Last week, Amplify Governance had a team meeting. We all traveled from our various locations in Ghana to spend a weekend going over what we’re doing, how we’re adapting, and where the organization is going.
Our directors kicked off with a reminder to stay humble. Ghanaians are used to foreigners coming to the country with grand schemes that rarely work. Usually we come with some sort of project, spend a ton of money, and leave without solving anything. Furthermore, we think we’re right. We think that we can enter a new culture and context and somehow solve everything in less than a year. Understandingly, Ghanaians tend to resent foreigners’ arrogant attitudes.
At the risk of sounding pompous and missing the point, I totally see where Ghanaians are coming from. Maybe this is too much of a stretch, but during the discussion I thought a lot about Ultimate Frisbee. Ulti is huge in Vancouver and I’ve been playing for years. It’s a co-ed sport, but not completely fair between men and women.
I’m pretty good at Ultimate, but I’m a girl. As a result, every time I play with a new team, I need to work 110% to prove myself. If I drop the frisbee once during the first game, I won’t be passed to again. It doesn’t matter how many passes I catch, the dropped one will still have consequences.
It isn’t the same for men. I know guys who drop a lot or can’t throw, but they still get the disc more often than a girl of superior skill.
I think it takes 2 seasons of playing with a team regularly before we start to trust each other. It takes about 2 years before I get comfortable enough with a team to take some risks, but actually play better.
In Ghana, Amplify is like the new girl on the team. It’s going to take a long time for us to overcome our reputation of just another foreign organization with a useless project to implement. We feel our mistakes are magnified – like it doesn’t matter how hard we’re running and that a throw to us was so bad it was uncatchable, everyone still sniggers when we drop the frisbee.
Unfortunately there’s no way to expedite team bonding. It just takes time.