New Adventures on the Horizon in 2012

New Adventures on the Horizon in 2012
Never Too Late

It's never too late to make a difference in a child's life.

A new year has arrived.  Time to stop, take stock and reflect on the year that was.  And after a period of recuperation from holiday cheer, cheer and more cheer (!), it is time to gear up for the commitments we’ve made – to our beneficiaries, our partners and our supporters – in the year to come.

We are so very grateful to our donors over the past 12 months.  Your incredible generosity, especially during what continues to be a volatile economic climate – was and remains inspirational to us.  As the air outside plummets to seasonal winter chill, you warm our hearts with your steadfast commitment to the work we do to make a difference in the lives of children.

Over the last few weeks, our team has been heads-down accepting generous contributions at year-end to ensure we are able to meet our commitments to our partners and thousands of children and their families. At the same time, Team CFTC has also been working hard to craft solid budgets and plans for 2012.  There hasn’t been a lot of time to look up and ahead yet (and when I did, there was an enormous turkey with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy to deal with!). Amidst the craziness, there are always reasons to smile.

It was good to read Lee Rose’s Charity Village: From the Editor’s Desk: 2011 In Review and Predictions for 2012 which helped me crystallize some of my own thoughts about the broad trends affecting the non-profit sector in the year ahead and how these will play out in our own little agency.

Lee identified three themes that he sees important for 2012:

  • A focus on accountability and transparency
  • New financing models in an era of economic uncertainty
  • A new game-changing social media bandwagon to jump on!

These are top of mind for me (although, I’d re-frame the third to focus on new ways of reaching and deepening public engagement and dialogue), and for the CFTC team and our Board of Directors, too.

I’ll be sharing my thoughts about what you’ll be seeing from CFTC on these topics in the months to come right here in this blog.

What’s Ahead in Q1

The first quarter of 2012 is shaping up to be a busy one.  We are laying the foundation for an exciting transition as we move from a broad-based charity to a more focused international development agency with increased efficiencies, higher growth and a re-engineered funding base.

We may not be big, but we are small – and we know that small can make a big difference.

Much of this work involves implementing the next steps in our Theory of Change model:  we are moving ahead with plans in Ghana and Canada, where we have completed the community consultation and third-party evaluations and have begun to build the three-year plans, and we have Uganda and Bolivia up next in the rotation for 2012.

The consultation process in Canada and Ghana was interesting, important and revelatory for us – and for our partners.  We expect the same from Uganda and Bolivia.

There is nothing more vital than soliciting feedback from the very people that our programs touch, ensuring that our plans are built on a shared vision and values, and that the funds we are committing – CFTC donor funds – are directed towards the kind of long-term, sustainable, capacity-building impact that it is our mandate to help them achieve.

Meeting with students at Elsipogtog School, NB in October, 2011.

Meeting with students at Elsipogtog First Nation School, NB in Oct, 2011.

So we learned some interesting things, including the fact that in Canada, our scope needs to expand from the breakfast and lunch programs we have been providing (activities) towards community mobilization around nutrition (strategy) – entrenching the knowledge and value of good nutrition as a core building block of the “healthy body, healthy mind, healthy spirit” philosophy that is so integral to the health of our Aboriginal communities in Canada.

And in Ghana, while we have engaged in a great variety of activities in the impoverished northern regions of that country, we have learned that deepening our programmatic efforts in the areas of education, health and nutrition, and rural livelihoods development will be the most significant strategies to achieve longer-term food security – a focus not only for us, but for most of the NGOs and government agencies in that country, as well as CIDA.

Again – the theme is moving from activities to longer-term strategy; from a broad and diffuse focus to a narrow, targeted and strategic one.

Building Strength from Within

In the same way that our focus must be on building the strength of our local partners who implement the programs that our funds support, it is only by building strength from within that we can achieve our mandate.  So on that note, I’m absolutely delighted to announce that we have a new Director, Programs who has started with us as of January 9th.

New Director of Programs, Heather Johnston, with a friend.

New Director of Programs, Heather Johnston, with a friend.

Heather Johnston brings a wealth of international development experience, including most recently as Country Representative in Mali for Marie Stopes, a UK-based agency working in the field of reproductive health. Prior to that, she was West Africa Regional Education Program Manager with Oxfam UK, and held previous roles with Inter Pares in Ottawa, with UNAIS in the UK and Mali, and with CESO International and Aboriginal Services in Canada.

From her (then) home base in Mali, Heather was able to join CFTC Program Manager for Ghana and Uganda, Mueni Udeozor, on a recent monitoring trip to Ghana, which you can read more about here.  As Theory of Change rolls out, Heather will be reporting back to you first-hand from the countries she’ll be visiting in 2012 through this blog as well as our enewsletter.

As we continue our Theory of Change journey, our intention is to report with transparency and accountability what we’ve learned and what we have planned, putting it into context so that you can see precisely how we are stewarding the generous contributions of Canadians and making critical decisions as we build toward long-lasting change in the lives of the children and families we work with around the world.

Doing so takes courage on any number of fronts: including the courage to seek and then report on what we have learned about our programming choices of the past and the effects they’ve had (which don’t always go as planned in the wacky world of international development); and then making sometimes hard choices when our strategy and mandate demand one thing, but our on-the-ground activities might be veering off in another direction.

It is our intention that as we make these course corrections – only natural in the life of an international development agency – that we report out to you early and often.

So stay tuned right here as we head for the horizon and all the promise, potential and excitement that I’m sure 2012 will bring!