As I travel to world events this year and share with other leaders that we will depart Rwanda and Africa in 2019, I am asked this question again and again: “Will Rwanda Taekwondo make it without you?” Boy, I sure pray to God it will!
I really like things that last. As you may know from previous posts in 2017 that I really am proud of my big Toyota 70 series Land Cruiser. It is the type that the United Nations uses for ambulances. It is simple, highly functional and strong. It has seating for 15 and once I even took it on a safari with 14 people and all the camping gear as well! It is a beast and it is resilient. It will last. As now it has been revived from last years’s “death in the river crash”, it seems almost indestructible.
Wouldn’t it be nice if our work in sport development could be that resilient, that it would continue on long after our presence here has ended? First, you initiate a work or project by pouring yourself into it. Then, along the way, you find worthy individuals to invest in through equipping and empowering them to partner with and work alongside you. Eventually, you become so busy, developing, leading, experimenting, and forming as well as trying to pay for it all, that you quickly forget that one day you will be gone, donors will grow weary, and the project, sport, or initiative could come to a very sad and abrupt end.
Sustainability via transference of ownership – The first and most important step in establishing sustainability is the transferring of “ownership” for the project or sport from the developer to the beneficiaries. Hopefully the developer will consider this before initiating the project; clearly establishing that the initiative is not only needed by the potential beneficiaries but is highly desired as well. As local beneficiaries of the initiative are brought on board in the equipping and empowering process, ownership naturally transfers with the entrusting of responsibilities from the developer to the beneficiary leadership. An ownership transference on the intellectual, technical, emotional, and physical levels ensures that longevity will occur.
Sustainability from good governance – Governance, particularly good governance in sport is one of the hottest topics in lectures generated by the International Olympic Committee and the world’s top sport federations. This has occurred mostly because of the plethora of scandals that has rocked the sporting world from embezzlement and bribery to doping in the previous five years. As I personally met several of these scandal ridden leaders in the past few years, I was motivated to assist Rwanda Taekwondo with leadership structures that would result in good governance and ultimately scandal prevention. One of these measures I took was to write a policy and procedures manual that supported their federation constitution statutes. In the manual we attempt to address as many issues of governance as possible in addition to establishing procedures of risk management. These will go a long way to help foster sustainability.
Financial Sustainability specific to sport – Most organizations, when quizzed about the necessary components of sustainability, will begin with their financial concerns. In reality, though, if the controls provided by governance aren’t in place, then no matter how strong the financial investment is, all will be eventually lost and a few people may wind up in jail.
For Rwanda Taekwondo, financial sustainability happens on two levels. The fist level is that of daily operations. This is being established in Rwanda through its building up of a membership system. It will pay for the national staff and coaches as well as seminars and local events. It also highly motivates the national leaders to focus on growth and expansion as their salaries are dependent on that and this in its own way ensures additional sustainability.
The second level is that of high performance. This is the most expensive aspect of a national sport body and for it to occur properly, even for a small sport in a small country like Rwanda it carries a price tag of around one million USD per Olympic 4 year cycle. By the way, that is very inexpensive for such high potential of medals on the Olympic and world levels. This can only occur, in the short term via large private and public sector stakeholder gifts. Ironically, it won’t occur without initial investment and high level performance, which means you may be putting your next world event on your Bank of America credit card and praying hard for a few medals so you’ll get reimbursed when you get home.
The lasting impact of sport – Beyond the governance and fundraising efforts, sport is a living organism that displays great resilience and has the potential for impact on an entire nation. Over the years, I have been amazed by the rapid growth and successes for Rwanda Taekwondo. Here with only one year to go, I am full of hope that it will last beyond me and by God’s grace continue to have a lasting impact on healing Rwanda from the genocide of 1994 as well as helping to write a new story for the Rwandan people.