Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

Sports Analysis

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.


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One thought on “Sports Analysis

  1. Interesting perspective. Definitely fits with some of my experiences in Ghana.

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