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Supporting management development in ‘Africa’s camelot’ `

Part of the Gondar's impressive palaces complex from which it gained its soubriquet.

Supporting management development in ‘Africa’s camelot’

The University of Leicester's support for projects at the University of Gondar, Ethiopia.

Rapid growth in higher education is vital for Ethiopia to achieve its Millennium Development Goals. The University of Leicester is working with the University of Gondar, Ethiopia in an innovative partnership programme designed to help meet the enormous challenges of such expansion.

Gondar is an ancient city and former capital of Ethiopia. Its complex of palaces has led to its sobriquet, ‘Africa’s camelot’. It is located in the northern highlands with a population of over 150,000, acting as a regional centre for over three million people. Ethiopia has long-established and distinctive traditions but is one of the poorest countries in the world.

The Leicester-Gondar link was established in 1996 by Professor Mike Silverman, a child health expert. The initial link with the Gondar College of Medical Sciences involved a range of health care projects, including exchange visits and the development of new courses. In 2003, the college formed the basis for the new University of Gondar. Funds to further develop this link were secured in 2006 through the England-Africa Partnerships (EAP) initiative run by the British Council and Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills. The programme provided for both the development of management and academic skills to meet Gondar’s needs.

An initial ‘diagnostic’ visit to Gondar involved interviewing a cross-section of staff and students. The development of senior and middle managers was identified as a priority if Gondar was to continue its rapid expansion. An Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) programme was devised by Leicester’s Staff Development Centre and Skillshare International (a development charity). This consisted of three modules covering:

• vision, priorities and strategy

• leadership, people management and change

• process development and continuous improvement

After the initial visit in March 2007, the three modules were delivered between July and December 2007. Most of Gondar’s senior staff were among the 24 who took part. The programme was themed around ‘systems thinking’. It enabled an open analysis of strategy, processes and systems within Gondar and their effectiveness, and was enhanced by the involvement of those with responsibilities for leading and implementing change at the university. Programme co-ordinator, Tony Churchill, said, “The facilitated discussions between staff helped them share understanding of the issues and develop their own solutions. They revised processes and decided how to develop skills further to make the changes effective.”

In addition to the management training, two strands of academic support were included in this project. One provided support through the Staff Development Centre to develop a Gondar-Leicester ‘community of academic practice’ among colleagues at both universities. The other was a programme to develop teaching and research links with the Economics faculty.

An important feature of all the work has been the opportunity for bilateral visits. These have served to develop a clearer understanding of the needs of a developing country. They have also shared experience and expertise across a range of issues in health services and university management and governance. As the infrastructure in Gondar develops, it is becoming possible to conduct such links over the internet. Participants in the management programme are getting support to complete their ILM awards by email. Meanwhile, in February 2008, seven members of the academic staff in Gondar joined Leicester’s online academic practice community and will pass the ideas gained to colleagues in Gondar.

Everyone involved in the programme is hopeful that the benefits of this will endure. There are plans for continued exchange visits and shadowing which have gone hand in hand with developing mentoring relationships. What is less certain is whether further funding will be sufficient or even available to enable the work to continue. We know from feedback over the 12 months of the programme that change has certainly been happening. New and revised processes have been installed, skills developed and responsibilities shared. Former Staff Development Director, John Doidge, said, “The participants from Leicester have certainly met some wonderful people, experienced their remarkable hospitality and taken away some treasured memories of Ethiopia.” The group returned committed to do all they can to ensure that the link develops and that the University of Gondar has the support it needs to continue on its amazing journey.

A key aspect of this development link is its long-term nature. This has resulted in academic and managerial developments in both institutions. A Memorandum of Agreement to develop the partnership was drawn up between the universities with the support of the Ethiopian ministry of education. Link committees have been set up in both organisations to continue developing an important strategic link.

Further details or information on how you can support the link can be found at www.le.ac.uk/gondar or by contacting...

Professor Mike Silverman c/o Staff Development Centre, Charles Wilson Building, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester, LE1 7RH or ms70@le.ac.uk.

More on the Millenium Development Goals are available at http://www.undp.org/mdg/basics.shtml

The team delivering the management development training were…

John Doidge is a professional development consultant, formerly director (now retired) of the Staff Development Centre, University of Leicester.

Tony Churchill is joint acting director, Staff Development Centre, University of Leicester.

David Harries is managing director, David Harries Consulting, formerly leadership development consultant, Skillshare International.

Jenny Mayor is a development consultant working with Skillshare International.

Mouse-over images below for captions.

Course participants and tutors at the first training session in July 2007. The University of Leicester team supporting projects in Gondar.  From left Lynnette Matthews & Elizabeth Grant (academic practice); David Harries & Jenny Mayor (Skillshare consultants); Tony Churchill & John Doidge (management development; Mike Silverman (link co-ordinator).

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