When I joined EWCP 20 years ago our small team would meet almost every day, either in our cosy wooden cabin in the forest (still our base), or in the Web Valley or the Sanetti Plateau camps. We were a small tem working mostly in one mountain range. Today, it takes various flights, long hours on the road, and much organization, to gather the full team in one place.
We managed just that last week, when all senior staff gathered in Dinsho for a special occasion - and we were indeed stuck there for 10 days, as a stay-at-home general strike meant that no shops were open, there was not a single car on the road, and communications were scant or non-existent. But we kept our spirits up and once the strike ended we crammed a busy schedule into the remaining 7 days and got on with it.
The key reason why we all gathered in Dinsho started a year ago, when with Claudio and Joyce we conducted a health check of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme, using a clever tool developed by WCN to assess our current institutional health, and suggests improvements.
With an expanding team, new sites, and growing operational and political challenges, it was not surprising that we identified shortcomings with project management. We sought professional help, and, to cut a long story short, here we are with Beth and Alison from WildTeam UK, learning about Project Management for Wildlife Conservation, a tool developed by this charity.
Last October Claudio, Eric and I had taken the PMWC course, and took our exams with trepidation, bringing back memories of our student days. We worked together to tailor the WildTeam “trackers” to fit EWCP needs. These are documents that will help us to track everything from equipment and contacts, to work plans, risks and lessons.
The theory and practice delivered by WildTeam is helping our team beyond expectations. I am fascinated at witnessing the attention and commitment that everyone showed during the course and taking their exams. I am already hearing conversations among EWCP staff talking about control processes, roles, risks and issues, and lessons learnt! We anticipate a positive impact in the way we work, and this is largely thanks to the support of WCN and our donors. Thank you.
As I drove with Eric towards Addis Ababa this morning, we talked about this great experience and how the ‘medicine’ appears to be working. Where we saw problems before, we now see opportunities and new ways to do our work. And the best part is that it is not only us, but the entire team, who is feeling this way.
With best wishes from the Ethiopian highlands
PS: On the way we stopped in the Arsi Mountains and climbed up to the amazing Bora Luku peak, at 3,700m. We found an active den and two alert wolves, a bit nervous of our presence so close to their pups. This fleeting sighting of rare Arsi wolves made us all happy, because it reminded us of why we do this and why effective project management matters.