How do you teach an elephant to dance? How do you eat an elephant in 15 months? Where is all the elephant meat? The first Africa Delivery Exchange
(ADEx), a recent workshop convened by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change in Nairobi with the heads of “delivery teams” from seven African countries, was full of pachyderm-inspired metaphors. Not because we met near Nairobi’s famous wildlife park
, but because of the weightiness of the issue that we’d gathered to discuss: how can teams in African Presidencies and Prime Minister’s offices drive their governments to deliver results for citizens whether that’s inclusive economic growth and job creation or an effective education system.
This was a rare opportunity for these exceptionally busy government leaders from countries including Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Ethiopia to swap experience around the craft of their work. Here are four things that stood out to me from the event: 1. Delivery is about changing the way government works
Critics say delivery units step on civil servants’ toes and usurp the proper role of government ministries. But what I heard from delivery unit heads in Nairobi was a focus on enabling the rest of government to function better – more orchestra conductor than security guard. “We’re not a replacement,” said of one of these government leaders. “The ministries need to own this.”
Ray Shostak, former head of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit in the UK, reflected that delivery teams across the globe often find they need to gradually convince wary ministry colleagues that they’re there to support, not just hold to account. One delivery unit director at the ADEx described initially being perceived as “the police” and only over time winning people over by stepping in as a problem solver.