ATOP A HILL NEAR NDERA, Rwanda — The members of the Komara cooperative arrived at today’s Barefoot MBA workshop by foot, some walking more than three hours to arrive at the health center we used as a classroom. They’d been asking for basic business training for a long time.
After Sunday’s brief introduction, the field officers took turns teaching the lessons they’d been practicing at Gardens for Health (GHI) headquarters. Each field officer was more energetic than the one before, electrifying the room like dynamic preachers. In the back of the room, wishing I understood Kinyarwanda, I wondered to myself whether they were teaching something else entirely.
No, said those who understand both languages. The field officers taught profit, saving and investing using our stories and local examples. They facilitated the interactive investing activity. The cooperative members participated politely. They wanted more.
Once again the activity was the highlight. They learned from the stories, they said, but putting theory into practice right away prompted them to commit to doing things differently: One said he would focus on profit, not just revenue. Another said she would save at least some of his earnings instead of spending it all. A third said she would spend at least some of her income on something that predictably increases in value.
And once again I found myself pleasantly surprised at how broadly applicable our tool is. Scott and I hadn’t heard of GHI when we created the Barefoot MBA, yet with relatively minor preparation the two became excellent fits for each other.
My biggest regret today is that we didn’t make time for more. As we left (or, more accurately, tried to leave), cooperative members articulated more lessons they’d like to learn, each of which the Barefoot MBA addresses. Over time GHI plans to teach in the field the 10 lessons the field officers learned. GHI also has committed to translating all 16 lessons, which we’ll post so others can pick and choose those most appropriate to their audiences.
I leave Rwanda confident in GHI’s ability to follow through on its commitments and then some. I look forward to strengthening our partnership.