Tuesday, 18 March 2014

 Volunteering and having an impact is a powerful experience. It always makes us very happy at Grow when we have a volunteer who enjoys the experience so much that they take 2 projects at once, complete them and then start another. Please meet David Krynauw living in Sydney Australia, volunteering with Grow Movement in Rwanda on 2 projects. A great honest account of working with us, the challenges and some ideas to live out our value of 'continuous improvement'! Thank you for volunteering with us David, together we create change, just one Skype call at a time.

David Krynauw  has worked as a Group Account Director with leading multinational advertising agencies; Marketing Director of a cinema exhibitor and movie distributor which represented studios including Buena Vista International, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox; and Commercial and Managing Director in the cinema advertising industry. David’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to start his own businesses from scratch where he personally experienced all aspects of owning and managing a business in Australia’s highly competitive marketplace, and all the risks and rewards associated with that. (www.proactivemedia.com.au)

When I came across Grow Movement on LinkedIn, I was quite excited about the opportunity to become a remote business mentor to entrepreneurs in less developed African countries. The experience has been rewarding and challenging at the same time. The assistance I receive from the staff at Grow Movement is fantastic. They are enthusiastic, communicate really well and I always feel like I have their support. The briefs are well laid out and contain a lot of detail about the challenges that my mentees are facing, as well as general background information about Rwanda and its economy.

My first projects were with two business owners in Kigali. Both were very impressive and talented people. They were well connected to influential people and organisations in Rwanda, and have ambitious plans for their respective businesses. The challenges they faced were varied and involved issues such as project management, business plan development, evaluation of new business opportunities, raising capital, marketing, and many more.
We quickly established a great relationship and it was clear that we all enjoyed each other’s company. Language and communication was an issue but I expected that before we started. English was not their first language and I could not speak French. We communicated via Skype and found that, whenever any one of us struggled to understand the other, we could use Skype Chat, as it is sometimes easier to follow a discussion when it is written rather than spoken. Skype Chat also provided a good record of our conversations with action plans for the next session. So that worked really well.

Timing was a challenge for me. I live in Australia and there is a 9-hour time difference between Sydney and Kigali. They were normally only available on weekends and early mornings their time, which is around 6-8pm my time. And on weekends that's normally the time that I am about to either go out for dinner or have people around for dinner. After a while we suggested email conversations as then we could work in our own time, but the emails I received were few and far between.

When I think back of the experience now we should have spent more time initially defining exactly what they want to get out of this relationship. They were clear about their projects, and I assumed that my role was to review their progress and give my input and advice while we went along this road. As we progressed I felt more and more that I was required to provide detailed input into their plans and systems while I was not qualified to do so based on my limited knowledge of the local market and trading conditions. In fact, it took quite a number of sessions for me to fully understand what they were doing, what they wanted from me, and what the local market conditions were like. Hopefully that will improve as I gain experience about commercial life in Rwanda.

It has been a great experience and I will happily continue working Grow Movement. The people I have met through this work have all been talented and enthusiastic, and I know that the work that Grow Movement are doing in the Africa is necessary and valuable. The challenge is more for people like me to understand what's going on at a local level and to be able to give good advice to the talented entrepreneurs in Rwanda.

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