The Long Road to Connecting with Your Audience
It was 8 in the morning; I was sitting in front of a group of five staff members from MicroKing’s Gokwe branch, about to start my Kiva training. Gokwe is a small town in a rural area of Zimbabwe. It takes a four-hour bus ride and a two-hour car ride (or a Kombi ride - tiny local buses that lengthen the journey by another 2 hours), which may be why they have never had a Kiva Fellow visit before.
Until that day, I had visited three rather larg and mature branches, and had given refresher trainings to branch staff on the Kiva process. My goal was to reiterate the value of the Kiva partnership, get them to be excited about the opportunities Kiva creates for the borrowers, and acknowledge the amazing work they are doing in the field.
One does not realize how difficult motivating people is until you face a group of individuals from a different culture, staring at you, trying to understand why you are keeping them for an hour when they can run out to the field and get on with their day. They have also seen this film before. They have had three fellows prior to me deliver similar trainings.
With the first three large branches, I would start my trainings with informal conversations attempting to really understand each individual’s challenges with Kiva or anything else on a daily basis. I would try to ask them questions to stimulate the discussion but I was not very successful. In my third training I even brought Turkish Delight as a gesture of friendship. However, in the end, although we would have productive training sessions, I was not quite sure if the knowledge would translate into an understanding of the value that Kiva brings to them, to MicroKing and to its borrowers.
I was a bit discouraged by the time I came to Gokwe for my fourth training. But I knew I had a big responsibility, as I was their first Kiva Fellow! Luckily Farirai (the branch manager) and we had broken down the ice already on our 2-hour ride to Gokwe.
Before I began my training I told them a bit about myself, and how I used to be a relationship manager like them. I collected all my enthusiasm and told them why I love Kiva, its mission and continued on with my training. I think I was finally able to connect with my audience. They were really excited to learn about Kiva and asked many challenging questions, really addressing how Kiva can help regional markets across Zimbabwe. Gokwe branch became huge fans of Kiva. We even did a loan together to a MicroKing borrower in a neighboring city!
As I took the chicken-bus back, I wondered about what made the Gokwe branch special. I think it was the fact that they are the new kid on the block. They are a new branch, slightly inexperienced with Kiva but excited to perform, eager to listen and is open to new ideas and new comers. The question is, how do we bring some of that fresh blood to our veteran branches as well?