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The Leadership Academy - Week One

On the first day of school the air always feels different – suffused, somehow, with the excitement of the occasion. Sights, feelings, and sensations are heightened as you take in new surroundings, relishing each moment and preparing for the journey ahead.

​Wednesday, October 1st was the first day of school for 25 of our artisan partners as classes launched at our brand new Leadership Academy in Kigali. Students, selected from across our partner cooperatives, gathered in our Academy classroom promptly at 9 AM, overflowing with excitement and enthusiasm for what was to come.

After a detailed orientation and question-and-answer session, the students got to work studying the advanced-business-topic-of-the-day: inventory management. The goal of the lesson was to help the students develop effective strategies for tracking products and materials at their cooperatives. Rosine Urujeni, our Country Director, began the session by defining key vocabulary terms and reviewing some tried-and-true methods of inventory management. Once the lecture was over, she turned it over to the students to put what they learned into practice.

The students broke into small groups to complete inventory-tracking exercises based on the kinds of scenarios they experience everyday at their cooperatives. The class ended with a lively competition between the students over which group could get the most answers right. They were, of course, all winners in our eyes.

Day two’s lesson topic was communications with buyers and donors. The goal of the session was to understand the motivations of buyers and donors and hone methods for communicating with them. The class went through several example buyer and donor profiles and brainstormed methods for communicating with them. Rosine then led a discussion on communication best practices, emphasizing the importance of empathy, honesty, accuracy, responsiveness, and enthusiasm. At the end of class, students got to put these methods to the test through a series of role-play exercises - which many took above and beyond, challenging their scene partners with particularly tough characters.

At the end of the session, many of the students expressed how much they appreciated that the lessons were tailored specifically to them and the kinds of challenges they face at their cooperatives. Moving forward, we are confident that they will use the lessons they learn to grow and improve their businesses, leading to increased income and prosperity for all of our artisan partners. We cannot wait for what the rest of the semester has in store, and neither can they!