As told by Frank Twum-Barimah.
I was already working in a humanitarian role, in West Africa with World Vision, when I first heard of the Humanitarian Leadership Program (HLP).
I knew immediately that it was the program I needed to sharpen my leadership skills and remain relevant in the humanitarian space.
What the Humanitarian Leadership Program was really like
The HLP isn’t your typical course. You actually become immersed in the process of what you’ll be doing in your career.
As well as the theoretical work, there were simulation exercises. These placed us into real life situations, led by guests who shared insights from their day-to-day experiences in the field.
The other participants of the week-long simulation exercises worked for a range of humanitarian organisations, and they all shared experiences, best practices and the challenges they faced in their work. It made me realise that, as humanitarians, we face the same challenges and we need to work together to address them.
But the best part was the friendships and relationships that I built with the participants from around the world. These have become fantastic networks within the humanitarian space, and that helps us all stay connected to the big picture of the work we’re doing. You just can’t beat that.
The challenges of studying while working a demanding job
Working in the field while studying was a huge challenge that taught me to take risks.
Just after the course started, I was deployed to the West Nile Refugee Response in Arua, Uganda, to work with the influx of refugees from South Sudan.
I was able to apply my on-the-ground leadership experiences to my papers and discussions, and vice versa, which made it a practical experience. I learnt to step back, read and reflect on each situation – something you don’t usually get the chance to do in such a busy environment.
And the course challenged me to ask the right questions: when do I need to be bold in my decision-making? When do I need to work with other people? When do I use my network to get things done? When do I have to step up and say I’m going to do this?
Learning that I had that courage was hard work, but absolutely worth it.
Life after the Humanitarian Leadership Program
Right after the course finished, I was seconded by World Vision to the role of Country Response Manager in Niger, which is where I am now.
When you do humanitarian work, you might be deployed into a location for a short time. You do the work, then leave – and you might not go back to that place again. What’s left behind is the work you’ve done, so it has to be done well.
The course taught me how to know myself and my values well enough in my leadership style, how to be a decisive leader without being authoritarian, and how to be transparent and consistent so that people trust my decisions.
I still keep in mind all the things I learnt during the HLP. Sometimes I reflect on what it means that, during the course, I was awarded the Abruzzo Medal. This is presented to the outstanding student who represents the values of the GCHL, exhibits the six leadership behaviours and performs well academically.
To me, this means I have to keep representing the medal by becoming the best humanitarian leader I can be, with courage, humility and service.
There is more to be done, and I have the responsibility to deliver on that.
Find out more about the HLP
The next Humanitarian Leadership program starts in July 2020. Enter your email to get the course flyer.