As Program Officer at GBSN, one of the programs I manage is the Management Development Institute (MDI). MDI targets healthcare workers in Sub-Saharan Africa who have assumed management opportunities within their organizations and are looking to improve their management and leadership skills to better lead teams and manages scarce resources. Participants are required to attend a 1-week intensive training and are then expected to complete a Community Health Improvement Project (CHIP) within a year of their return back home.
I had the opportunity to see the program first-hand in Cape Town, South Africa. GBSN member school, the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) is the implementing partner for the Southern Africa region. This year, the South Africa MDI brought together 38 healthcare professionals from 6 African countries: Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
New Leaders in Town
Right from the start, participants were encouraged to transform themselves into the “New Leaders in Town.” MDI does not create managers, it creates leaders who set examples for others and lead through actions, not just words. Challenges and issues often arise in organizations, and the staff tends to only focus on the problem: “we have no money” or “patients are not taking advantage of our services.” MDI challenges participants to move beyond the problem itself and understand why these problems occur in the first place:
- We have no money due to mismanagement of funds
- Patients are not taking advantage of our services because we have not communicated with community leaders on the benefits of the service
Only by understanding the root causes of issues can systematic actions be taken to address the problems. MDI helps managers at Ministries of Health, NGOs and other private and public health organizations change the problem-solving mindset to one that is action-oriented.
The “New Leaders in Town” also learn how plan, work as a team and make decisions strategically. During the lectures, groups are given interactive exercises to work through in order to put theory into practice. Throughout the whole week, the teams are refining their CHIPS based on what they learned with the support of mentors. In the Southern Africa MDI, mentors are current MBA students with healthcare experience. This holistic training experience creates transformational leaders who are ready to make change upon their return home.
At the graduation dinner I was approached by Lydia, a participant from the Zimbabwe team. Without prompting, she immediately told me that she now feels empowered to make a difference at her work – MDI is empowering. She, and her team, are empowered to tackle their CHIP to improve health outcomes in Zimbabwe.
Backstopping programs at a desk in Washington, DC doesn’t often allow me to interact with participants or see the transformation that occurs first-hand. It is easy to feel disconnected with international development work when you are removed from the impact. However, hearing Lydia’s words re-inspired me and reminded me why I do what I do – to make a difference in improving lives.
I am encouraged by what I saw with the MDI and look forward to continuing our partnership with Johnson & Johnson, Amref Health Africa and GBSN member schools UCT GSB, ISM, GIMPA and Nova SBE. Thank you to Prof. Mlenga Jere, MDI Regional Director, and his team at UCT GSB for a successful and empowering week!
Stephanie Blochinger is the Program Officer at the Global Business School Network