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Client Assignment
While most of our clients are major corporations with international interests, Headwaters President Reola Phelps has, for the last several years, provided pro bono business and strategic development support (see our News section for more) to Africa Bridge through her role on the board of directors. This non-profit organization that serves children made vulnerable by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Tanzania recently opened an orphanage and pre-school, Godfrey’s Children’s Center in the village of Idweli. The staff and Governing Board of the center clearly had the dedication and determination to make the center a success, but lacked the managerial skills and governance policies and procedures needed to run this critically important program in a village where fully half of its more than 500 children are orphans.

Strategies and Approaches
Before traveling to Idweli, Reola worked with Africa Bridge staff and board members to identify problem areas, goals, and desired outcomes for the onsite strategic and organizational planning session to be held in the village. Key to this was ensuring that all stakeholders, including Children’s Center staff, Governing Board members, Africa Bridge board members, and, most important, key villagers, were included to ensure that Center efforts and activities were closely tied to the needs of the entire community. Central to Reola’s approach was designing a meeting format that would be collaborative, proactive, inclusive and results-oriented. During the three-day session, policies were created and core beliefs were articulated in order to resolve conflicts and establish a mission-based structure that would guide decision making. An implementation committee also was formed to oversee implementation.

Results
Using the governing policies and procedures established during the strategy session, the Center is now functioning smoothly and without conflict and has become the model for replication in eight other communities in southwest Tanzania. Ninety-five percent of Idweli’s children now regularly attend school or pre-school, and the community has embraced not only the Center but the other empowering programs made available through Africa Bridge. Plus, in a culture where women typically do not speak until the men have spoken, the meeting format enabled and encouraged their participation and ability to influence ongoing decision making.