6-7 trainings and all the networking you can handle! Also, check out the blocks below for our next upcoming trainings in Nairobi

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