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08 December, 2011

By Ayan Osman, Women of the Horn, and Lul Seyoum, International Centre for Eritrean Refugees and Asylum Seekers

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Training for leadership and change

Heads of non-governmental organisations, community leaders, a senior diplomat and student leaders from Somali, Eritrean and Ethiopian communities in Britain were among those who participated in an effective leadership for change training programme. The training took place between 20 October and 19 November at the UK Initiatives of Change centre in London.

Participants at the Leadership for Change workshop (Photo: Shirhan Abdurahman)The training programme was organised by two charities, the Women of the Horn (WOTHA) and the International Centre for Eritrean Refugees and Asylum Seekers (ICERAS).

Welcoming participants, Don de Silva, Head of Programmes for Initiatives of Change UK, said that change, by definition, requires new ways of doing things.

He said: 'Few things are more important to human activity than leadership. Effective leadership helps our nation through times of difficulties. It makes a business organization successful. It enables a not-for-profit organization to fulfil its mission.

'The lack of leadership is equally dramatic in its effects. Without leadership, organizations move too slowly, stagnate, and lose their way. Leadership is crucial in implementing decisions successfully.'

The training programme was flexible. It was divided into evening three-hour and one-day weekend sessions. This enabled the 20 participants to attend the sessions, without difficulty.

The sessions were participatory and inter-active. They covered both transformational change and skills development:

Jonathan Elise, Executive Director of the Refugee Advisory Council, dealt with the different styles of leadership and qualities that are required for effective leadership.

Peter Riddell, Convenor of IofC UK’s Agenda for Reconciliation programme and Mohamed Sheik Mohamud, a community cohesion specialist, took the participants through the process of team-building, based on personal change.

Sarah Menzies, a development officer at 'Evelyn Oldfield Unit’, an independent charity working with refugee and migrant communities, demonstrated how to develop an effective strategy for an organisation. She showed participants how to assess the strengths and weaknesses of an organisation.

Andy Gregg, Chief Executive Director, Migrant Funding Offices, over the course of one of the days, dealt with the all important matter of how to raise funds to implement projects and initiatives on a sustainable basis.

Don de Silva conducted two sessions: a three-hour exercise on dialogue facilitation and a one-day session, where he dared each participant to dream. He took each one through ways of transforming dreams into reality. Some participants found this session personally moving.

(l to r): Zahra Hassan, Sarah Menzies and Lul Seyoum lead the discussion on strategy (Photo: Shirhan Abdurahman)
(l to r): Zahra Hassan, Sarah Menzies and Lul Seyoum lead the discussion on strategy (Photo: Shirhan Abdurahman)
At the end of the workshop, several participants commented on its impact.

Asha Hashi, a former Somali diplomat, said: 'The workshop was extremely interesting and I have learned a lot. I am planning to work as a volunteer and I believe that thanks to this workshop, I have gained skills that will be useful.'

Faz Ali, who is training to be a community TV presenter, said: 'I am so grateful of every minute. I felt that I have learned so much, it was very informative and I have gained more skills, such as communication and confidence. Some sessions were more inspirational than others. I hope to be a better leader one day. For minority ethnic communities, courses like this are rare and costly.'

The Leadership for Change workshop was organised by Zahra Hassan, Director of WOTHA and Lul Seyoum, head of ICERAS.

Commenting on the programme, they pointed out the following: the training sessions dealt with both personal and societal change; it provided much needed skills training.

Zahra Hassan said: 'We have created a flexible training programme that can be adapted to suit different communities and situations. The training programme was cost-effective. We can take this to any part of the country.'

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