8 August 2013

Liberia: Collaboration Is the Way Forward


There was a time when many Liberians did nothing but fuss and fight with each other about who is the brightest, biggest or the best. That time was not so long ago. Look around the Liberian communities and you will still find Liberians competing rather than collaborating (except when holding entertainment events). How many water and sanitation, education, and charitable organizations can there be? Existing Liberian nonprofit organizations and businesses perhaps need to be strengthened before new ones are created. This way, fewer and more meaningful organizations are created and supported rather than starting similar ones that add very little value. This also means that existing Liberian organizations (profit or nonprofit) must recruit diverse mangers, adopt efficient processes and provide meaningful services and/or products.

The Growth and Employment Exchange (www.growth-exchange.com) reviews and analyzes dozens of Liberian organizations, institutions and businesses and has found quite a few innovative concepts and endeavors. Shoe for Liberia, started a few years ago by Tarkus Zonen and Macsu A. Hill, collects used shoes and footwear and donates them to the under-privileged in Liberia (www.shoesforliberia.org). The Power to Do Something which pioneered the I.M.AG.E campaign, started by Karen Koukou-Twaglee and a group of amazing Liberian women continue to motivate and empower Liberian girls and women (www.thepowertodosomething.org). The Khana Group (T.K.G), a development consulting firm, started by Taa Wangbe, Ella Gorgla and Orane Barrett, three dynamic Liberian management consultants, is another vivid example of Liberian collaborative excellence that is making a remarkable difference in Liberia.

Still, much more needs to be done to strengthen these existing Liberian organizations. More financial and technical support must be garnered and much more marketing and capacity building is desperately needed. Public awareness, particularly within the broader Liberian circle will need to be deployed in order to widen these organizations' support base and management. When this is done, they will be able to make a more compelling case that could discourage others from mimicking their organizations and lend them more support instead.

One way to discourage duplication of existing Liberian organizations and businesses is to build an institutional model as oppose to personality-based ones. The test of this is to remove individuals and personalities from the organization's image and see if it survives. This ensures organizations are merited on ideas and not individualism; thereby, allowing them to incorporate capable and more experienced Liberian managers; even if it means a "creator" sometimes playing a subordinate role. Another way to attract more people and interest in many of these endeavors is by Liberian organizations supporting other Liberian organizations outside of their immediate circle and network. Most Liberian organizations are tailored along class, social, ethnic, academic and economic lines which make it extremely difficult for others outside of those lines to participate or benefit. One example of this is the fact that most Liberian organizations do not involve or invite those without white-collar or corporate backgrounds (to serve on their boards and in key areas) even though blue-collar workers and technicians could be considered professionals and can bring a good technical-mix to their organization's leadership.

The fate of Liberian organizations will depend upon whether or not they broaden their network, leadership and support base. This should form the basis for stronger and more significant partnerships and perhaps slow or even eliminate the need for duplicated ideas and efforts in Liberia's post-war development.

Chu-Chu Alex Jones is a financial analyst. He is an independent Wall Street currency, commodity and derivatives trader. He is the director of The Growth and Employment Exchange (G.E.E.), an economic development and management firm that coordinates development projects in Africa. Alex can be reached at

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