One takeaway for Ghanaian Rotary members who participated in the 2009-13 pilot Rotary-USAID partnership program there was the importance of hiring a dedicated program manager to coordinate the work of the partners.
Rotary members are sometimes reluctant to hire a professional because they want all funding to go toward their projects and their beneficiaries, says Ron Denham, chair emeritus of the Rotary Action Group for WASH, who was involved in the creation of the Rotary-USAID partnership. But a program of this scale could be more effective if there’s a professional dedicated to managing it.
“Throughout the world, Rotary members are all volunteers,” Denham says. “Every now and then, volunteers or committees find themselves managing a project they don’t have the capacity to handle.”
For the Ghana partnership, Rotary members hired Theophilus Mensah, a civil engineer who had worked for the Community Water and Sanitation Agency, a branch of the Ghanaian government. To aid in coordination between Rotary and USAID, Mensah works out of the office of Global Communities, which helps implement USAID projects. He coordinates and organizes site visits by Rotary members, prepares financial reports, works with community partners, and monitors projects under the partnership. Considered to be a linchpin of the program, he ensured the cohesion and integration of assets and efforts at every stage.
A major challenge for me is pulling the Rotary clubs along. Rotary members are volunteers with limited time and availability, unlike the full-time professionals of USAID
He found that WhatsApp groups were a useful way to keep the many participating Rotary members across Ghana updated and motivated. “Because of WhatsApp, people were able to share their challenges with the rest of the group,” Mensah says. “It was fun. People gave encouragement and said this was part of being a Rotary member.”
Editing by RI’s Diana Schoberg with additional reporting from RI’s Mohamed Keita. Photography by Andrew Esiebo
The RI-USAID partnership involves a lot of stakeholders in Ghana. At any time, I am dealing with Rotary clubs, Global Community, Community Water & Sanitation Agencies, the District Assemblies, the contractors or service providers, and the communities themselves. Managing and mobilizing so many stakeholders, and coordinating activities is complex and a full-time job. It is even overwhelming for one person.