2021 Staff/Board Retreat: Reflections. Evaluations. Rejuvenation.

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S4C’s staff and board members just returned from the 2021 annual retreat re-energized after three days of deep reflections on the nine years of physical operations and drawing workable plans for reinforcing the values, mission, and vision of the organization. The rare opportunity for all staff members in the Owerri and Lagos offices to get together with Board members at an exciting location away from the office not only helped to deepen bonds of friendship among teams but is also encouraging stronger teambuilding across office walls. S4C is particularly excited about its long-term strategic roadmap rejigged at the retreat, designed to place the organization on a sure path to greater financial resilience, operational integrity, and programmatic excellence.

The retreat began with reflection meeting where staff and the management engaged in a no-holds-barred discussion on the administrative, relationship and operational gaps that need to be bridged in the day-to-day running of the organization. The discussions about gaps identification were matched with practicable solutions for addressing them.  For most staff who wake up so early to beat Lagos early morning traffic and return home late, group exercises like the early morning walks around Victoria Island and environs helped them to keep fit and release accumulated stress.

On the second say of the retreat, staff and board were fired up after listening to the fiery presentation by Work-Place Relationship Specialist, Mr. Charles Okeibunor.  His presentation, Commitment and Productivity in Workplace, emphasized the need for staff to make conscious contributions to organizational growth, constantly increase their position in the performance hierarchy and build bridges across teams. The second presentation “Deepening Collaboration with the Private Sector for Good Governance and Accountability”, by Bekeme Massade-Olowola, the Chief Executive of CSR-in-Action—a think-tank and training institution dedicated to corporate social responsibility and sustainable development in Africa—buttressed the need to for civil society organizations to approach the private sector with a businesslike mindset. She further stressed the need for partnership between the not-for-profit sector and the private sector while maintaining the ethical line that differentiates the not-for-profit sector from the purely commercial sector.

The second presentation laid the foundation for staff, management and board to rejig the organization’s long-term strategic plan and an extensive review of all institutional policies.  The 2021 annual Board/staff meeting followed the series of private sessions dedicated to policy reviews. Two board members who could not attend in person joined virtually. New staff members got a chance to meet the board members in person/virtually while all other staff physically met and interacted with the proposed Board member, retired Justice Nkemdilim Izuako, replacing the departed board member, Ms. Esther Uzoma.  New staff members include the Owerri office secretary, the Community Relations Officer and two Program Officers for the Urban Governance and Litigation Desk and Energy/Extractives Desk respectively.

The Executive Director presented the 2019 audited financial statement, the 2020 management report, funding forecasts for 2021 and sought approval and adoption of the reviewed policies. The Program Officers for the Urban Governance and Litigation Desk, Closing Civic Space Desk as well as the Extractives Desks took turns to give reports of their departmental activities as well as the workplans/projections for the 2021 year. The Board members engaged the program officers on deeper discussions around impact and scale and suggested ways of bolstering implementation outcomes. There were also deep conversations around developing stronger policy buffers in response to the difficult challenges faced last year due to disruptions to organizational operations caused by COVID-19, donor advisories and human errors.

Because S4C is committed to building an inclusive environment in which all staff can thrive and socialize, the retreat ended with a relaxation and team bonding trip to Landmark Beach and Resort. Beyond the serious discussions had, policies reviewed, and new plans developed to guide future operations, the various offices and employee morale has received a boost. All staff returned to the organization on a uniform wavelength of energy, energized, and potentially more determined to do more to take good work to scale.

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