Gary Grimmer looks into meetings serendipity and how it is benefitting Africa and its associations:
When people who have never met are brought together for some common purpose sometimes magic happens in unexpected ways. After all, so much of the world’s innovation is spawned by chance meetings, people making connections and new enterprises emerging.
A case in point was a recent meeting of the membership committee for the African Society of Association Executives (AfSAE.)
We were there to talk about growing the association. The goal is to strengthen association management professionalism and to advance civil society in Africa. AfSAE needs more African associations to know it exists and to realise that becoming a member has benefits – for the member association leaders and for Africa.
While we were waiting for everyone to join our Zoom call, we were just chatting. One person on the call was David Mukomana, from Zimbabwe who is the president of the Apimondia regional commission for Africa. Apimondia is the global organisation representing and promoting beekeeping and honey-related issues. While waiting to talk about AfSAE membership, a couple of us started talking about bees. Bees are fascinating creatures so we had plenty to talk about especially around human wellness through use of hive products and environmental conservation.
Then Pascaline Umulisa came on the call. She’s the executive secretary for Rwanda Girl Guides Association. While we were waiting for others to join, we explained to Pascaline that we were talking about beekeeping.
Then one of us said: “Hey, Pascaline, maybe beekeeping would be a good activity for girl guides to learn about!” and, Pascaline said: “It’s interesting you would say that, because last week in a meeting we were talking about possible activities for the girls and one of the suggestions was beekeeping.” That’s when David said: “Well, one of Apimondia’s goals is to empower women and girls in remote villages through beekeeping, to develop small enterprises that create employment opportunities and help them earn livelihoods from their environment.”
So here were two African association leaders who barely knew each other until they met up through their connection to AfSAE’s membership committee, who realised that they had a shared interest. Because of a chance conversation, they figured out that they could work together.
As a follow-up to the conversation a formal virtual meeting was held where the possibilities were explored with AfSAE. That discussion has led to creation of a legacy project for AfSAE, the Girl Guides in Rwanda and the Apimondia regional commission for Africa that can be rolled out to other countries in Africa. It was agreed that Apimondia and the Girl Guides could partner to set up a pilot project helping girls engage in beekeeping as an income-generating activity. If it works, the Girl Guides can develop a programme that empowers girls to learn a fun and useful skill – keeping bees, collecting honey and well, who knows where all that could lead? Maybe Girl Guides all over Africa will become beekeepers.
This is often how change happens. Chance meetings, interesting discussions, new revelations, new connections, new directions.
The goal of AfSAE is to strengthen Africa’s association community. Yet, its greatest value to members may be in helping them to make connections with each other. Making connections that lead to new ideas and new undertakings that bring real benefits through collaboration. There are endless possibilities of African associations connecting and innovating to their mutual benefit and to Africa’s benefit. Yet, not if they never connect and have a conversation. Maybe that is the ultimate power that AfSAE will bring to African associations so they contribute towards building the Africa We Want. However, only if African associations choose to connect.