Taking a break to reboot: ECF Annual Retreat

Mentors' team in one of the breakout sessions..
Mentors’ team in one of the breakout sessions..

In the beginning of April 2014, the ECF team took off for a 5-day break. Yes, a break which definitely involved a lot of fun and games, between intense sessions of retrospection, strategic thought, planning and preparation for the year ahead.

The 5-day Annual Retreat was designed to skillfully engage every member of the team in the process of reflecting upon and taking stock of our work.  The aim was to ensure that the reflections/learning can pave a more effective way forward.

The “River of Life” session focussed on creating a pool of information and knowledge for ECF, by drawing from each person’s individual experiences, learnings, challenges and sources of motivation. This was an important exercise that culled out intuitive points of reference and suggestion. These come together in making the strategy the organization adopts that much more fine-tuned and incisive. “This was a very insightful and useful session, which gave us a chance to understand the overall ECF journey and each person’s personal journey in it. I think it was necessary for us to reflect on the past, using all the multiple mediums, in order to effectively plan what we see ourselves doing in the future,” says Ramesh, who has been a mentor for the past 3 years.

Annual Retreat 2In a unique session titled “Wishing Tree” the team put together a virtual collage of the changes and improvements that they would like to see and implement as an organization, in the coming months. It drew on each person’s contribution to change management and highlighted the areas that could be strengthened in strategy. “The Annual Retreat helped to bring us all on same platform, both concepts and perspectives. It refreshed and energized the staff. This is a very important process of retrospection and gives us a chance to increase the scope of work for ECF,” says Shrikant, program development associate.

The 5 days saw various interactions that drew avid discussions on the best ways to communicate the work we are involved in, to various stakeholders and external audiences, as well as sessions where the mentors shared feedback and experiences from communities.

“The role play presented by the mentors, which demonstrated a day in the life of a mentor was particularly interesting for me. Though this is something I know so well, the role-play just made it more visceral and brought it alive. The 5 away days were insightful, creating a mental space for reflection, getting to know the team and an understanding of how we all fit in,” says Claire, Research and Development Manager at ECF. Some of the other sessions covered topics such as: ECF theory of change, ECF 5 year strategy, priorities for every team member, team development plans, and so on.

Annual Retreat 4“The Annual Retreat this time was very interactive, with the voicing of opinions/experiences by each staff member. The session where Mentors had a platform to present the challenges they face while working in communities was really good.  Everyone had a chance to speak about our strengths and weaknesses,” says Anjana, ECF’s Program Manager. While the whole team can vouchsafe for the fun and unwinding that the Annual Retreat allowed, there is no doubt that batteries have definitely been recharged. Each individual has brought back a renewed motivation to the tasks at hand, and a sharpened sense of vision for what lies ahead for us as an organization.