Do you think you can make a difference?

When I told a friend I was going to India for Women on Wings, she immediately asked me: “Do you think you can make a difference there?” This was going to be my second trip to India to do workshops with the women working for and at Avani. The rural women artisans of Avani produce eco-friendly textile products. Especially the scarfs are very beautiful. Avani helps these women and their families boosting their earnings and, more important, their self-esteem.

This time, Rashmi Bharti, co-founder and CEO of Avani, had requested support in improving internal communication and teamwork. It is interesting to see that a company, deep in the mountains of the Himalayas, struggles with the same kind of issues that also my colleagues and I struggle with. Good teamwork is all about ‘good listening’.

The workshop program consisted of two days. Day 1: everyone got to know each other better and together we made a list of all the communication challenges. Day 2: I focused on helping them to come up with their own solutions.

The first day of the workshop started with a surprise and a need to improvise. The core team of 25 women and a few men mostly spoke Hindi. Luckily both Shashank Teotia, Women on Wings business consultant, and Raju of Avani were able to translate. So we tackled this language challenge and worked through the entire workshop by help of translation, body language and a lot of laughter.

We discussed many difficult subjects; for example how hard it is to say ’no’ to someone and to communicate honestly about commitments. Are these typical Indian challenges? I don’t think so. These social and business dilemmas are general human challenges.

So did it work? Every member of the Avani core team had at least one clear personal action point. And many joint actions. Most of all, I experienced that they really loved working with each other. More like family members than colleagues.

I am proud that by sharing my expertise with Women on Wings I can make a difference. I know it makes a difference in my life.

Helene van Zutphen