April 10, 2013

Launching Reboot Nigeria

For the last 6 months I have watched my growing family of colleagues pen their passions, thoughts, and experiences about Reboot’s work toward building a 21st century social contract.

But, I have not been able to share myself, as I have been head down and hard at work. Today, I am extraordinarily pleased to tell you why.

Reboot Nigeria is now officially open.

We’ve established our first country office and laid the groundwork for growing into the next stage of Reboot’s vision.

Though our office is newly established, our experience in Nigeria is not. Since early 2012, we have been increasingly growing our portfolio here working with members of the international community, major private sector actors, and various parts of the Nigerian government. We have partnered with organizations large and small—from the World Bank and PriceWaterhouseCoopers to the local NGOs Stakeholder Democracy Network and the Niger Delta Citizens and Budget Platform.

Our focus has been a consistent reflection of Reboot’s overall mission: supporting new and improved relationships between citizens and their government to create more justice, accountability, and opportunity for Nigerians.

This has been both humbling and highly rewarding work.

I’ve had the chance to laugh, sweat and cry alongside great colleagues. These include the members of our first country team, comprised of some of the smartest and most talented people I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. We have benefitted from one another’s experience and perspective as we wrestle with the hard questions behind achieving accountable governance.

And we’ve learned plenty too!

I can only dream of the time and space to step back and adequately capture all of the lessons gleaned from this experience. But for the eager reader keen to try and bootstrap a theory of change into ground reality, here are a handy few takeaways:

1. Plan, Adapt, Plan, Adapt….

That implementing a ‘people’ driven approach to development and governance would require significant adaptation is unsurprising. The number of partners, stakeholders, and communities involved in our work in Nigeria makes this truism ring only louder. The volume of feedback on our plans is extraordinary!

The best plans help give us direction, but every stage of implementation requires structural revision to our approach. In Nigeria, we are iterating constantly with plans involving many people and complex strategies. The adaptive process impacts financial planning, team morale, and how we manage progress among our partners.

2. Choose Partners Wisely

Our work in Nigeria relies on great partners, who bring valuable expertise, capacity, networks, and knowledge. Our partners define the caliber of our success. We’ve learned to put even more effort than anticipated into identifying the organizations we collaborate with. This requires doing extensive upfront work on tight timelines to ensure our partners share enough of our philosophy and professional standards for a happy marriage over time.

3. Embrace Politics

Trying to change a big problem at scale and over time means diving into local politics, whether you want to or not. Maintaining the right relationships, getting invited to the right events and knowing when to gracefully leave the show are all factors that define success. This took some adjustment given our organizational culture which preferences meeting people’s needs over wading into the political processes that can make that possible. We’ve had to replace our determined refusal to engage in politics with a willingness to leverage political dynamics for our programmatic goals.

4. Financial Planning for Operational Success

Expenses come hard and fast, and often well before the receivables to support them arrive. Partners can’t work on sweat equity, offices must be rented and capital investments made. This has forced a level of financial planning and security that has improved many parts of our enterprise. And we’re eager for help! In the next week we’ll be listing a job description for a new Manager of Finance and Administration. If you’re the bees knees when it comes to managing the financial operations of a rapidly growing social enterprise, we want to hear from you.

*    *    *

I am extremely grateful for the colleagues, partners and institutional supporters that have made this progress possible. Our vision for the future is one where new models of collective action will improve governments, institutions and communities. It is these collaborations that help us make our contributions towards translating that vision into reality.

Onwards, upwards.

 

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