PEPY Empowering Youth Staff Retreat 2016
From the 28th of March to 1st of April 2016, the whole PEPY Empowering Youth team traveled to Battambang to take part in 5 days of strategic planning and training, all with a view to taking the organization forward in the most positive and effective way possible.
The staff team met bright and early on Monday morning, loaded up the van and made our way to Battambang, approximately 170km from Siem Reap. Before heading to Battambang itself, the team made a stop at Sek Sork resort, a beautiful riverside spot which provided the perfect opportunity for a refreshing swim. After a couple of hours in the cool water, we hopped back in the van and headed to the hotel for a clean-up before dinner.
The hard work started on Tuesday, with our Executive Director and Communications & Fundraising Director – Sarakk Rith and Gemma Marshall respectively – leading a session on strategic planning. PEPY’s current strategic plan will come to a close at the end of 2016, so the team needed to start planning our objectives for the next period from 2017 to 2020. We looked closely at the last SWOT analysis and selected the most significant strengths and weaknesses to focus on in the coming months. While it is of course important to celebrate our successes, it’s also vital to recognize where the organization could improve, so we can work on these points in the future. In addition to looking at the SWOT analysis, the team worked in individual departments to figure out their own strengths and weaknesses before presenting them to the rest of the team. Although it was a very long day, everyone kept up a high level of engagement and participation, leaving us with some great ideas to develop further.
The strategic planning continued on Wednesday morning, with each department coming up with targets for the next three years. Strategic planning is a tricky process, as all the departments are intricately linked. For example, if the Programs team wants to make an amendment to one of the programs, they must liaise with the Finance team to work out how much it is realistically going to cost. The Finance team must in turn speak with the Fundraising team to make sure that they find enough donors to cover the costs. By the end of the session, we had not only come up with objectives for each department, but we had discussed how they all fit together, and established a number of organization-wide aims. This wouldn’t have been possible with a lot of hard work from Gemma and Sarakk, and great teamwork from the whole team.
For the final 2 days of the retreat, an external trainer came and worked with the team on project management. We worked in small groups to detect a problem, and we then teased out the root causes of that problem. The final step was to write down all the causes of the problem, both on a small scale (e.g. within Kralanh district, PEPY’s target region) and a larger national scale. We learned about the variety of ways that a problem can be analyzed and broken down so that it becomes more digestible and, hopefully, easier to tackle. The final morning was spent looking at Monitoring & Evaluation structures, again with the aim of finding the most effective for PEPY Empowering Youth as an organization. A lot of information was relayed during the project management sessions and it was a really good opportunity for the team, particularly the newer members, to work together to break down and analyze some significant problems.
Needless to say, the team worked extremely hard during the four days of sessions, but we also took some time to relax and enjoy some free time together. Aside from the visit to Sek Sork resort, we also took a ride on the famous Battambang bamboo train and visited one of the oldest houses in the town. As a small team, we work very closely together, so this retreat was a great chance to spend some time together outside of the office and get to know each other better. We had a lot of fun and hope that the energy of the retreat will drive the team forward to make PEPY Empowering Youth even better in the years to come!