We give weltwärts networks the chance to introduce themselves in our partner newsletter. For the latest issue, we spoke to Felix Edem Kodzo Ekpeko from the West African weltwärts network.
Networking across language barriers
When and why was the weltwärts network in West Africa set up?
Felix Ekpeko: The West African weltwärts Network (WAWN) was set up in October 2018 at the partner conference in Lomé, Togo. The network is a result of organisations from five different countries creating a platform that aims to provide opportunities for communication and a framework for the weltwärts programme stakeholders in West Africa to refer to.
How does WAWN work? What kind of activities does WAWN offer?
Felix Ekpeko: We are still in the early stages of our work as the COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on our activities. So far, we have discussed our experiences within the programme via video conferences and offered online seminars. We have also already put on a workshop on strategic planning, which involved developing the network’s rules, vision, duties and aims.
How many members does WAWN have? Which countries do they come from? Do they pay a membership fee?
Felix Ekpeko: We currently have around 30 members from organisations in Benin, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal and Togo; the majority of the organisations come from Togo. During the partner conference in Berlin, Germany last November, we met many other organisations from these countries and I think that soon we will have around 40 members. One difficult aspect, however, is the language. Some people prefer French, some only speak English, but we always find a solution that allows us to understand one another. At the moment members do not pay a fee; however, we will probably ask that they do make a contribution in the near future. This will support our work and ensure we can offer seminars and other activities.
How does WAWN find new members?
Felix Ekpeko: The organisations that we met at the partner conference in Berlin in November 2022 are interested in becoming members of our network. We are currently in the process of sharing our values, requirements and aims with them. They are very welcome to join the network. In the future, we would like to try and establish sub-networks in the five countries that will look for partners and members in their regions.
What are the WAWN’s aims for the next two years?
Felix Ekpeko: We are looking for opportunities to organise a general meeting with existing members and interested organisations. In doing so, we are aiming to firmly establish our position and discuss general points relating to the implementation of our strategic plan. This year we will also be organising seminars with members from the five countries and an international volunteering day as part of the network. As well as this, we would like to create a website for the network. At the moment, all communication takes place via a WhatsApp group. Since we work in five different countries, we want to set up a sub-network in each country to enable more effective dialogue within the individual countries and find more members in the five countries.
What has been your personal highlight of networking with weltwärts?
Felix Ekpeko: From the very beginning of my many years working as a coordinator for volunteer programmes, particularly for the weltwärts programme, I have been involved in many project areas. I enjoy the ongoing dialogue with volunteers and working with other programme organisations. I have also benefited hugely from the partner conferences in Germany, Ghana and Togo. They enabled me to better understand the goals and the weltwärts programme and meet many interesting people from various organisations. These experiences mean I can help make dialogue amongst the organisations easier and pass on my knowledge on successful networking.
How do you engage with other networks?
Felix Ekpeko: We invited a member from SAwN (South Africa weltwärts network) to our first workshop in Togo. It is great working with SAwN and we benefit greatly from engaging with this network as they have more experience with networking.