Are you struggling with how to come together as a team while working from home, and even separate continents?
GIVEWATTS may have some idea of how you can do it.
However small in number of people, the GIVEWATTS organization is sprawling geographically, economically and culturally. I am based in Stockholm, Sweden and work closely with the marketing director Fernanda (Brazilian and also based in Stockholm). Our main operations are in Kenya, while most of our Kenyan team work in rural regions and villages they know best. GIVEWATTS is also represented in Switzerland and in the US. As you might imagine, we have been struggling with the same problems many organizations are facing today. Social distancing at work often means we do not meet IRL, and sometimes the feeling of togetherness is replaced by alienation. Our way of dealing with distance did not happen overnight.
During the last three years we have been on a journey where we have tried to nourish curiosity, build the GIVEWATTS culture, open up feedback channels and to create social bonds. So we felt we were already on a journey when the pandemic struck. Even though our work is not all done, we can share some good examples of how we try to build an even stronger team creating good results and we hope it can serve as inspiration for others.
Train – Train ourselves and others. It has been a foundation for our operations in Kenya from the beginning. The context in rural Kenya is difficult and you need to have an agile team able to do the daily tasks while handling extreme situations almost every day. Even though we work far away from each other and in challenging areas, we try to constantly update ourselves by asking questions and more importantly to train our most important staff, the field agents, to become more independent. It is a lot about nourishing a curious and responsible attitude in each and everyone.
Share – Since our marketing director Fernanda initiated us to the idea of storytelling, inspired by the book ”Storytelling” by Lynn Malzone Ierardi, a new dimension of the organization opened up. There is a marketing idea behind it, but it has more importantly become a tool for sharing and opening up across borders, cultures and functions. Our COO Joseph (based in Nairobi) created a Whatsapp group, where Fernanda regularly sends out topics for anyone to elaborate around and share experiences, knowledge, thoughts and comment. And we have a lot to tell. Our latest topic was mental health, a very interesting and humbling topic.
Play – Being far apart means we have to be creative around how to build social bridges and have a laugh together. Our Kenyan office started exercising together over Zoom. Now our co-founder Jesper can exercise in his living room in Malmö together with an agent in Malindi and Nairobi. I have seen similar examples from other organizations I have been working in. Great fun!
Use – More than ever we have the means to communicate. But is it easy to get close. Finding clever ways of engaging across the organization using available channels has been our road to close the distance between us. For us Zoom and Whatsapp has been our key digital channels. But even more important, we are communicating and use the channels we have.
I believe GIVEWATTS is a more transparent organization than before, while still keeping distance. Feedback loops are now coming from bottom-up more naturally, from North to South, top-down, from South to North and from the Kenyan coast to Nairobi (inland). It has been a fun journey so far, and we will continue to have a lot of work to do.
Good luck on your journey!
If you are interested to hear more, you are welcome to contact us!