‘It’s an entirely different way of working!’

This has been the feedback from many of the design workshop participants in East and Southern Africa.

During the three weeks spanning late November and early December 2019, members from the Global EverGreening Alliance (the Alliance) secretariat facilitated six intensive multi-stakeholder workshops, to refine a massive-scale land restoration proposal for Ark2030. The intent was to ensure an inclusive and collaborative design, and to look at new innovative ways to harmonize the strengths and capacities of diverse stakeholders. Stretching across six countries, and incorporating input from more than 70 organisations and government ministries, the results have been fantastic.

But what have these differences been?

Most notably, the approach to collaboration hasn’t just been based on where organisations have presence and existing projects on the ground, but has worked at multiple levels and included assessments of technical strengths and capacities. The organisations that are leading program implementation in each country are establishing management units. Each of these units will draw on the particular technical strengths of participating organisations, with lead organisations inviting specialists from supporting organisations to be seconded into their teams, ensuring a collaborative governance structure and entrenching technical best-practice across the program. In addition, by physically spending time together, relationships and understanding between organisations will be enhanced and deepened, increasing the potential for innovation.

Whilst this may sound simple, it was a complicated process and the enormity of the task was not lost on those involved.

‘The global challenge of climate change requires bold action at a scale that no single entity or organization can offer’, this is according to Niek de Goeij, Country Representative of Catholic Relief Services, Uganda.

‘If we take the element of organizational or landscape fragmentation out of the problem, we can all come together to tackle the problem holistically and deliver long-term impact’, Mr. de Goeji said.

This is a view shared by others.

Trent Bunderson, Executive Director & Co-Founder of Total LandCare in Malawi, was encouraged by the structure and content of the workshops.

‘The program was practical and effective‘, Mr. Bunderson said.

‘It created an atmosphere of inclusiveness for building ownership and synergy critical for the impact and success of the program‘.

A further innovation in program design and development, was the intention within each country to establish a template that could be adapted and built on for subsequent phases of implementation of this and other similar programs.

‘This is a new development paradigm, moving away from pilots and fragmented efforts. We need to support this approach, and make sure that future programs intentionally build on and further refine the model,’ said Chris Armitage, CEO of the Alliance.

‘If we start the process in a truly collaborative and progressive way, the project should deliver exactly what we’re hoping for – deeply entrenched trust and cooperation to improve lives and livelihoods where it matters most‘.

And where to from here?

The formal launch of the project was scheduled for Africa Climate Week next month with the inception workshops to follow. Plans are now afoot to move everything online as we all begin our new ways of working to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.