We both remember being involved in seminars back in the U.K. looking at how to manage change in various institutions. One of our conclusions was that regardless of whether or not a given change was a good thing, a minefield of application awaited anyone who strayed into this territory.
We are fairly confident after five months here in Kenya that managing change is probably the same the world over but perhaps for different reasons in different places. One of the changes we are working on with our colleagues here is to facilitate the challenging of stereotyping across tribal lines with its consequent impact on identity and community cohesion. Another arena is that of how the communities view the birth of children with disabilities: a curse or a call to care?
But how on earth do you go about tackling things that big when we all know that the simple act of rearranging the seats in a school staffroom can lead to furious reactions?!
Some of the challenges of managing change here were clearly illustrated for us by the following story. Soon after our arrival, we commented on the lack of traffic lights in Eldoret’s often crazily busy town centre: there is only one set of defunct lights at one intersection.
Why? Oh. There’s a story about that….
Many years ago the municipal authorities decided that traffic lights should be introduced in an attempt to decrease the number of road traffic accidents. They were duly installed.
And the number of accidents increased.
How could that possibly happen?
The reason was quite revealing. In traditional culture “red” means danger and “run away as quickly as possible” so when some drivers saw the red lights they hit the accelerator to try to escape the potential danger whilst others dutifully stopped….a recipe for disaster.
The change had been implemented without proper research, education and above all dialogue.
Food for thought as we dream, scheme and pray about what to do next in our work here.
But please excuse us for now; we’re off to rearrange the furniture in the conference room at the office……