It is just under a year since Wasafiri was established, and a further five since Impact International first launched its predecessor –  the Relief and Development Group.

Over that time we have worked alongside the people and organisations at the heart of some the most compelling issues of our time ~ climate change; poverty; wars in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and the Congo; the food crisis; and natural disasters in Myanmar and Ethiopia.

We recently took stock of what we have learned and concluded that these issues are fundamentally leadership challenges on a global, systemic level. And we’ve concluded that our work is to help generate leadership action that tackles these issues and which ultimately drives change in the lives of people in crisis.

Issues as complex as these are at the same time very personal and profoundly global;

  • The Haitian who is hungry because she cannot afford to buy enough food is entrapped by increasing meat consumption in China, oil price fluctuations, commodity speculators, US bio-fuel subsidies and a drought in the grain fields of Argentina.
  • The Congolese refugee fleeing armed militias is bound up with global mobile phone sales, the regional investment climate, a dysfunctional United Nations system and an absence of political leadership
  • The Burmese fisherman rebuilding his village after Cyclone Nargis is unwittingly affected by climate change, international criminal law, economic sanctions, and the price of rice.

The people and organisations who aspire to tackle such issues must themselves simultaneously operate at the personal and global levels. And meaningful change requires action across all dimensions: How does the manager of a development agency influence the global causes of suffering, while on a day to day basis the choices he or she faces are often mundane? How should I run this meeting? What are my priorities today? How do I ensure my team is working well? Who do I need to influence?

We work with individuals, teams and organisations to help generate action that is co-ordinated enough and aligned enough to have a genuine and lasting impact. This may be about achieving clarity on goals, on common ways of working, or on the underpinning values that ultimately guide action. We help people to see how their decisions cascade through ever expanding circles of influence to collectively bring about change at a systemic, global level.

At the heart of our work is our unwavering belief that leadership is a special kind of action, not a special kind of person – for it is the right kind of action that intentionally and positively impacts the future.

The world is globalised as never before. We need people who understand their leadership role beyond the parameters of their own team or organisation. This is obvious in the extremes of disaster relief and development, but is increasingly apparent in other sectors such as banking, retailing, manufacturing or extractives. Expertise in generating leadership action is needed in new and urgent ways.

The context: One in five adults in Zambia is HIV+. The scale of the problem facing the country is vast and shows no signs of declining. Leadership is required in new and urgent ways if the pandemic is to be overcome.

Wasafiri’s role: Wasafiri consultant, Martin Kalungu-Banda, led a journey of innovation for a cross-sectoral gathering of Zambian leaders in order to discover new ways to tackle the crisis. The ambition was to achieve a breakthrough in thinking and action by through a unique change process. This implied:

  • Facilitating innovative cross-institutional, cross-sectoral collaboration and innovation
  • Techniques to overcome barriers and blockages to breakthrough action
  • Prototyping solutions across individual, community, national and possibly global levels.

Generating action: New ways have been found to grow the uptake of testing and treatment services, and a public consensus has been reached between bishops and Former African Heads of State. Overall, a methodology has been found through which business, government and civil society sector could meaningfully collaborate, identify systemic forces and develop innovative solutions.