Parenting and Governance: It Takes a Network

Aiding peer exchange with the Africa Board Fellowship program

Last year, before I was a parent, my colleague Deborah Drake wrote a blog post asking “What do Governance and Parenting Have in Common?” Now that I am a parent, I would like to draw another commonality between governance and parenting: both are easier said than done!

There is plenty of literature out there on the best practices of parenting but in reality, it is really hard work, full of uncertain information and mixed advice. You may know the importance of letting them cry it out, feeding veggies, limiting screen time, or talking to your kids about risky behavior. However, we also know how hard these things can be to do in practice, and how often they get avoided, explained away, or ignored. It is often hard as a parent to take a long-term view or to experience the short-term pain needed for long-term gain. You just have to pick your battles, hope for the best outcome, and know there will be unforeseen challenges and crises along the way.

Same goes for governance. It is tricky to bring up the difficult conversations at board meetings, hard to think strategically about the long-term when you are busy putting out today’s fires. It is challenging to adhere to all the recognized best practices, and often difficult even to decipher which practices are important to adhere to.

In both parenting and governing, it is helpful to have advice and benchmarks to sort through all the noise. Googling teething or breastfeeding may provide some help, as will reading up on risk management or strategic alignment. But too often, these searches will leave you wondering where you actually stand between “nothing to worry about” and “oh boy, do we have a problem.” This is because these topics are harder to learn from literature and easier to learn from people who have been there.

As a parent, it is critical to have a network. We have leaned heavily on new daycare friends and playgroup acquaintances to share information, swap stories, recommend doctors, and get advice. It is incredibly helpful to laugh about the mistakes we make as parents with others who understand how hard it is. The camaraderie I feel with my fellow parents-in-arms is strong, and I rely on them as a support network to help me sort through the noise and find my own style as a parent.

Governance is no different – board members and CEOs need support networks. This is why we are launching the Accion Africa Board Fellowship (ABF) program. This program is designed to engage board members and CEOs throughout sub-Saharan Africa in peer learning and exchange. It is our hope that connecting leaders throughout Africa through this fellowship program will create a platform for peers to share their experiences and lessons learned. The ABF is designed as an opportunity for fellows to frankly and openly discuss the successes they have celebrated and the challenges they have encountered.

The ABF program is a chance for fellows to share “this is how we dealt with a time of change, transformation, growth,” or to provide insights on introducing new technologies. It will give fellows an opportunity to think strategically about the long-term view, to build the resolve needed to address the important governance challenges, and to create a peer support network able to share insights, resources, and experience. It is a fellowship for African leaders to help each other sort through the noise.

Parenting is like governance, both require a peer support network, both are important responsibilities that you have to take seriously, and both are easier said than done.

We look forward to more formally introducing the ABF program soon. Stay tuned for more information.

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