The Think Tank Essentials Course: Our Experience

 Written By: Belinder Odek and Nathaniel Dwamena

‘‘Facts tell, stories sell. ’’

 At the Young Africans For Opportunities, this phrase will go down as one of the most enlightening for the year 2018. It was prominently featured in several sessions at the Think Tank Essentials training.

The Atlas Leadership Academy’s Think Tank Essentials Course is a must for anyone aspiring to establish a result oriented Think Tank. It is one thing to have an idea, and completely another,   to have the ability to put the idea in a way that it will be appealing, beneficial and comprehensible to you as an organization and your target audience. The Think Tank Essentials Course by the Atlas Network taught us exactly that and much more!

Capacity building is a very vital component of staff quality improvement in any organization. Most organizations overlook this vital aspect of quality control due to the amount of resources required.

YAFO was privileged to have two Executive members participate in the Think Tank Essentials Course in August 20-22, 2018 organized by Atlas Network at the Ekko hotel and Suites, in Lagos – Nigeria. We are built, empowered, networked and equipped with the prerequisite managerial and other skills needed to effectively run an organization. We will now be able to make decisions from an informed perspective and exude professionalism in our programs.

The Three-day residential training from 20th-22nd August, 2018, was power packed, insightful and engaging. We were blessed to have Dr. Tom Palmer, Manali Shah, Dr. Lyall Swim, Sloane Vale and Tarun Vats as resource persons from Atlas Network for the training. We were trained on a number of topics: Project Management, Public Policy Research, Fundraising and fundraising techniques, Effective Communication Strategy, just to mention but a few. We had series of group work assignments and presentations which helped participants learn team work, public speaking and presentation skills.

Belinder Odek, President, and Nathaniel Dwamena, Programs Manager, represented Young Africans for Opportunities at the training. On the second day of the training, we realized that we must make a few adjustments in our organization in order to create more impact. This buttressed the fact that we have really gained knowledge from participating in the training.

The networking sessions accorded us an opportunity to share experiences, compare notes and plan to collaborate on projects with our colleagues from other Countries.

As advocates of free markets through writing, one segments of the training was an eye-opener. The Feature-Benefit-Message (FBM) section taught us that when writing for Liberty, we do not write for ourselves but for the readers. Therefore, we have to simplify message to enhance comprehension by our target audience. The trainer gave an example of a television company trying to sell a new TV set.  The company will not give a lot of weight to the technical aspects of the product, but rather focus more energy in designing a message that will simply but interestingly communicate that benefit of the new TV set to its consumers.

Also, on project management, we found out how important it is to keep a database system.

We have scattered information folders but after the training, we look forward to integrate all of it one information database system. We also learnt that  it paramount to know  the purpose of your  project, thus relating  the project to the core values of our organization and having a detailed plan, all of which  are critical to having a successful project. The trainers admonished us to list all possible milestone in our project. These are just some of the takeaways from the training.  We have many more in the templates, case studies and lecture slides freely given to us and that we can constantly refer to at any point to guide our decisions as an organization.

Finally, the training gave us new strategies and avenues as an organization to aid in fundraising. YAFO is a new organization and therefore strategic fundraising tools are crucial for our sustainability. We are now better placed to apply strategies that will help reduce cost and maximize opportunities.

We were also privileged to be part of the 2018 Africa Liberty Forum, co-hosted by Students for Liberty Africa, sponsored by Smith Family Foundation and John Templeton Foundation run from August 23 to 24.

Brad Lips, the Chief Executive Officer of Atlas Network, impressed upon participants to have home grown solutions to poverty, stating that knowledge from affected locals on poverty is crucial towards finding permanent solutions. In a panel discussion on corruption, Kofi Bentil of IMANI-Africa admonished participants to look beyond institutions and hold governments accountable.

The forum featured panel discussions on other interesting topics such as Property Rights and Effective Use of Social Media, all of which were very informative and educative.

During the Crowdsource For Liberty, YAFO’s Nathaniel Dwamena, presented a one-minute pitch on one of its popular programs called Opportunity Summit.  Opportunity Summit is an existing speaker event that connect students, young professionals and entrepreneurs with opportunities. Having done the pitch, there were good feedback and suggestions as how to sustain the project and also leverage beneficiaries of project to support it in an all new YAFO champions campaign. We have built great network and look forward to incorporate the suggestions gained in the Opportunity Summit project.

Peter Bismark Kwofie of Institute for Liberty & Policy Innovations (ILAPI) and Director of Outreach at YAFO, gave a brief introduction of the Think Tank Sharp Tank award. He shared his experience as the winner of the maiden Award in 2017. He went further to explain how the award helped him train new Liberty champions, some of whom are actively involved in challenging University policies that hinder individual and economic freedom.

Dr. Denis Foretia of the Nkafu Policy Institute, Cameroon, won the 2018 Think Tank Shark Tank award.

Atlas Leadership Academy is a one- stop shop for valuable resources that help individuals and groups establish and effectively run their organizations. Their trainings range from webinars, short courses, to in person trainings. They help you build capacity, rethink your strategic moves as an organization and connect you with the resources needed to bring project to life.

As an organization, everything we learnt will soon reflect in our work. We encourage students, young professionals and entrepreneurs to enroll at the Atlas Leadership Academy.

 

Belinder Odek

Belinder has a Bachelor of Science in Communication and Journalism from Moi University and a Diploma in Public Relations Management from the Kenya Institute of Management. She believes in and advocates pro-liberty policies as a means to socio-economic and political development.

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