This chapter originated as a reflection of the communication between U.S. facilitators and a Rwandan host as they ecollaborated in planning international leadership and human resources training for Rwandan leaders. The authors maintain that electronic collaboration or e-collaboration is a viable practice for use in effective communication with persons in developing nations. It can be used as a way to reduce the cost of providing support and services. For this action research project, facilitators accepted an invitation to train, collaborated to complete all planning via the Internet, and traveled to do the work successfully addressing all of the substantive requirements. In preparing this chapter, the authors have shared pre, during, and post work considerations hoping to make a case for increased use of e-collaboration in establishing effective work relationships and improved international communication. The chapter includes substantial details for context and the issues that necessitated the training.
There was good reason to expect that much of the leadership literature would not be appropriate in that it explained concepts used in U.S. bureaucratic organizations. One could also expect that there would be limited universalism of the leadership and human resources constructs. These positions were unfounded. Though parts of the African continent have been in turmoil for years there is a strong desire on the part of the Rwandans to become more businesslike. This is in spite of the fact that turmoil in certain areas has been manifest as devastating violence. In Rwanda, a country in the African Great Lakes Region, this generation has seen violent conflict erupt into genocide, taking the lives of 800,000 people during a 90-day period in 1994.
Since the genocide, many individuals and groups have worked to stabilize and support the country. The Africa Great Lakes Initiative is one such group. For years they have worked with the Rwandan Yearly Meeting, a Quaker organization, to host peacemaking workshops. In October 2006, a Rwandan Yearly Meeting leader requested onsite Leadership and HR Training for leaders desiring to do a better job of leading. In planning this training, it was important to understand that the leaders were volunteers and represented 25 organizations such as elementary/middle/high schools, programs for HIV infected women, orphans programs, peacemaking training, and a seminary correspondence program for religious leaders.
For years, the Rwandan leaders have worked to understand change, prepare for change, and respond to change—both internal and external—to their organizations. The internal changes, especially the foreseeable ones, have in some instances afforded the leaders time to understand their needs, plan, and act to change. Rarely has that been true for the external changes where they have simply needed to react. This has been true for war, disease, and weather.
Presently, the leaders understand that all around them the world is changing and they must change, too. They must learn new ways and new tools. In doing so, they will create strategic and contingency plans in their organizations to address ongoing conflicts, disease, shortages, and environmental concerns.
It is also clear to them that they cannot manage organizations that serve larger numbers of people, with the same level of expertise they have had in the past. As a result they are seeking knowledge that they can use to help them be proactive rather than simply reactive regarding change. This leadership and human resources training was part of the preparation.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Action Research: A cyclic process by which change and understanding an be pursued at one time.
Electronic Collaboration: Interactive sharing of information where it is possible to increase productivity and efficiency. The eCollaboration can take place via audio, video, e-mail, and Web conferencing.
Community: Deliberate and purposeful operations with others that include social, economic, and political exchanges.
Conflict Resolution: Use of practices and methods to solve conflict without violence.
Conflict Prevention: Use of practices and methods to avoid conflict.
Nation Building: The establishment and development of institutions and organizations that promote communal activities that are often social, economic, and political in nature.
Success: The achievement of goals.
Self Esteem: The degree to which an individual values self.
Cooperation: Voluntarily choosing to share in or participate in an act or completion of a task.
Communication: This is the ability to effectively share with another using any of the many media available.
e-Management: The management of resources and processes using communication networks.
Social Capital: Social, economic, and political interactions oriented towards positive outcomes for the larger society. These interactions make it possible for increasing numbers of people to have basic/adequate health, education, employment, housing, and general welfare needs met.