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Institution Building and Organisational Development in Gambia

By Sarjo Bayang

Part 2: Grouping, Crowding, and Lack of Teaming in Gambia

We explored the scope of institution building and organisational development for Gambia starting with Office of the President on our earlier issue in these series. Facts at hand confirmed that current occupier of Gambian presidency prefers to operate without being established. For that reason he dismantled all organised structures and abolished systematic dispensation without following due process. In the absence of policy and procedures what obtains in Gambia is arbitrary rule by anarchic leader with iron fist. Office of the President alone is not where all loose bolts and knots are laid unfixed.

Close observation reveals that Gambians are quick to be in groups then later form crowds yet hardly building effective teams. That is seen through the experience of social, political, economic and other groupings. Is there anything that could be done differently for more meaningful change of attitude, strategic positioning for realistic goal scoring results? Considering the amount of energy going down in these groupings, the result is not very much rewarding.

Social groups

Coming together on basis of shared interest is one situation prevalent in Gambian communities. Throughout Europe, America, and within Africa, Gambians like coming together in what many prefer calling “Associations”. Some of these groups owe their name to what the experience holds back home.

When it comes to musical gathering and other forms of social entertainment everyone is excited about what next the week has lined up. Such events like naming ceremonies, musical concerts, weddings, and birthday parties draw more crowds.

Working groups easily die out due to lack of commitment and motivation. Collective drive hardly picks up even from very beginnings. Before too long, numbers decline below two digits. Eventually the group disintegrates.

Gossip and power struggle take their turn as key factors impeding the formation, growth, and sustenance of Gambian social groups.  Leadership is undermined by side talks full of unhealthy sensational issues.  

Institutional failures and service outreach lapses

Very little is done to provide institution building support for Gambian groups. People simply come together by remotely connected interests often without clearly mapped direction due to lacking concrete agenda.

A desire to grow from basic formation of mere grouping to established functioning organisation is generally absent.

Much is expected from long established official agencies in helping Gambian groups grow. Only few if any of such umbrella organisations do anything more than building their own through vigorous membership drive. Lot of the associations simply strive to justify their own existence and will not lend a hand to back smaller groups grow.

During events like Annual General Meetings AGM, there is much talk about how the umbrella organisation is projected as a high performing establishment. Capacity building for member groups is hardly any agenda item.

With all that goes to show they have membership appeal around the country this does not reflect service levels by measure of trickle down effects for common end user value added effects. Neither membership groups nor the communities in whose name everything revolves stand to gain so much.

Lot of resources are generated in the name of groups and communities who may not have the enabling capacity or properly established structures for optimal shared gains.

Institutions continue failing groups and communities in vast ways. Anyone who worked for government establishments or Non-Governmental Organisations NGOs knows fully well how institutional failure and service outreach lapses render whole communities stuck up. Much could have been done.

Such situations prevail because there is no accountability between stakeholders. Institutions and organisations fill up their performance gaps by flowery input of words beefed by figures during budgeting or planning exercises. They report back with more neatly presented words and figures claiming to be performance indicators.

At end of AGMs voting is done and reports are treated as approval by all stakeholders. Someone must take courage to school up stakeholders so that true accountability is miles away from lip service.

Political Crowds

No other interest divides Gambian society to the extent that politics does. Family, friends, and other social ties are seriously affected by political differences in a proportion beyond reason.

Some political parties provide no clear agenda or genuine civic education. Most of the talk is about increasing numbers for voting gains.

Politics is seen as one game of deception where crowds are pooled up for selected few to ride on them.

During political campaigns opposing parties get fully charged and ready for confrontation with possibility of harmful violence. All of that goes in the name of winning elections. Just like organisations and institutions take other stakeholders for a ride, some politicians too seek to pool up crowds for similar gains without accountability.

Of course accountability goes beyond the simple exercise of neatly presented plans and figures. Accountability is properly measured by the extent to which stakeholders are empowered to challenge organisations and institutions operating in their good name.

In practice, those who promise to deliver must keep to their words. When they fail to deliver, stakeholders have power to ask relevant questions requiring genuine answers.

Unfortunately development politics and political development takes the same crooked roads deviating from agreed standards just because operatives and leaders refuse to be accountable for stakeholder scrutiny or probity.   

Lack of Team Drive

People come together for various reasons. Some of these reasons may conflict sharply. Taking it from the smallest group of two people locked up in marriage to voluntary social or religious groups, conflicting reasons bind some people in ways that may not be openly known.

Football is one of those well-known social groupings that require team work. In principle the selected eleven (11) players are meant to perform as group. Closely watched though you can see individualism pop an ugly head each time a game is kicked off.

The irony in lack of team drive becomes even more pronounced when some players cannot perform team role in their immediate family or social setup. It could be that some football players accept to be managed but may not be good at managing simple social relations when tasked with such responsibility.

Example of football players is just to show how society is largely peopled by individuals who find it hard to team up. Those who cannot manage basic social units of two or fewer persons will need to work harder teaming up with more people with diverse interests and aspirations.

To keep stable balance between individual desires and team interest is one big challenge. Some people argue that serving self- interest does not make a person selfish. There is ample evidence that lack of team drive accounts for collective failure in lot of undertakings.

For Gambian groups to advance as effective establishments, team work must be encouraged and enhanced. Of course that is not just about Gambian groups. It goes for any establishment from smallest to largest formations globally.

Lack of teaming together can be identified with Gambian political parties and media operatives. There is so much unhealthy competition tearing apart Gambian media fraternity and political groups. It has gone to devastating limits where some players simply lost sight of the ball and still playing the game by stepping on the each other’s foot.

Absence of team drive in Gambian media operatives and political groupings in reaching targeted goals is recipe for longer delays and eventual drifts for a daunting political struggle.

Possible remedy in curbing this menace is by promoting shared values and aspirations. When everyone wins, nobody stands looser. Organisations and institutions need to fix all loose bolts and knots.  

Without collective winning drive motivated by team spirit, groups remain mere crowd of numbers from the household to wider society, organisations and institutions included.



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