Building Bridges Between Kenya & Minnesota

Laura Norris at Century DTM
Working with Century DTM, Laura Norris (far right) learned some things aren’t that different between Kenya and the U.S.

It’s almost a cliché: An organization’s strongest assets are its employees. But this is especially true for organizations working on international development. Spotty electricity, long drives to meet with clients and other challenges can test the resolve of even the most dedicated employee.

When Laura Norris first met the team at Century DTM in Kenya in late 2012, its small staff of 16 people was successfully serving 2,900 microfinance clients. But the team knew they had to expand quickly to manage the organization’s aggressive growth plans.  It had recently received its license to accept deposits and had established its first deposit-taking branch in the capital city, Nairobi. It now wanted to expand its branches into rural Kenya and needed a range of new staff positions to support the expansion.  Its leadership team well understood the risks of not having enough staff.

Century’s challenges weren’t all that new to Laura, an accomplished human resources consultant and member of the Grameen Foundation Bankers without Borders’ HR Reserve Corps. She had more than 20 years of human capital management experience, earned working with corporations, nonprofits and educational institutions.

After remotely completing some preparatory work, she traveled from Minnesota to Nairobi to conduct a series of interviews with Century’s leadership and field staff, and to delve into the culture and operations of the organization.

“I met the most wonderful, passionate team at Century DTM who truly share and live Grameen Foundation’s mission and spirit to serve the poor. I met people truly committed to offering a way out of poverty to many families,” said Laura.

“From a human resources professional perspective,” she continued, “it was an enriching experience to learn that an organization half a world away shares many of the same organizational issues we face in the US. This was a wonderful experience and I hope to have another assignment in the future.”

In her final report, Laura analyzed Century’s current state of business practices and strategic challenges, and also provided a summary of gaps between the organization’s current state of Human Capital Management practices and what it needed to support its mission and business strategy. The report offers specific, practical and feasible recommendations that can help Century increase the performance and effectiveness of its workforce, its internal processes, and the implementation of its business strategies.
For its part, the Century DT team couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.

“Laura gave us more value than we had expected and was a great guide. I asked for a volunteer from Bankers without Borders and I got more than I bargained for,” said Pauline Githugu, Century’s CEO. “We had our Human Resources streamlined, managed to simplify a very complex process of acquisition of a new core banking system, and I gained a new friend in the process! Bankers without Borders is just the thing required to give a boost to the next level, especially when the purse is tight.”

Century is currently applying some of Laura’s recommendations and exploring the possibility of engaging Bankers without Borders for a second phase.

Grameen Foundation has been at the forefront of strategically using skilled volunteers to address social challenges around the globe. We believe a global skillanthropy movement is a critical part of the solution. Sign up today to be a part of the movement, read Bankers without Borders’ new impact report and join the Twitter conversation on skilled volunteerism using #BwBTurns5.