On the road with Well Grounded in Congo

My observations after a few days spent with Jimm and Doudou of Well Grounded in Congo, during workshops around organizational development.

My observations after a few days spent with Jimm and Doudou of Well Grounded in Congo, during workshops around organizational development.

Plane, taxi, motorbike, toleka (bicycle taxi), canoe… All means are being employed by the Well Grounded team in Congo to reach their clients and objectives: organizing workshops dedicated to organizational development with different civil society organisations in Congo: RRN and CAGDFT based in Kinshasa, CADEM based in Nioki (Province of Mai Ndombe), and GASHE in Mbandaka in the Equateur province. All these organisations are members of the community forestry consortium led by Rainforest Foundation UK.

I am traveling together with Jimm and Doudou during these few days as a photographer and film director, working on a documentary illustrating the concrete support Well Grounded brings to its Congolese clients in terms of organizational development. This is done through workshops and working sessions around different aspects of organisational management, starting from the elaboration of a strategic plan, the development of an organogram, up to a communication plan, or elements about leadership. Every time, this leads to dense and dynamic exchanges and to rich interactions and exchanges of experience. With of course the transmission of theoretical content and practical tools – specifically adapted to each structure – which the facilitators, Jimm and Doudou, master perfectly.

What hits me, as a «neutral» and external observer, is the strong implication and the obvious joy that the members of these different structures show when thinking together about these questions and key concepts. What’s also apparent is their clear will to improve their capacities thanks to these tools, and thus their impact on their target population, by reaching their own objectives. The common ground for all these organisations (RRN, CAGDFT, CADEM or GASHE), is the fact that they work on the field, whether by lobbying the competent authorities, or by supporting the local communities, in order to apply the Congolese law (law n° 011/2002 of August 29th, 2002 about the forest code) defending the communities’ right to use forest resources to increase their well-being, while preserving forests in the Congo basin.

This strongly contradicts certain stereotypes around local organisations and their love for “procedures”, which can sometimes focus on form rather than substance and their objectives, side stepping the latter… Nothing like this here. These are committed stakeholders, each one at their level, eager to learn and to improve their skills by acquiring new practical tools that they are detemined to implement in their daily work.

With respect to Jimm and Doudou, our brave coaches and facilitators despatched in Congo, they spare no effort and no energy to get their message through and perform their tasks, with an undented enthusiasm, and a remarkable level self-sacrifice. And this happens in spite of the tiredness, the sometimes exhausting long trips inside the country, the logistical challenges (traffic jams in Kinshasa, strong rains and floods, lack of electricity…). All this with a smile and dedication that command respect.

About the author

Caroline Thirion

Following the completion of her degrees in Social Communication (IHECS Brussels) and Documentary Photography/Transmedia (UPVD Perpignan), Caroline worked for ten years as a project coordinator and communication manager in the cultural and broadcasting sector. More recently, she has been refocusing on photography and writing as a freelance collaborator for projects in Belgium and abroad.

She authored the last «Petit Futé» traveling guides about DRC and Kinshasa. Some of her photo essays were published in the European press (Le Point, Jeune Afrique, Le Soir, La Libre Belgique, Le Vif l’Express, NRC Handelsblad…). Caroline co-directed a 52’ documentary about a transhumance in Katanga («Safari ya Ngombe»).  She also co-directed the web documentary « En son âme et conscience » about the last remaining gold mine in France (awarded at the Environment Film Festival in Paris), as well as other video projects for NGOs and private companies.