One of the things that’s unusual for an organisation the size of Akvo (70-ish people) is that we have offices around the world. Our local teams work closely with our partners to train and support people to use our tools and improve how they capture, understand and share data and information, and monitor and evaluate their work. This means we have hub and satellite offices in different parts of Africa, South Asia, Asia Pacific and North America.
Each region has it’s own communications objectives, challenges and languages. Akvo’s approach to communications has always been open, participatory and distributed. This means we can’t – and don’t want to – control regional and local communications activities centrally. But we recognise that regional teams are very busy doing their stuff and need support with their communications activities. At the same time, we’re not large enough to warrant a communications person in each location. It’s a conundrum. What to do?
Introducing the Combi Programme
For some time now, we’ve been wanting to try out a new approach to local communications that is lean, intelligent and flexible. Like a few things at Akvo, it was originally the brainchild of our former communications director, Mark Charmer. It’s called the Combi Programme.
One person in each region has stepped forward to become a ‘Combi’ – someone who has sits in their local partnership team, but also has a portion of their working week designated to work on communications and marketing activities. This is someone with an interest in and aptitude for communications, and who may or may not have relevant experience. They will be responsible for producing materials and content needed for their region, and supporting their local colleagues to do that too.
We’re running a training programme starting in July that aims to fill any skills gaps and inculcate a strong sense of Akvo’s brand identity and values and how we communicate them. Combies will work closely with the central comms team and with each other to share ideas, insights and materials, and generally support each other.
I’m pretty excited about this. I can already see how much it should benefit the entire organisation. And I am sure we, in the central comms team, are also going to learn from this process.
Here’s a three minute video explaining the Combi concept (it’s made for internal use, but we don’t mind sharing it):