East Africa Team Gathers for Reflection Retreat
Write up by Anne Kikundwa & Brian Lukwago.
Over the years, AidEnvironment East Africa has mastered the art of institutional development, planning, and assessment. We have prioritized holding team retreats not only to reflect on our progress on our strategic plan but also to plan ahead as a team. This year’s reflection event was held in Fort Portal City, in late August and early September 2023. The team engaged in many activities that support building team capacities in various issues related to our areas of engagement.
We collectively reflected on working processes, achievements, and planned for the implementation of new work plans. This retreat sought to enable us to take a step back from the day-to-day work of the organization to strategize, harmonize working processes, and reinvigorate the strong team bond we need to achieve our goals.
The 4 Rs
The objectives of the retreat were built around four Rs, namely Reorient, Review, Rebuild, and Refresh. We reviewed and reflected on our plans, working modalities, and defined priorities for acquisition strategies.
The reflection retreat presented the opportunity to move away from work toward more moments of relaxation and connecting with each other. Our retreats always open with a reflection session: Where were we at the last retreat, and where do we think we’ll be next time? It’s a great way to transition into an open, creative mindset. The retreat closes with every team member committing to at least one or two things they’ll do differently as a result of the retreat. This creates buy-in and accountability to carry us forward.
We recognize that a silo mentality kills collaboration between team members, so we use our reflection retreats to break down walls and learn more about what everyone is working on, and how we can complement each other better.
This year, we opened our retreat with a team building session. Consultant, Finney Ongole from Development Associates International (DAI), taught us the relevance of the word TEAM – Together Each Achieves More. He emphasized the importance of working together as employees of AidEnvironment. This, he said, is highly essential as it makes achieving our mandate easier and faster. It was further explained how the Vision, Mission, Objectives, and Values of the organization provide a roadmap for the team and bind us together in our work.
Each individual was asked to review everything they were doing – from a theoretical perspective – to help foster a better connection to everyone’s work, ideas, and concerns.
A hotel in the heart of Fort Portal City, in the Western Part of Uganda, was the perfect venue for the reflection retreat. We had an evaluation visit to one of our pioneer project sites in Rwambu where we applied nature-based solutions to demarcate and zone a wetland, allowing community members to fetch water, feed cattle, catch fish, and harvest medicinal plants and reeds at separated, ideal places in the wetland. This was a community affected by challenges like inadequate access to portable water and soil erosion. Other activities like tree planting, and soil and water conservation to enhance 3R – Retention, Recharge, and Reuse – were introduced.
We also had a learning visit to the Mountains of the Moon Agro Ecology Farm and investigated the relationships between plants, animals, people, and their environment. We also made time for some activities, like site seeing, and a cocktail of games.
Regular reflection impacts the way we work and interact. We intend to keep this organizational culture so that we enhance our self-awareness and self-regulation. This will ease decision-making and enhance clearer communication, thereby creating better conflict management, empathy, and productivity. Hence, a happier team. Who wouldn’t want that for their team?