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The EWB Kumvana Program

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*please ignore typos. Late night mistakes! :) *
If you follow me on twitter and Facebook you might have seen kumvana and ewb hashtags all over my timelines. I am a 2015 Kumvana fellow and I will tell you a bit about the program. But first, something about EWB.
EWB stands for Engineers Without Borders and it is an organisation founded in Canada in 2000 by CEOs, George Roter and Parker Mitchell on a napkin in a coffee shop. With a dream of an organization that would enable engineers to contribute something other than another bridge or another electrical grid, they started off with biweekly meetings in George’s parents’ living room. By the end of 2000, over 1000 members had joined and a handful of chapters were starting. And in January 2001, EWB’s first volunteer left for a four month internship in India.. The organisation combines passion and pragmatism. They challenge and invest in each other to learn continuously, because that’s what is needed to create change together. (copied from ewb.ca) 🙂
Basically, EWB is all for change systemically and they operate in Canada, Ghana, Malawi and Burkina Faso. There is also EWB South Africa and maybe EWB Ghana soon???? (we might start that). You can learn a lot more about EWB from the site ewb.ca.
There are a lot of ventures and initiative started by EWB and the Kumvana program is one of the awesome programs to come out of the organisation. “Kumvana” means “Unite so we may discuss and understand” in the Malawian Chichewa dialect.
The Kumvana Program builds young African professionals’ capacities while fostering rich collaborations between Canadian and African partners. Each year, EWB selects ten to fifteen dynamic leaders from Africa linked to EWB’s portfolios (or ventures) to participate in this program. They are chosen based on their outstanding contributions to their home countries, their exceptional communication skills, and their high potential as young managers.
The program also welcomes dynamic African leaders nominated and sponsored by EWB’s partners who have operations in Africa. Over the course of this seven month program, African Leaders receive coaching support and network with past African Leaders in their home country and then travel to Canada in January or June for an intensive four-week experience that combines EWB National Conference (or EWB retreats for June departure), specifically tailored training programs, and work placements with relevant Canadian organizations. Kumvana delegates return home with new skills, ideas, contacts, motivation, and means to create change within their own organizations and communities in Africa. (also copied from http://blogs.ewb.ca/kumvana2013/ 🙂 ).
Now, I will break down my experience from the summarised program details above for just the Ghanaian part and the rest will come in a series of posts. Before opting to take part in the program, I was very curious to know how different this program was from other African leaders programs and was quiet hesitant. However, I interacted with a junior fellow who gave me more insights into the program and encouraged me to accept to be nominated. Dr. Mark Boots, C.E.O at VOTO Mobile, where I’m a software engineer, also sounded quiet sure about the programs credibility, impact and development and so I decided to give it a go. I was nominated by Mark, because VOTO  is an EWB venture and mostly fellows come from ventures and can only be nominated by them. There is no direct application.
On the 15th of September, Florian Villaumé, the Program Director of the Kumvana Program sent an email stating, “I am pleased to announce you that you have been preselected to participate in the 2015 Kumvana Program!! “.
I was excited to be chosen and to experience the Kumvana and EWB journey, while building my skills in different areas most meaningful and helpful in my field and the social activities I engage in.
Accepting to be a 2015 Kumvana fellow meant that I will be participating in the Foundational Learning activities in Africa including :
  • An online learning curriculum from September to December
  • A 360 feedback process from October to November
  • A Kumvana retreat in Ghana to network with past and new African Leaders from November or December
  • Coaching support from past African Leaders and EWB’s staff.
  • And a possible in Canada training program
I thought it was exciting and was eager to get on the ride. The foundation learning was on online course work where we learnt lots and lots of different things I can’t detail out now. We learnt about Personal Development, Systems Thinking, and Creating Change. The learning platform was well put together and was easy to navigate and explore. We had assignments every week and thought critically through questions, relating them to our lives and projects in run in our communities and professionally. I learnt a lot from the foundation learning series which run for 4 months. I was able to connect systems thinking to my experience as a software engineer and computer science student in building complicated and distributed systems.
I posted this to the group about what thinking in systems struck me as significant or surprising, based on the document I read.
I am always excited to learn new things in unfamiliar areas. It is interesting to realize how we are interconnected and how our thinking capacity are influenced by several things including our routines and people we meet.
What struck me the most is the interconnection of systems in establishments that play a huge role in how we think as a whole. How the effects of one system causes an effect in the entire system.
A couple of weeks ago, I started learning about distributed systems in computing and how every single system has a unique and specific role to play in turning inputs into desirable outputs. From the end user, everything seems magical with the click of a button, but what goes on behind the scenes is actually a collection of systems working together to provide that output.
It was interesting reading about how everything in a system is linked, and I was fascinated by how I could relate it to a technical perspective.This means, systems are independent of sections and circumstances.”
During the foundation learning, we had a retreat at Lake Bosomtwe in the Ashanti region of Ghana which was fantastic. It was great meeting past Kumvana delegates and connecting with the wide array of EWB members in Ghana in different fields, mostly from Canada. There were more learning sessions and Florian, Miriam Hird-Younger and Stacie Irwin were as usual very organised and led the sessions of the Kumvana program. We stayed 2 nights and it was a perfect time to connect with the rest of the Kumvana fellows. We are nine (9) fellows this year. Each fellow is amazing and working on interesting projects for economic growth and social change. I will do a post later on highlighting what each person does and how you can connect with them.
This year, the Canadian part of the program is in two parts. Some fellows go in the winter and the rest in the summer. The winter program is fused with the EWB national conference which is a blog post on it’s own coming soon. I was fortunate to attend my first ever EWB conference in Montreal which was fantastic. I met incredibly smart people who were excited about social change and playing a part in the change process.
I am currently participating in the Canadian part of the program which includes organisational visits and home stays. I have had visits in Montreal, Waterloo, and will be visiting Toronto and Ottawa in the coming days. I have split a lot of my experience into different posts which I will be publishing in the coming days. The experience has been totally amazing and I never realised how much I love meeting new people till now, and I am enjoying the learning experience, personal and professional development the Kumvana program is offering. So far, everything is in order, and I couldn’t ask to for any better organizers. 😀

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