Africa Business Communities

[Interview] Caroline Gertsch, Country Director, Amani Institute, Kenya

Caroline Gertsch is the Country and Programs Director of Amani Institute, founded in Nairobi, Kenya. The Institute commences a 5-month Leadership and Management program this year that is directed toward middle to upper level managerial trainings in Kampala, Uganda.

Africa Business Communities interviews Caroline:

Would you please introduce Amani Institute?

We at Amani Institute build skills for individuals and companies to increase their impact for the business and society. Our core expertise is designing and delivering inspiring, engaging, and transformational learning programs that help individuals build the practical skills and networks to take them to the next level and create positive impact. All the programs we run focus on building skills around the on the four core pillars which are essential for impact: Leadership, Management & Entrepreneurship, Problem-solving & Innovation, as well as Communication.

When and why was it set up?

Amani Institute was founded in 2011 in Nairobi, Kenya by Roshan Paul and Ilaina Rabbat, from India and Argentina respectively to respond to the widely perceived gap between what a standard university education provides and what skills organizations need in order to succeed in complex and fast changing world. We have campuses now also in India and Brazil, and we run programs globally. Amani Institute's mission is to prepare a new generation of leaders tackling the world’s toughest problems.

What is the Institute's unique selling point?

First of all, we place a strong emphasis on improving the performance of program participants. We do this by making sure the curriculum is highly practical and our methodologies focus on experiential learning, as compared to a lot of lecture based learning. Since training only produces value when it is applied, the program has different mechanisms in place so learning gets applied on-the-job and is brought back to the business. One of the key elements in the Amani Leadesrhip and Management for Impact program, for example, is the “Business innovation project, where participants develop a solution to a current business challenge or have identified a new business opportunity,

Any program we design and deliver, aims to be win-win both for the organisation and the individual. We commit to creating value for both. It should never be an either/or.

Having run the program in Kenya for 5 Cohorts already, the content and the approch has been tested and proven to work in the East African context.

Amani Institute starts a program in the last week of July in Uganda. What is the objective of this program?

The Amani Leadership and Management for Impact Program – which is actively supported by the Aspen Network for Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) and Argidius Foundation -  is a 5-month modular program. We offer a high quality, affordable leadership development solution to Small and Medium Enterprises that equips their managerial talent with the skills to take the business to the next level.

Program participants can expect to develop mindsets, skills, and knowledge that they need to create positive impact across three levels: self, team, organisation. We focus on the skills required to work more effectively (self-awareness, communication, leadership, coaching.) and to prepare managers for a fast-moving, uncertain future (innovation, problem-solving, strategy, etc).

Who is participating in this program?

The program is designed specifically for middle and senior managers of Small and Medium Business in East Africa. So far the participants have come from very diverse backgrounds, both in terms of functional roles and also industries they represent (i.e. manifacturing, consulting, retail, etc). We have typically different profiles on the program: from General Managers, to Production Managers, Heads of Marketing, or Heads of Finance, etc.

This diversity of backgrounds is intentional because it facilitates a deeper understanding of business aspects, it allows the participant to get a more holistic view on various issues, and it also contributes to shared learning and innovation across businesses and functions.

As long as the participant either has people or client management direct responsibility, they qualify. What they all have in common though is that the business who nominated them, thinks of the participant as someone who is a high performer already, but he or she has (untapped) potential to take the team or business to an even higher level.

Who can be a part of this program, and how?

Managers who wish to participate, need to be nominated by their manager/business. This way we can ensure that there is company buy-in, which is crucial for the program success.

One aspect that is worth mentioning is that organizations who have nominated multiple participants have had an hugher impact  both on business and company culture. We don’t believe that training “lone wolves” is the most effective way, that’s also whay we have very attractive discounts for businesses that nominate multiple managers.

What is lacking in the East African managerial skill, as it stands, that your program is aiming to address?

First of all, the needs we are trying to address via this program, are found across business in different stages and markets around the world, the skill set around Leadership, Management, Communication, Problem solving does not only need strengthening among mangers in East Africa, but globally.

Two aspects might be more specific to this region. First, small and medium enterprises are a critical part of the economy and their flourishing leads to economic development and societal progress – more so than in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, as many researches confirm, SME in East Africa are facing significant challenges with recruitment, development and retention of senior and middle level talent.  Second, businesses here struggle with a lack affordable and high-quality training for the talent companies do have. And that’s the gap that this program is trying to fill.

Will there be another program of this kind (or other) this year?

As with any product market entry, the next move will depend on how the market reacts to 1st Cohort in Uganda. However, at this stage, we are planning that we will run another program again in early 2019, while rconstantly running the program in Kenya.

Amani Institute is very excited to expand in the Ugandan market. In order to celebrate this occasion, we have two exclusive opportunities linked to the 1st Uganda Cohort: One is a unique offer of 590 USD for any early bird nomination received beforeu June 30th, 2018.

Additionally, we guarantee a further discount of 100 USD to companies nominating more than one manager for the first 5-months program in Kampala. In other words, it will be less than 100 USD per month to participate in a high quality leadership development program.

If anyone cannot take advantage of the Uganda program starting in July, we will have another program (Cohort 6) starting in Kenya in mid August 2018.

What can participants and the nominating business expect to take away from this program?

On an individual level 95% of past program participants said that they increased their Leadership Effectiveness through the program. This view is also confirmed by their line managers.

As the CEO of Lishabora described the change in one of his employees: “She is a lot more vocal, she stands up for herself, she is more than a commander, she is really a leader, with a stronger will and more drive. She is really acting as a CFO now. And the empolyees who are closest to her have seen the change and I can see her overall effect on the team”.

On an organizational level the “business innovation project”, a corner stone of the program, has produced results in different dimensions across the various businesses: from reduction to machine down-time due to process improvement, to cost savings of several thousand dollars brought about via a training solution, to improved sales due to  product enhancement.




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