This workshop was the conclusion of the first part of VSO’s Organisational Development process, an intense, detailed and participatory process designed to build VSO’s programme partners into world class organisations. The Monday morning with beneficiaries was followed by two days with Fantsuam staff, where we were asked to score every aspect of the organisation. This scoring followed on from five busy months of analysing every part of the Foundation – document, skills and IT audits, interviews with staff, volunteers, funders, board and beneficiaries, undertaken by an OD team of Fantsuam staff. During the same time each department has developed comprehensive and realistic budgets and workplans.
This huge effort has been driven by Laurie, one of my fellow VSO volunteers who arrived at the same time as me, almost six months ago. Staff from all levels participated in the workshop including John and Comfort, the Program Director and General Secretary, microfinance field officers, ICT teachers, nurses from the health clinic and local volunteers from all parts of the organisation. This process has highlighted the organisation’s strengths, its weaknesses and areas needing most urgent attention. That can be for another day.
Laurie leading the OD workshop with staff and beneficiaries: what she has achieved in this six months should be the benchmark for VSO. I think everyone in Fantsuam is excited about where she can help take us.
At the end of the three long days, all participants were asked their greatest learning from the three days. Fantsuam’s program director John Dada, the inspiration behind Fantsuam Foundation said:
“When I’m introducing Fantsuam Foundation and describing its programs, I sometimes ask myself whether everything I’m saying about all of our programs is really true on the ground. From what I’ve heard in the last three days it really is. Before this week I thought that FF was on the right track: after the workshop I know that FF is on the right track.”
We returned from the workshop on Wednesday afternoon and I was immediately (and unexpectedly) asked to attend a microfinance loan disbursement to new clients in a Hausa/Fulani community in the countryside beyond Bayan Loco. On Thursday too I was asked to meet new clients in Kanem, a small cross-country drive away on the other side of the river from Kafanchan.
During the workshop we had covered the values and vision of Fantsuam. Not all staff knew that they existed. Only a few (but still a number) could recite the vision in full. But recitation is nothing compared to action.
As I was going through the pictures I had taken on these disbursements on these two days only, I recognised these values coming through. And I know it’s not just in microfinance.
Non-partisan, non-religious, non-discriminatory
Despite strong religious convictions in the area, Fantsuam remains strictly non-partisan and serves, and is welcomed equally by Muslim and Christian communities, all tribes and clans, Arsenal or Chelsea supporters.
Muslim women (and an Arsenal supporter) in the Hausa- Fulani Dangoma community.
Field officer Sarah mobilises clients in her parents’ local communities
All disbursements are made within the communities – so we can understand the needs and challenges of the communities and they can know us. Fantsuam’s integrated programs have grown steadily by responding to community needs. During the workshop we discovered that our weakest programs were always those suggested by funders. The enduring services are those requested by the communities we work in – whether IT training, health services, HIV/AIDS counselling and support or support for children’s rights.
Local children process locust bean in Kanem: many of Fantsuam’s clients are involved in processing locust bean or making daddawa (‘local Maggi cube’) from locust beans. Much of the yellow fibre within the seed pods is currently wasted. Fantsuam is hoping to work with VSO and other partners to look at developing the market in the food industry for this useful and nutritious plant.
Accountable and transparent
As with all financial transactions, paperwork is rigorous however Fantsuam field officers and their colleagues ensure that obligations are fully understood.
Following the Grameen microfinance model, all disbursements are made to groups of clients who guarantee one another so that both clients and staff are working as a team. The Fantsuam disbursement team including field officer, cashier and driver work closely together and enjoy each others’ company. This team spirit can be seen through all departments within the organisation.
Participatory and Inclusive
The community leader and centre chief speak at all disbursements and encourage other clients within the centre to ask questions about any concerns they have.
Flexible and hard-working
....and perhaps even fulfilling our beneficiary's dream to "become the greatest organisation in Nigeria and the whole world".