Clearly defining and articulating an organization’s vision for the future is a common challenge among many organizations in Africa. In order to tackle this hurdle, 23 think tank professionals from across the continent gathered for a specialized Think Tank Essentials Training prior to the start of this year’s Africa Liberty Forum in Lagos, Nigeria. This training was hosted by Atlas Network’s Leadership Academy and facilitated by Atlas Network staff members, Dr. Lyall Swim and Tarun Vats, joined by independent facilitator Manali Shah. The training included sessions on charting an organization’s course, project management, marketing, communications, and public policy.In his opening remarks, Dr. Swim asked the participants to “Imagine what world you hope to create through this training.” This challenge was the common theme throughout the next three days as participants not only honed in on their goals, but also found efficient ways in which to reach them.
Right: Vale Sloane (Atlas Network, USA) and Dr. Lyall Swim (Atlas Network, USA) during their session on Marketing and Communications.
Bunke Olagbegi-Oloba, from African Students for Liberty, developed plans to implement in her organization.
“When I arrived for this training, I was in high spirits, because I believed that I had everything under control,” said Olagbegi-Oloba.“However, I realized that we have not been getting it right. There is a discord between the vision, mission, and goals. I tend to focus on the desired results, but this training has really helped me to clearly define and focus on the methods for how I intend to achieve them.”
Right: Bunke Olagbegi-Oloba (African Students for Liberty, Nigeria) during Think Tank Essentials Training in Lagos, Nigeria.
Aimable Manirakiza, founder and CEO, Centre for Development and Enterprises – Great Lakes, is excited to use the lessons in order to guide his young organization.
“Centre for Development and Enterprises – Great lakes is a young think tank in a challenging environment,” said Manirakiza. “People either don’t understand or are new to the benefits of liberty. Since we are new, it’s very important to know these strategies so that we can effectively influence public opinions. Through this training, I have the skills as well as a strategy in place in order to bring the ideas of liberty to more people.”
Left: Aimable Manirakiza (Centre for Development and Enterprises – Great lakes, Burundi) with Tarun Vats (Atlas Network, USA) at the Think Tank Essentials Training and Lagos, Nigeria.
On the third day, the participants were divided into two different tracks, the advanced leaders with more experience joined an intermediate development training. This session allowed participants the opportunity to dive deeper into their fundraising plans and refine their pitches by presenting to a panel of judges.
Participants in the fundraising breakout session.
Denis Foretia (Nkafu Policy Institute, Cameroon).
Denis Foretia, senior fellow, Nkafu Policy Institute, has previously attended an Atlas Leadership Academy training and is excited to add more to his knowledge.
“One of the major challenges that we have, is being able to better communicate our project ideas” said Foretia. “The training has really helped me fine-tune my approach to presenting policy proposals, regarding not just the structure of the proposal, but also the content, and how its presented aesthetically. I attended the training last year in South Africa, and saw some growth from that. I think this advanced training will help takes us even further.”
Participants refine their organization’s mission statement during Think Tank Essentials in Lagos, Nigeria.
“I had only heard about the cheetah generation from Dr. George Ayittey in his Ted Talk,” said Tarun Vats, associate director of Atlas Network’s Leadership Academy. “Having met and interacting with these young cheetahs, the new breed of intellectual entrepreneurs in Africa, I can now understand what Dr. Ayittey meant. It gives me so much hope and assurance that this continent is in the right hands. We personally experienced the lack of institutions and lack of rule of law in our brief encounter with the authorities in our host country. Imagine someone having to face that on a day-to-day basis and still maintaining faith, resilience, and enthusiasm that this can be turned around — that is what this generation is all about. After this training, they are walking away with implementable frameworks and action plans that will help them continue their struggle/fights in their respective countries. I feel a little belief, a little hope, and a little faith is sometimes all that is needed to see the light and tremendous potential this place has to offer!”