When we think about international development, our minds tend to conjure up images of education initiatives, economic opportunities for women, basic health care for poor families, and WASH campaigns supporting the use of soap or clean drinking water. The organization I’m currently working with in Rwanda, however, has a different idea about their impact on the developing world.
EarthEnable was founded in 2013, and its mission is to eliminate dirt floors in Rwanda and someday, across Africa. They do this by replacing typical dirt floors with earthen floors. These earthen floors are made by tightly compressing layers of natural materials and sealing them with a purpose-designed varnish. Earthen floors are significantly cheaper than the common alternative, cement. They are also far better for the environment, both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and local resources, and not to be discounted, they are far more attractive than dirt or cement. But most importantly, they drastically reduce the health and sanitation hazards of dirt floors.
The innovation of this solution and the passionate hustle of EarthEnable’s CEO (Gayatri Datar), have resulted in the organization’s fast-paced growth. This growth is exciting but like any start-up CEO will tell you, it comes with its fair share of challenges. Gaya brought me in to help address some of those challenges by strengthening the team’s communication and conflict management skills.
My work over the past six weeks could be divided into three different buckets of activities. The first bucket is the work I’ve done with the teams in each of the four districts wherein EarthEnable has offices. I am spending a week at each office, where I deliver at least three trainings on Negotiation and Difficult Conversations and offer the additional option of coaching for anyone who wants it.
The second bucket of activities is the work I do with and for the management team. This includes advising and coaching Gaya and her management staff. It also includes working to create open and clear systems of communication across departments.
The third bucket of activities is everything I am doing around company policy. I am supporting her staff as they write new policies and procedures on topics such as sexual harassment and discipline, to name a few. I’ve also taken on a significant role in designing the “Diversity and Inclusion” training program.
The breadth of activities keeps me busy and on my toes, and I’m enjoying the challenge of finding opportunities for the concepts and theories to be applied.