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Succession – it’s not about you really

Posted in: Blog, by sheanna, on 13th July 2016 | Comments Off on Succession – it’s not about you really

It’s now been just over a year since my time as resident in Tanzania came to an end. After almost 10 years living in Mwanza on the shores of Lake Victoria, on July 5th my family and I drove 12 hours to Nairobi before catching the onward flight to London. Flicking through Timehop and Facebook this past week as the pictures of the countdown 1 year ago have popped up has brought back fond memories of a crazy time.

Blink – and a year goes by. One of the many questions from people who knew me in Tanzania that has come up over the past 365 days has undoubtedly been ‘Do you miss it?’. Of course. I miss people, I miss the culture, I miss a way of life our kids grew up with. But I don’t miss doing the same things, because in order for there to be sustainability and succession, things have to move on.

When we went to Tanzania for the first time back in 2003, and started to scheme up an idea for a short training programme in Emergency Dentistry with Ian and Andie Wilson, the Bridge2Aid Founders, ‘Exit Strategy’ was always part of the conversation. Early on we all recognised that projects and expats come and go. Our primary aim in being in Tanzania was to establish something that would not just exist, but thrive without us. And that’s a tough one, because you have to learn to let go.

Back in 2004 when we ran the first training programme in Emergency Dentistry, I drove the truck and loaded it, we made the lunches for the volunteers, we ran the treatment clinic, took the photos, recorded the data, and then packed up, drove home, and did it all again the next day. It was a lot of fun. But had we carried on doing the same things, we would have severely limited the capacity of the programme to grow, and denied opportunities for gifted and committed Tanzanians and volunteers to develop.

DSCF3006The Tanzania team in 2009 (Mark on far right)

Over the years we gradually handed things on, wrote systems and trained people to assume responsibility and improve things. Ian had to let go of leading the clinical teams on site, and we we created a role for the senior clinician among the volunteers which has been relished by those who have done it. I handed management of the programmes day to day to Tara, who handed on to Joyce. Jo took responsibility for directing the programmes and taking it further across Tanzania. Roles changed. We delegated and gave away. And now we have an exclusively Tanzanian implementation team running operations, Hope Dental Centre, and the Emergency Dental Training Programme.

The whole philosophy of Bridge2Aid is built around sustainability. It’s one of our four Core Values. It has meant that we have been intentional about developing talent, giving responsibility, stretching people and yes, being prepared to step out of the way so that others can move up. It requires that we keep our ego in check, and keep in mind the bigger vision of what we’re trying to achieve.

staff pic april 2016The Tanzania team in 2016 (with UK Ops Director Shaenna)

It means that looking back in 20 years, we can see that what we did lasted, created an enduring impact. Not just in terms of the programmes we deliver, but the organisations we build and the people we develop. So it’s not about you. Really.

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