Back to Gulu: how has the project been pushing on?

Downtown Gulu 3
Downtown Gulu

Well, we’ve been back to Gulu again, taking two of the new trustees from ETC of PWD this time. We were bringing together the strands of the project so far and thinking about where this accumulated knowledge should take everyone involved.

There were:

  1. Visits to the field with Musema Faruk the project officer from Gulu Disabled Persons Union to see business groups from both phases of the project.
  2. Meetings with local councillors from the new district of Omorro to discuss their approach to disability and whether our project might fit into it.
  3. And a very productive meeting with GDPU members themselves, to discuss the project so far and where it might lead in the future.

Many thanks to Faruk for organising the visits, for his hard work with the groups and for supporting the evident improvements that we saw.

Chairman GDPU with Lubanga Lakica
Back to the field: Ongom Simon, the Chairman of the GDPU board with members of Lubanga Lakica Motorcycle repair group in Koch Li

Two key issues arose from our field trips:

  1. What makes a successful group and how best to support business groups to achieve that success, and what does success look like anyway
  2. What are the best vocational skills for students to learn and how specialised should they be?

And at our subsequent meeting at GDPU we all spent a long time thinking about their plans to make a training hub for future students with disability, what should be taught?

Members of lubanga lakica Enterprise Developing their Business plan
Members of Lubanga Lakica Enterprise developing their Business Plan

But each of these three questions could be reduced down to one word: sustainability. How can the hard work of the members of the business enterprises and of the members of GDPU be kept going? How can they make sure that what they are doing will earn enough to keep them and their families alive and better than alive; thriving.

Our last post mentioned success by two groups. This time perhaps, by concentrating on the work of two others we can tease out some of the implications for sustainability in their success.

Akera Roberts in Gulu and Lubanga Lakica in Koch Li

Akera Roberts Businesss Enterprise
Akera Roberts, individual Businesss Enterprise on the pilot programme, Gulu.

Akera Robert  

Is based in the centre of Gulu town and doing extremely well, has plans and enough money saved to move from his table on a veranda into new premises within 3 months. Has just sent his son to one of the top primary schools in Gulu, paid for by his own work. A real difference in aspirations this year compared to last, Akera Robert has become far more confident and has a vision of his own future far larger than we saw last year. Important to note that he focuses on electrical and solar appliances not mobile phones. He puts his success down to

Akera Robert mending a solar light 4
Akera Robert mending a solar light
  • Diversity of equipment repaired, unlike for example the Gulu PWDs enterprise who solely mend feature phones and therefore have a diminishing market, Akera’s range will only grow.
  • He has a very good reputation, particularly among people from the villages who bring their items on the bus for him to repair when they come into town
  • He is always there from 8 in the morning till dark, even when he has no work he will be at his desk, so customers know they can always find him
Lubanga Lakija 3
Members of Lubanga Lakica with the GDPU Chairman of the Board (also a councillor for the area)

Lubanga Lakica:

Based in Koch Li, a very small place on a mud road road between Koch Goma and Bobi. Koch Li is about 5 miles from the main road that passes through Koch Goma, a small town about 20 miles outside Gulu. There is not much at Koch Li, but isolation can bring benefits as well as challenges;

Benefits: in particular a lack of competition. Koch Goma is full of people mending motorcycles, but as the members of Lubanga Lakica have realised there is great market for them if they can learn how to work on the many different possible machines to repair in their area: slashing machines/ generators/ small agricultural machines etc. They have some of the skills needed, but need more. Some of the members already know how to carry out small welding repairs although they lack the machinery to do so.

Lubanga Lakija
Lubanga Lakija spares store

Challenges: security is a real problem in isolated areas, tools and anything portable or of any value will be stolen. Which means keeping spares for example, is a difficult. These mechanics have a tie up with a spares dealer in Koch Goma, but to run a proper service they need a secure container, which costs money. As is often the way, the group are reluctant to invest their own money in paying for a container, although they have negotiated a good price for one made by Mr Labongo from the disabled welders group in Gulu. As Faruk says, “They fear risk”.

Lubanga Likija tools
Lubanga Lakica tools and storage

The implications from discussions with these two businesses were twofold

  1. Trainees need different skills set to succeed in town and in out in the village, in essence urban trainees will need specific skills in greater depth and country trainees will need a very wide range of basic skills. Our Post-Training Support programmes have certainly been location specific and responded to the wishes of the beneficiaries. But, in future training institutions will have to establish where the future trainees intend to work before planning their skills training programme. It seems obvious doesn’t it, but I have never found a training programme that does this
  2. To build on their success members will need to understand the role of investment and have access to it; either their own money or from grants.
MCRM
Motorcycle Repair and Maintenance by the side of the road

These field trips and Faruk’s great depth of understanding and knowledge of the enterprises he supports, built up over the last few years, gave us all much to think about and take forward to our meeting at Gulu Disabled Persons Union. Where should the ETC project go next? See the next post to find out!

How Are They Pushing on at GDPU?

What does progress look like in this type of (very) small scale development context?

Where does long lasting improvement come from and how can you recognise it?

We are now coming to the end of Phase Two of our project, ETC@GDPU (Enhancing the Capacity of Persons with Disability) it provides skills training and business support for young people with disabilities in Gulu and surrounding region. Faruk the project officer from Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) has been out and about assessing the development of each group in Phase Two and of course checking on the progress of the pilot groups.

Recent Activities:

Financial and Literacy Training 3
Recent Financial and Marketing Training

Financial training/ Marketing training:

  • GDPU hired Mr Okumu Moris, a lecturer in entrepreneurship and commerce, to train youth in marketing skills; a gap identified among the enterprises.
  • The other support offered by the ETC project for the past 8 months also included: Life skills; Financial literacy and record keeping; Business management skills, Group dynamic training and training in specific vocational skills, eg knitting and joining of sweaters using a sewing machine, or electronics or repairing different types of motorbike.
  • Follow ups to the training given and Reflection Meetings were also held.

A look at a couple of the ETC @ GDPU Phase Two Groups might show the effects of this support and training:

Working with the sewing machine at GDPKW

Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Workshop:

Along with the general training, members of GDPKW have attended Skills Training for two months, training in open sweater weaving, joining sweaters, and using the sewing machine. As Faruk, the project officer has said: “their capacity was successfully built and they are all able to do work without any problems.”

Sample Cash Book from a Training Session

Training outcomes:

    • After the marketing training the enterprise was advised to look for contracts, not only from schools which are the usual outlets for sweater weavers, but also from the community in order to increase their sales. The group should also try to display their products so that others will know them.
  • There is sign of increase in their income, for example, the enterprise was able to get contracts of 206000 Ugandan shillings (about £45.00) for one month, awarded to the enterprise as a result of increased skills and knowledge of marketing and sourcing of contracts from the community.
  • The group has an updated record book which is a very good sign of financial literacy and good practise within the enterprise.
  • The enterprise members have managed to work very hard to improve on the performance of their enterprise.
New Clothes from Old at GDPKW

Good signs for the future

Members of GDPKW have started making individual sweaters of different designs, rather than just school uniforms, and are now getting small individual contracts. GDPU have linked the enterprise to friends who wanted sweaters, and they already been awarded the contract to knit two sweaters at a total cost of 60,000 Ugandan Shillings (about £13.00).

Upcycling at GDPKW

Also, they now sew dresses from small pieces of cloth, recycling different pieces of cheap cloth and offcuts to make one beautiful one. These are particularly suitable for children’s clothing and are therefore very saleable.

School Uniform Sweaters

Small Steps?

Both of these outcomes might seem very small steps but in fact they mark significant progress. Previously, members have felt bound by the forms and types that they had been taught and appeared fearful of anything new, of investing their own time, money or resources in risk. School uniform sweater contracts are seasonal, only available in January/ February at the start of the school year as a bulk order, one-off contract with a low rate of financial return. If you miss the order, through a broken machine or illness perhaps, then you make nothing for the rest of the year. These new ventures not only show people with enough self-confidence to ‘own’ their own business, but also a means for individual makers of new clothes to make a serious future income that is sustainable throughout the year; there is considerable potential for developing ‘upcycling’ and new designs in the local markets.

Other routes to boosting confidence and self esteem:

Sport: Participation in: one of the GDPKW members of the group (Aciro Brenda, a physically disabled girl) participated in the disability Paralympics, winning gold medals in 100m, 200m and Javelin.

Acet Market

Nyeko Rach

A pilot phase hairdressing group based in Acet, a small isolated town some 25 miles out of Gulu on a very poor road.

Description of activities carried out by the group this period:

targeting your market and plaiting of hair: the enterprise performed very well recently, especially during the period of Uganda independence and market days. The enterprise had a lot of customers, all members were engaged and able to earn good money.

Going to see Nyeko Rach Hairdressers in Acet

Increase in commercial confidence and business planning after training: the isolation of Acet, which has no retail shop for salon products, makes using the right materials difficult. The enterprise has realised that if they plan properly, they are able to source and buy the salon products requested by their customers, in Gulu and transport them out to Acet by bus; as Faruk says: “This is a good sign for customer relations and ownership of the enterprise. The enterprise has shown a lot of progress compared to other enterprises as they do buy their materials on a weekly basis.”

Again, small steps but important ones for future sustainability, this is what progress in small scale development looks like.

New Clothes from Old at GDPKW

Coming in the next update:

news about the recent ETC of PWD trustee visit to Gulu and news about the next steps for this project.

Back to Gulu: Pilot Phase Evaluation

 

GDPU Offices 2
Gulu Disabled Persons Union Offices, looking towards the road

Recently, at Gulu Disabled Persons Union itself, we sat down with Ojok Patrick (Gulu Disabled Persons Union co-ordinator and ETC at GDPU Project Leader) and Musema Faruk (ETC at GDPU Project Officer) to discuss the end of the Pilot Phase. From a snowy UK and temperatures well into the minus to 37 degrees in dusty Gulu, Northern Uganda, but it was wonderful to be back with the team.

 

 

The Donor Board at GDPU
Musema Faruk at the donor board at GDPU

The basic aim of the ETC project is twofold:

  1. To ensure the sustainability of those businesses set up by disabled students under the earlier Youth Development Programme. Experience on that programme had taught us that hard inputs (cash, materials, machines etc) were unproductive, students needed skills training, psycho social support, monitoring and guidance far more.
  2. To help GDPU become a business hub for people with disability in the area, through gaining new knowledge, skills and materials from the external experts/consultants contracted to support ETC, and through making a workable development plan.
Musema Faruk and Mary Bennell outside GDPU 3
Musema Faruk and Mary Bennell outside GDPU

When we sat down to look back at the pilot project and last six months or more, we wanted to think about the two outcomes of the project and certain issues in particular:

Outcome 1: Working with ex- YDP students

  • Did the initial assumptions about planning the project work, ie that beneficiaries would know best what sort of training and support they needed.
  • Had the subsequent skills training and support been successful?
  • What does success look like and had the four groups we had chosen for the pilot achieved it?
  • And most importantly: what next?

Outcome 2: GDPU Business Hub

  • Had GDPU managed to start writing a business plan for themselves
  • Had people at GDPU developed their own skills so that they could train others? If so in which areas and which still need development?
  • And of course; what next here as well?

 

GDPU Offices from the road
GDPU Offices from the road

This first meeting was just to get everything going, the next step was to go out to the field. To meet the four pilot groups again, to see how they were doing in Gulu Town and Acet. Then we would get together again to discuss what we had seen and to work on the Pilot Evaluation report that had been prepared by a local consultant. All that in the next blog.

Acholi Road Gulu
Off to the field: Acholi Road, Gulu

Next Steps: ETC @ GDPU in July

The ECT @ GDPU team have been very busy in Gulu and Acet this month carrying out the first training sessions on areas of weakness identified by the pilot groups themselves. These groups included Nyeko Rac Hairdressing and Cosmetology and 6 Members of Gulu Pwds Electronics Repair & Maintenance, Rwot Aye-Twero and Kica Pa Rwot Knitting group and some of the students studying at GDPU  also attended the trainings in business plan development and conflict resolution in group dynamics.

July Training in Acet 3
Prayers before training begins

It is great to see that the training given directly reflects the needs identified in earlier months. Although this is a pilot, it is reassuring to see that the activities reported for July are all focused on building the participants abilities to sustain their own future.

 

July Training in Gulu
Record Keeping Training in Gulu

As a pilot phase the July report raises questions, but these concern methods of delivery rather than direction of travel; in particular:

  • Group and personal dynamics are going to be the crucial element for these participants as they establish their sustainable future (low self-esteem is an important factor to work on) .
  • Core Skills: Building up core vocational skills alongside developing knowledge about basic business procedures is a slow process with constant reappraisal

    Sweater Weaving Training 2
    Sweater Weaving Training; updating core skills
  • Memory: during the pilot, facilitators and the project team will working on the best ways for students to develop what they already know, to learn new things and most importantly, to remember what they have learnt and apply it as part of a long term process. Classes are conducted in Acholi (the local language) and texts are translated, using local knowledge; stories and culture will help ground what is learnt.
  • Absenteeism: a major difficulty with frequent refreshers is frequent absenteeism, so the Gulu team will be concentrating on follow up support in the workplace rather than in the classroom.

    July Training in Gulu 3
    July Training in Gulu at GDPU
  • Mentors: The team in Gulu are looking to find role models who can talk about their enterprises to motivate members. These role models will also become part of the network that students can use on their own for further learning through mentorship, and of course students will become mentors in their own right as the project develops.
  • Numeracy/ Literacy: low skills in this crucial area are already holding students back, work on record keeping/ planning will demand more work on numeracy and literacy as the project develops.

    Record Keeping Training in Gulu
    Record Keeping Training in Gulu

Lastly, some other routes to sustainability, identified in the project proposals and initial audit, will be further emphasized as time goes on:

  • Diversification as a survival mechanism, so that if one aspect of the enterprise temporarily fails there are others that will keep it afloat;
  • The role of Village Savings and Loans Associations as a ‘pull factor’: keeping group members together and the single activity around which other group activities revolve. However the group numbers in our pilots are small, eg Gulu PWD electronics 6 members, and Nyeko Rac group in Odek are 5 members. As they have suggested that they need training on VSLA to increase their savings, ECT @ GDPU will support the groups in this area, perhaps joining with other interested colleagues to make a total of 10 members at minimum. VSLA groups usually meet on weekly basis to deposit savings and we think this could be a motivating factor to work harder, so that you have some saving each week.

    July Training in Acet
    July Training in Acet

The Future

The project team in Gulu have obviously realised these difficulties and factored in a series of follow up sessions across the range of areas identified. It will be exciting to see how these develop. Activities for August include: training in conflict resolution and group dynamics at Acet Centre; skills training in Hairdressing covering areas of Styling, Pencil, dreadlocks etc; training in electronic repair and maintenance in areas of radio, TV, phones and DVD players etc in Gulu Municipality. A busy and productive month to come: pushing on well indeed!

July Training in Gulu 4
July Training in Gulu at GDPU

Next Steps: June Report for ETC @ GDPU

Project officer training and sharing knowledge
ETC @ GDPU Project officer training and sharing knowledge with Gulu PWDs and Akera Robert

The ETC @ GDPU project officer (Musema Faruk) has come back with his June report detailing the very first pilot group Knowledge Sharing meetings, an exciting step forward. In summary, there were two meetings, one in Acet about 30 miles out of Gulu town, with Hairdressers and Sweater Weavers,. The other was in town at GDPU itself, with one electronics group and one electronics individual enterprise.

The purpose of both meetings was to begin to find out what each group thinks they need to sustain and develop their businesses.

NYEKO RAC ENTERPRISE AND RWOT AYE TWERO KNITTING ENTERPRISE
The ETC @ GDPU project officer at the Knowledge Sharing and Planning Meeting with Nyeko Rac enterprise and Rwot Aye Twero knitting enterprise in Omoro

Training needs:

In essence what the groups want to do is:

Upgrade their core vocational skills,

Develop their offer to customers

Learn how to plan effectively for that development

Learn better record keeping

Train for better group dynamics

Find out how to work with money/ learn a ‘Savings Culture’

Find out how to pay for the above

Diversify, especially into agriculture, to cover lean times

Akera Roberts Businesss Enterprise
Akera Roberts, individual Businesss Enterprise

Implications:

These training needs imply greater investment, helping each group find the money for that investment is one of the next steps for this project. In his initial audit reports, Faruk noted that group members find it almost impossible to access bank accounts, loans or possible grants, although some have started to use Village Savings and Loan Associations (micro savings and finance). He thinks this is down to a combination of poor self-esteem, lack of knowledge and barriers (physical and cultural) erected by the institutions themselves.

All groups want to acquire new equipment (sweater weaving machines/ sewing machines/ portable generators/ carry wider stock etc) but apart from learning how to use, maintain and repair them well, owning such equipment brings inevitable security problems. Theft by others, by group members or by domineering relatives is a common problem and solutions will need to be found.

Faruk reports that fear of taking risk, poor group dynamics and low self-esteem might well hold all the groups back in taking the next steps, so careful psycho-social support will need to be part of the pilot and subsequent programme.

NYEKO RAC ENTERPRISE AND RWOT AYE TWERO KNITTING ENTERPRISE 3
The Knowledge Sharing and Planning Meeting with Nyeko Rac enterprise and Rwot Aye Twero knitting enterprise in Omoro

All in all though, some great steps forward; really pushing on well!