Enkuan adderesachu

Melkam Genna! Happy Ethiopian Christmas (Genna). Ethiopian Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on 7th January (Tahesas 28/29 by the Ethiopian calendar) – typically by slaughtering an animal and feasting with family and friends. We were privileged this year to be invited to two Genna feasts – one at a friend’s and another at a local guesthouse where other friends were staying. I learnt that we greet each other at this time of year by saying ‘Enkuan adderesachu’, which roughly translates as ‘give thanks for bringing us here ‘ and to which the response is ‘enkuan abro adderesachen’ – ‘give thanks for us arriving together’. At work, I’ve been wrestling with the challenge of delivery. Both my own ‘delivery’ – i.e. what am I actually doing or producing? – but also delivery of public policy here in Ethiopia – i.e. how do plans and political objectives become realities? GGGI is working in Ethiopia to support the Government to deliver a ‘Climate Resilient Green Economy’ and to help direct international climate finance to that purpose. In the water and energy sectors, this is currently focussing on climate resilience – what does the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy (MoWIE) need to do to contribute to the climate resilience of Ethiopia? In abstract, this means thinking about what adaptations and new things the Ministry needs to do, but on closer inspection, the reality is that, in a country like Ethiopia, the vast majority of what MoWIE is doing already contributes to climate resilience – water and energy are defining issues for the country, its people and economy. The challenge is less about novelty or developing new strategies, instead it is more about delivering existing policies and political priorities – the same public policy challenge that every single country in the world faces. So why haven’t existing plans been fully delivered?

It is easy to fall back on the excuse of ‘weak capacity’ or the need for ‘capacity building’. But in my time here I have seen plenty of ‘capacity’ – talented, passionate individuals who can get stuff done. I’ve also seen significant financial resources made available – but critically not spent. And I’ve seen well-thought out policies and programmes. So the delivery challenge is not about ‘capacity’ in its traditional sense, instead it seems to be about finding the right way of working together. I don’t fully understand all the issues, but I have seen projects and ideas pushed forward that are driven by a goal-oriented management culture – that often stumble because they don’t reflect the relationship-oriented culture here (I’ve seen similar in Japan). Where insufficient time is spent on really understanding each others’ perspectives and jointly finding solutions – unfortunately, I know the practical reality is that domestic pressures drive the bias towards a more mechanistic/transactional approach. It is much much harder to break out of the transactional relationship, but if we’re honest about partnership, then all sides have to take the time to understand each other – which takes time, patience and the ability to listen. I feel immensely privileged to be in a situation where I can take the time to do this – and I am only at the start of this conversation. To me, that feels like the biggest delivery challenge here – working out how people genuinely work in partnership to arrive together. Enkuan adderesachu.