Uniting and Reconciling for Self Help and Community Development


                                                                      By  Daniel B Mahn

                                                                      JULY 11,  2015

The president, Madame Helen Teah Saylee, members of Gbehlay-Geh Develoment Association, members of other development associations, both  UNICCO national and local leaderships, friends of GDA, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I want to express my gratitude and appreciation to the leadership for inviting me to address this august body during your annual program. As we gather here tonight, few months ago, the urgly  hands of death descended on our people in Liberia and helplessly they cried for relief that never came and so they departed this life. I want us to take two minutes of silence  in memories of all of our citizens who passed away due to the Ebola virus. May their Precious Souls Rest in Perfect Peace.

In the letter of invitation, the leadership recommended that I address the topic: Uniting and Reconciling for Self-Help and Community Development. I will identify what conflict is and how it affects unity , outline some factors that lead to conflicts in an organization and then I will provide some conflict management strategies.

What is a conflict? The oxford dictionary defines conflict as follows:

A serious disagreement or argument typically  a protracted one.

1.  A prolonged armed struggles.

2. An incompatibility between two or more opinions, principles or interest.

3. A condition in which  in which a person experiences a clash of opposing wishes or needs.

There are conflicts everywhere in our daily lives. We do experience conflicts with our spouses, with our children,  with our friends, our supervisors just to name a few. My focus tonight is on conflicts within organizations and how they impact the effectiveness of community leadership.

Conflicts within groups leaves a legacy of anger, bitterness and hatred among the belligerent groups. When such conflicts are not resolved amicably in a timely manner, they metastasize  and create an environment marked by  a culture of negative altitudes, prejudices and hatred . These negative vices creep into the organizations and undermine it’s effectiveness.

What are some of the common factors that lead to conflicts within development organizations?

1. The lack of effective communication on both the leadership on one hand  and  members on the other hand within the organization.           

2. The lack of proper planning, poor fund raising  and poor projects management.

3. Accountability and transparency. The leadership must always be respectful and responsive to the members and governing boards that have oversight responsibilities. Timely meetings, financial reports and the vision of the leadership must be communicated regularly.                  

4. The lack of positive working relationship with the leaders and the members  of the organization. The leaders must cultivate a positive relationship with members  and show that they care about their personal individual well being .

5. The lack of members’ commitments to the vision of the organization. From experience in our community organizations, usually the leaders bear a lion share of the responsibilities or the workload of the organization. This disproportional burden ( personal times and finances) shoulders by the leaders with minimal assistance  from the vast majority of members can have a negative impact.

6. The rebel Mindset Phenomenon.  Many Liberian organizations have difficulty in accepting rulings based on the by laws or constitution. They accept the bylaws to contest their elections but If the decisions based on the same governing documents go against their wishes , they  break away to form a rebel group.

7. The lack of professionals with the necessary skills to run a community organization. Many professional  Liberians who have the organizational leadership experiences are not willing  nor ready to run our local organizations due to professional/job responsibilities as well as families and other constraints. The communities usually settle for less sophisticated individuals who have the time and commitment.

How do we resolve conflicts within the organization in order to promote unity in community development?

According to socio-psychological theories, fundamental to the reconciliation process is the restoration and rebuilding of relationships. In order to make all injured parties whole again, one needs reconciliatory strategies to address the issues.

Start with an analysis of the types of civic organizations, and the substanability, the strength, weakness, opportunities  and barriers for peace building.

Focus the message on the mission . Why did GDA come  into being? Do our  families and love ones from every village and towns who have been completely neglected need our assistance? Those are people in whose interest we have assembled here tonight. Those are the tears we hope to wipe with these projects and transform their lives.

Bring the members together through some fun events and once again emphasize the mission of the organization in order to reduce inter-group negative attitudes. Publicly apologize for the mistakes and wrongs and ask for forgiveness in the supreme interests of those we are trying to help.  Each member must make an effort to learn conflict management strategies such as tolerance for others and constructive communicative styles within  the group.  Promote social cohesion with respect for diversity. Underscore the fact that when members of GDA are working effectively together as a group, it provides a positive and supportive environment which lead to our individual development thereby helping to move the organization forward.

Another way in which GDA becomes cohesive is through the development of group norms. The norms are the  standard of behavior and attitudes to which the group abides by. 

Adopt the eight ways to build a cohesive team: Some of which you already have. They are as follow:

a. Establish a Mission          b.Look for Diversity        c.Practice Teamwork   d.Identify Individual Strengths    

e. Communicate Effectively     f.Give Feedback     g. Ask for Feedback               h. Celebrate Success

Members of Gbeh Development Association, we need to keep our eyes on the prize. We do have tremendous amount of work ahead of us. There are so many defficies in large part due to the systematic neglect of our rural communities over the years couple with the Liberian civil war that lasted over fourteen years that we need to overcome. Later arrival on our shores is Mr. Ebola , the death angel. Our citizens have endure so much for so long. This is clarion call for progressive actions. This is the time.

I want to thank the founding members and the current leadership for their vision and insight to build a development institution to bring relief to our people.

Mr.  Alfonso Ortiz-1939 said and I quote:

“Whatever life’s challenges you may face people of Gbehlay Geh  , remember always to look to the mountaintop, for in so doing you look to greatness. Remember this, and let no problems, no matter how great it may seem, discourage you, nor let anything less than the mountaintop distract you. This is the one thought  I want to leave you with”.

Gbehlay Development Association