Recommendations Presentation Day

4 weeks of hard work have led to this point. From the tentative first steps out of the airport terminal to the triumphant strides into the presentation room, we had made it to Recommendations Presentation Day.

As a Team Leader, I championed this day as a day of celebration, a chance for the volunteer counterparts to show off their knowledge of each enterprise to the rest of the group.  It would be easy to fall into the mindset that this presentation was part of an assessment, an exam to which you could pass or fail when in actual fact it should be treated as the exact opposite.  The day is also an opportunity to determine how each volunteer is fairing in regard to their personal development goals – many have put down that public speaking and presenting is an area that they want to improve on.

“Be proud of everything you have achieved to date” I said to one counterpart pairing.  Information extraction from enterprise owners is just one of the many challenges a volunteer can face.  The information may not be readily available, and the owner themselves not easily reachable.  In just 3 short weeks the volunteers have managed to complete an entire workbook of analysis and then summarise it into a short 10-minute presentation – what a fantastic achievement!  This message is particularly inspiring given one of the most common reservations volunteers had communicated with me at the start of the cycle was, in their own words, their lack of business knowledge and experience.

“Be proud of everything you have achieved to date”

Staff and TLs facilitate knowledge sharing exercises for the volunteers during In-Country Orientation, but from then on out it is the volunteers’ attitude and work ethos that will produce the best results.  The more you put in, the more you get out.  As I said, information extraction is one of the more common issues a volunteer can have, but persistence and initiative go a long way, which was all clearly evident during the day’s presentations.

On the morning of Recommendations Presentations day, I messaged all the volunteers a good luck, and a short message reiterating the notion of “celebration”.  Pushing this message rather than falling into the trap of “assessment” was a way of calming the pre-presentation nerves, as well as give the volunteers the platform to show off all their hard work.  At the end of the day, no one in that room knew more about each enterprise than the counterpart pairings, and that includes the guest panellists that were invited along.

I myself was invited to be a panellist – I was extremely grateful for this.  I have worked in Financial Services prior to my placement, so a step away from the large multinationals to the small/medium sized enterprises was of particular interest to me.  The panel was also made up of Country Programme Manager Simon Turner, head mentor Allan Whalley,  Business Development Manager Ellinor Jensrud and an enterprise owner from a previous Challenges Worldwide cycle, Derek Ehla.

After each presentation, the panellists are given the opportunity to ask questions – the format is slightly similar to the TV programme “Dragon’s Den” in the UK.  Anything from requesting extra financial data to long-term visions for the enterprise, as well as critiques of each recommendation the volunteers wished to implement, were discussed. This was another opportunity for the volunteers to show off how much knowledge of the enterprise they had managed to obtain in just 3 short weeks.  The response to these questions as well as the quality and content of slides, the volunteers appearance and how well they worked as a team were judged by each panel member. Again, this did not form part of a formal assessment; this was to determine which counterpart pairing were deserving of having the CMI Certificate awarded to them.  The CMI Certificate award is funded by Gift Aid donations from the UK volunteers fundraising efforts before their placement.

We have such a variety of exciting enterprises on this cycle – from doughnuts to recruitment, from skin care to waste disposal, the diversity is obvious to see.  Each presentation, therefore, was completely different to the last, meaning it was easy to grip the audience’s attention.  In fact, all volunteers, even the ones that presented first thing in the morning, were present for the day’s final presentation – I think this might be a first for any cycle.

After much deliberation, the judges determined that Flora and Josephine were worthy winners of the CMI certificate for their presentation on Alkandros Enterprise – a cosmetics company offering both organic and inorganic products.  Congratulations to them, but to be honest, the congratulations extends to every single one of the volunteers for not just their presentations but for all the work they have done to get them to this point! It was blatantly obvious to see both the improvement of technical business knowledge and personal development in action.  The foundations have been set for a terrific programme – the momentum now carries through to implementing the volunteers’ recommendations in their respective enterprises.

Read about the full range of enterprises that our team of Business Support Associates are working with

Written by Richard Mair, Team Leader – Team Accra, Spring 2017