In order to raise the awareness of Zimbabweans in the USA about the Zimbabwe Diaspora Network North America (ZDNNA) and garner support for its activities, ZDNNA officers have decided to take to the road and start a dialogue with Zimbabweans in the USA. The Road Shows and meetings are meant to mobilize support for the ZDNNA and Zimbabwe Diaspora Home Initiative Program (ZIDHIP) initiatives and solicit participation in planned activities.
The first such meeting was held in the Raleigh-Durham area in North Carolina, where ZDNNA launched its first chapter. The Carolina experience has given the officials some munition for what to expect and an opportunity to think through the best ways and format for engaging with local communities to sell the idea of the network.
Michigan is intended to be the next stop because a group of people, under the direction and leadership of Dr. Mambo Mupepi, have already created interim structures for a ZDNNA Michigan chapter. Dr. Mupepi is in the ZDNNA Working Group and has coordinated the planning and formation of the Michigan Chapter. ZDNNA officials, including the Chairman, Dr. Norbert Mugwagwa, the sitting Treasurer, Mr. Golden Makusha, and Engineer Phillip Bamu, who is also a member of the Working Group, are travelling to Michigan to officiate the launching of the Chapter at a date yet to be decided. Esau Mavindidze who coordinated the North Carolina meetings and is an active member of the Working Group, is also scheduled to attend the launch and help in planning the meeting format and in defining mobilization strategies.
In North Carolina, ZDNNA teamed up with Durham–North Carolina based Solutions Generators Network, which facilitated the meetings and seminar using Dynamic Facilitation (DF). DF proved to be an invaluable tool for facilitating the group of about 50 Zimbabweans who gathered at Duke University to hear about ZDNNA. The discussion format was designed to allow participants to first discuss concerns and issues with regards to networking and engagement with Zimbabwe before presentations could be made by the ZDNNA officials. After the presentations, the platform was opened up for more discussions, and the participants’ issues and concerns were addressed.
ZDNNA intends to use this format for group discussion as the roadshows take shape and more chapters are launched. The North Carolina meetings showed that pre-meeting communication with the wider community is critical to ensure readiness and to create free spaces for people to voice their concerns and ultimately to create the type of chapter that the community will define through participation. Documents such as the group constitution and other materials that explain objectives, mission and planned activities can be circulated in advance before meetings. That way, by the time the meetings are convened, attendees will have grasped meaningful background information to understand the purpose of the meeting and get an idea of the desired outcome. The idea is to let the local communities get involved as early as possible so that they can define the issues they see as important and feel some ownership for the chapter creation process.
Proponents of Dynamic Facilitation usually include wisdom councils as an initial stage for community engagement. In Wisdom Councils, randomly selected people in a specific community meet with a facilitator to identify key issues and work on them creatively. The participants are then able to come to a unanimous consensus around an issue of community interest and then present back the message to the larger community from where the council is originally sampled. These people can then represent a voice of the people that genuinely reflects their interests and collective wisdom. Wisdom Councils can be used at the earlier stages of planning to engage a community.
ZDNNA is also looking into incorporating the concept of Foundation Builders, where selected individuals within a given community are approached to solicit their buy-in and support for a cause. These individuals are then enlisted to become the backbone of an organization as a key source for providing resources and building the capacity to ensure continuity. Unlike the early engagement required for Wisdom Councils and other methods of community engagement, it makes sense to engage Foundation Builders when the parameters of the organization are already in place after which sponsorship is then sort from these targeted people within the community or from friends of that community. Ideally, these people can be invited to a few events such as independence celebrations or other local community functions, then after they see the level of community involvement, a meeting with them can be organized to initiate the sponsorship proposal. Foundation Builders advance the overall cause of an organization through continued financial and/or material support.
Overall, mobilizing people for support or buy-in to a cause can be a daunting task because it has to include different levels of engagement and enlisting participation. At an early stage in the process of mobilization, it is important to enlist collaboration – to share ideas, passions and experiences as a form of relationship building and engagement to ensure community readiness for an idea. Those advancing the idea have to think through how best to involve their particular community in a manner that is consistent with what they want to achieve, but also open to community feedback and with flexibility to shift towards meeting specific needs of the community.
ZDNNA is still in its formative stages, but has the advantage of a core group of very active people with a solid vision for where to take the network. There are interesting times ahead and a strong possibility for building a dynamic network and a lasting legacy.
We look forward to meeting many of you on the road!