spider web

When Dr. Kate Winskell and I launched Global Dialogues in 1997, we were based in Dakar, Senegal. We faced steep learning curves everywhere we looked, as neither of us had ever started an organization before. We are profoundly grateful to friends who generously shared their advice as we tried to find our way and establish our organizational philosophy – friends like Gary Engelberg of Africa Consultants International, Dr. Fatim Louise Dia and Dr. Georges Tiendrébéogo.

We recognized back then that one of our biggest challenges would be judicious team building. Over the years, we have come to realize that nothing is more fundamental to Global Dialogues’ success than the central involvement of singularly remarkable individuals across the world. With each month that passes, we see more and more wisdom in cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead’s famous quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Hands down, the most important part of our job at Global Dialogues HQ is to identify and forge collaborative relationships with exceptional individuals. Our core team, including the Global Dialogues National Coordinators, is made up of people with the following characteristics:

• Passionate, unshakable dedication to the social causes that Global Dialogues addresses, along with a profound sense of empathy and compassion. At the heart of Global Dialogues are people for whom societal betterment is a decisive source of personal fulfilment.

• A spirit for and track record of bringing diverse people together around a common effort. We look for people who instinctively aim to work collaboratively and synergistically with others for the greater good. Perhaps there are professional realms in which cut-throat competitiveness is useful; we feel that it is generally harmful in the response to the societal challenges we are striving to overcome.

• Organizational/logistical talent and skill. The Global Dialogues process is made up of highly varied components – community mobilization, film production and distribution, advocacy, M & E and research … — each involving different kinds of people working together in different ways. There are lots of moving parts in the GD process. It is essential that our core team members are adept at planning, coordination and efficient implementation of activities involving multiple partners.

• A well-founded reputation for impeccable financial and personal integrity. When it comes to financial management, integrity means not only using funds honestly; it also means making the most efficient use possible of all of the resources under our stewardship. On a personal level, we know that sustainable relationships are based on trust, and trust is forged of demonstrated integrity. We work with vulnerable groups whose trust has often been violated; our ability to work in close partnership with them depends on the integrity of Global Dialogues team members locally.

The core Global Dialogues team is made up of an exceptionally diverse group of people, including a growing number of young people discovered in the GD contests, who share the above-mentioned characteristics. In their respective countries, they reach out to and built relationships with other like-minded individuals. As such, our core team members are “benevolent spiders”, weaving webs of healthy collaboration with other profoundly dedicated human beings. Those community, national and international webs, constantly expanding and changing, collectively constitute the Global Dialogues organigram.

So, a key part of our organizational philosophy is our now well-founded belief in the efforts and networks of carefully selected, remarkable individuals. Since Global Dialogues was founded, our faith in that approach has been steadily reinforced. At the same time, we have become more and more skeptical about the effectiveness and financial efficiencies of approaches based on anonymous MOUs amongst large formal entities. We have learned that an organization built around individuals with the above-mentioned characteristics stays staunchly, genuinely and powerfully focused on the social causes at hand, while that is unfortunately often not the case with anonymous, institution-based approaches.

Back in Dakar when Global Dialogues was getting started, we also had to address another fundamental organizational question: should we develop a large, central structure with big offices and our own in-house capacity in the many areas of expertise required by the Global Dialogues process, or should we forge partnerships with local service providers, leaving local expertise intact and strengthening it through collaboration? We opted for the latter, and this approach has proven to be appropriate and beneficial for Global Dialogues and our local partners. We have never weakened any organization by head-hunting its staff for Global Dialogues. We never will.

When we reflect on the Global Dialogues team that has come together over the past 18 years, we feel deeply grateful. We know how very fortunate we are to have had the good fortune of getting to know the extraordinary individuals who comprise that team. We sincerely thank them all for everything they do in the context of Global Dialogues, and for the inspiration and optimism they instill in us.

Daniel Enger, Global Dialogues Executive Director