“Leadership requires that you empower others within your organization, trust them with the responsibility to lead, and always be approachable.”
O’Brien Makore is a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship alum and the executive director of EDZAI ISU Trust, a transformative arts organization in Zimbabwe. O’Brien intends to cultivate a safe and inclusive environment for the employees he manages. He states, “I cultivated a philosophy of adaptive leadership within the organization and created a liberal working environment where every employee feels at ease to explore new ideas and challenge old approaches.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the conventional way of working at EDZAI ISU Trust was to engage physically with an audience. O’Brien and his employees were accustomed to in-person theatre, music and film training to inspire creativity and spark intuitive ideas. He says, “Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have migrated our operations from physical to virtual.”
O’Brien and his team ran into the following three challenges due to the pandemic as they adapted to a virtual environment:
- Their organization had to create content for an online audience.
- They had to grow their social media presence.
- They had to appeal to an audience without smartphones, mobile data or reliable internet.
To meet the first challenge, O’Brien and his team sought to create artistic content and package it for online distribution on social media platforms.
EDZAI ISU Trust created high-resolution video content and engaging graphics and hosted online events. O’Brien states: “The content you create must be organic and connect with the targeted constituency. It has to be packaged in a way that stimulates interest and sparks engagement.”
To grow its social media presence, the ACTION Hub team, an initiative of the EDZAI ISU Trust organization, created social media accounts.
The team created a YouTube page, an Instagram page and a WhatsApp group. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, ACTION Hub determined those online platforms to be the best way to reach its audience members. O’Brien says: “It is important to understand the most common social media platform your targeted audience uses. Before the outbreak, our Facebook and Twitter pages were not active, with a mere 53 and seven followers, respectively. Currently, the number of our followers on both Facebook and Twitter stand at 4,030 and 445, respectively.”
EDZAI ISU Trust and ACTION Hub wanted to ensure that they were easily accessible to low-income communities in Harare, providing a space for community members to use the internet and access their online resources.
“To ensure no one is left behind, we provide free internet access at our ACTION Hub to youth and women in the community who might not have the capacity to purchase data to access our content online.”
As the restrictions on inside gatherings start to relax in Harare, O’Brien hopes to encourage his employees and audience to continue to use a hybrid approach of in-person and virtual programs. He says: “I think the hybrid approach is becoming the new normal, and judging by how many organizations have successfully adapted, I strongly believe the approach is sustainable. We can now engage physically with an audience of not more than 100 at our Hub while continuously sharing the same content to our online audience.”
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