#13. The Impetus To Grow

Mothers who go to postnatal clinics with their babies for weighing once a month understand that one of the evidence of life is growth. Any organisation or institution that is alive needs to grow. This narrative documents the evolving situations and thinking that led to the growth of World Vision International and Ghana up to the time I left the organisation in 1994. I am told that the organisation grew until there was a total of over 500 staff. The operations department alone had 350 staff. But this has been reduced to about 262 in the year 2020.

The growth of World Vision International in Ghana took place in several dimensions. This included human resources, technology, fundraising methodology, geographical expansion and overall development approach. In terms of human resources, the growth was basically the increase in the number of personnel to respond with the evolving needs. In terms of technology, the growth was in response to evolving technology. For example, manual typewriters gave way to electric typewriters that were gradually replaced by Computers.

The small number of staff I saw in August 1981 started to grow for several reasons.

 This narrative is basically for institutional memory and readers who are not related to World Vision may find the local list of names tiring to read. My sincere apologies to my readers in this category 

The operations department grew to cope with the increasing number of projects in various geographical areas. The staff who joined the department after my arrival include Edward Opare-Saforo, Samuel Asare, Alfred Owusu, Theodore Afari, Stephen Nkrumah, Harry Akama, Emmanuel Oppong, Robert Djangmah, Victor Adom, 

Peter Sefogah, Eugene Asante, Jane Kwao-Sarbah, Jacob Kotin, Alidu Dason, John Yankson, Hubert Brako, John Quaisie, Dora Owusu.

The addition of these people into the operations team enabled the organisation to expand geographically and start projects in communities that hitherto had no projects.

In order to implement development projects, World Vision guided project communities to open bank accounts in the nearest bank they could access. Funds were transferred to these banks and the project staff accessed these funds to implement their development efforts. This required a basic understanding of financial management including the banking process and how to keep a simple financial record, in order to be able to report to World Vision on how funds were used. This meant that Project Coordinator had to understand the basics of book-keeping in other to train at least one project staff to keep the books. The organisation decided that the best way to handle this was to recruit auditors who would provide training for the project staff and at the same time audit the project books. So auditors were recruited to perform this task and take the burden off the Projects Coordinators. The first two auditors to be recruited were Jerome Ofori, Emmanuel Osekre and Ken Konu. This definitely took the burden off Project Coordinators as anticipated and is a good practice to emulated by NGOs. The arrival of the auditors initiated and entrenched changed the principle of segregation of duties in financial management. It insured that the project managers and project coordinators who approved funding to project communities and supervised disbursement of these funds did not at the same time become auditors of the books in those communities.

The unwelcome intrusion of food shortages into the lives of Ghanaians in the 1983-1984 crisis introduced a new dimension that management had to cope with. The idea of a relief team to lead the process of supporting project communities came up and the team that started this work was made up of Charles Amaning (a retired Colonel of the Ghana Army), Ebenezer Okoampa – who was taken from their Sponsor Relations Department, Paul Akorofi, Charles Dorman, Fred, Mahama Tampuri. This department was called the Large Scale Development (LSD) Department. The department later managed the massive transit of grains from Ghana through Burkina Faso to Mali. 

As the volume of financial management responsibility increased the finance department also grew. The team included Anthony Awortwi-Tandoh, Sylvester Gbewonyor, Salomey Sapati, Jones Abdallah, Charles Mensah and T. T. Ayerson.

One of the common needs of people in rural communities is the need to increase food production through agriculture. It became apparent that not all Projects Coordinators had a basic understanding of how agricultural production can be increased. This then introduced the need to recruit staff with a specialization in agricultural extension. In response to this, the organisation recruited Agricultural Technical Officers or Agricultural Extension Officers to carry out this job. The team of Extension Officers included Peter Gyau, Samuel Laar, George Kumahlor, Alex Sackey-Addo, John Yeboah Mensah, Ophelia Osei Yeboah and Yawson. So the organisation grew in its capacity to implement agricultural projects with technical expertise. Jacob Ansah was recruited to provide central strategic and operational planning as well as coordination of the work of the Extension Officers.

Another critical development theme was Primary Health Care and Nutrition. While we talked about the project communities about this as Project Coordinators, we did not have the technical capacity to implement a health and nutrition project that was consistent with international standards. In response to this, the organisation recruited a medical doctor with extensive experience in tropical medicine and public health. This was Dr Joe. W. DeGraft Johnson Riverson. He then recruited several public health nurses into his team. The nurses included Genevieve Olympio, Suzie Ayeh, Sanatu Nantogmah, Naa Maku Agyeman Duah, Esther Mannison, Diana Dzini, Jemima Amanor. 

To remain consistent with the policy of working with churches in communities where World Vision International had projects, the Evangelism and Leadership department was started by Reverend Richard Asua-Sekyere. He was joined later by Rev. Konotey-Ahulu, Rev. Samuel Tigah and Rev. C. N. Aduamuah, Solomon Opoku, Rev. Kanton and Rev. Kyei-Kwakyi.

In the early 1980s, the issue of development organisations focusing on the development of women became paramount. In response to this, the Women In Development Initiative was started, with the first person in charge being Alice Yirenkyi. Eventually, Alma Adzraku joined this initiative later.

The communications department was started by Akwesi Agyeman-Dua. He was later joined by Benny Ashare, Agnes Philips and Phyllis Nyanteng. As World Vision International‘s work in Ghana progressed into the 1990s the issue of Information and Communication Technology(ICT) and computerization became critical. Issah Mohammed was recruited to lead the ICT work in the country and the West Africa sub-region. He was later joined by Edward Akayisi. This significantly improved the ICT capacity of the organisation. 

The increase in geographical spread resulted in a corresponding increase in support between the Field Office in Ghana and the Support Officers. This automatically resulted in the need to increase the number of staff in the Sponsor Relations Department. The new staff that joined the department after my arrival in 1981 included James Narh, Stephen Dodd, Stephen Owusu, Emmanuel Belon, Ebenezer Peters, Samuel Malik and Christie Afful.

The increasing number of projects that required the construction of structures such as school buildings, health clinics, and Kumasi Ventilated Improved Pit (KVIP) latrines necessitated the recruitment of a construction specialist. This need brought on board Geoffrey Amegbey.

The number of secretarial support staff increased greatly to meet the demand for documentation. Staff in this category include Andrew Akom-Mensah, Mary Odoom, Siegfried Matti, Freda Owusu, Verbena Dogbey, Novenia Lumor, William Kumado, Mercy Dadson, Leticia Belon, Kate Osei, D. M. Yakubu and Theresa Quarshie. Although the secretarial staff have been lumped into one group they were divided among the various departments.

The increase in staff outlined above required a dedicated Human Resource Department and this department was started by Florence Hutchful who later supported by Kwakye. The addition to the administration staff included Alfred Aquaye-Badu, George Noi, Emmanuel Afful, Wisdom Damale and Paul Aboagye.

The single biggest growth in the country was the introduction of the Ghana Rural Water Project (GRWP). This project was planned and executed in response to the massive need for water across the country. It was a multimillion-dollar project that was financed mainly by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. It involved the recruitment of the Project Manager and several well-drilling experts including hydrogeologists, geophysicists, water engineers and several categories of borehole drilling machine operators. It will be impossible to remember the names of this large team that arrived at the same time. But prominent among the leadership was Colonel Charles Armani, Bismark Nerquay-Tetteh, Connell Mofetu, Mr. Sarpong, Harry Reynolds and Braimah Apambira. 

In 1988, I was moved from the Tamale Sub-Office to Accra. By the time I was leaving the sub-office the staff were Jacob Kotin, Samuel Laari, Alidu Dason, Mahama Tampuri, D. M. Yakubu, Sanatu Nantogma, Rev. Kotin and Samuel Malik. I was replaced in the Tamale Sub-Office by Clement Odua Mensah.

It is important to recognize the evolving contexts that created the need for growth. The biggest lesson here is that organisational growth should result from the need to respond to evolving situations. What many development workers do not recognize is that when the contexts change they could also be the need to downsize as different skills may be required to respond to different changing contexts. In organizational growth, it is important to ensure that the incoming human resources align their skills, competencies and knowledge with the core business of the organization. World Vision International is a Christian development organization with a mission of carrying out integrated community development. In the increase in human resources, the organization ensured that all incoming personnel understood this core business and realigned their skills accordingly.

 For example, secretaries were made to understand that they will be dealing with project workers from rural communities and project reports. They, therefore, had to take time to understand the rural community context. Auditors needed to understand that the audit work will not be in the public or the profit-making sector but rather the auditing of non-professional financial people in rural communities. Agricultural extension officers were helped to develop skills in rural community development facilitation and go beyond simple agricultural extension to also facilitate community transformation.

Growth may not necessarily mean an increase in numbers. Indeed it could actually mean a decrease in numbers as the organisation replaces his nonessential skills with evolving new skills. But clearly, there may be a case where one person could easily do the work of five people. Although this could be growth in capacity, it could result in a decrease in staff in terms of numbers.

With the sudden injection of computers into World Vision and the necessity for managers to be given laptop computers and asked to write their owner reports on the computer themselves, staff who did not have computer skills became redundant although there was a growth in capacity.  

The survival of any organisation depends heavily on the ability of the organisation to go through the thinking and re-positioning exercise that will help them to develop a strategy to stay abreast with evolving contexts. Credit should be given to the first national director who preferred the recruitment of national staff to respond to evolving needs instead of seeking short-term support from external sources. In the absence of many development workers at the time, World Vision International recruited staff mainly from the public sector. World Vision avoided the transfer of human resources from one community to the other and rather encouraged capacity building within communities. The trend has changed since then with the introduction of development studies in the universities. 

The rapid growth of staff in the organisation created new challenges in staff orientation. In response to this, the Africa regional office of World Vision introduced the new staff orientation course in Nairobi, Kenya. A number of staff started to benefit from this program from 1984 onwards.

The next blog will be subtitled “Fruits Of The Growth”. Follow me as we explore these fruits, I really appreciate the comments and personal messages as well as phone calls from readers. Shalom.

One thought on “#13. The Impetus To Grow

  1. Interesting reading about the growth of the World Vision staff resources and projects. I will be interested to know what the drivers were for implementing projects at particular communities. Given that the North was/is the most deprived area in Ghana, I would have thought that a significant number of staff resources and projects would have been implemented in the 3 Northern regions to help transform the lives of the deprived communities there in a tangible way. It seems to me that most of the NGOs and Charities are centralised in Accra whereas their customers or beneficiaries are based in the deprived rural areas. You may want to throw light on this organisational and development arrangement.


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