Sense of Ownership: a heavy link to our own selfish nature

You should have seen us as we walked towards the new Rwandair plane the very first time. This lady passenger and I were simply beaming with pride at the blue and white craft, that perfectly matched the white patchy clouds and clear blue skies that we were going to fly into. Well, it isn’t exactly the Boeing 777, but it surely is ours, proudly Rwandan.
By Catherine Gashegu
By Catherine Gashegu

You should have seen us as we walked towards the new Rwandair plane the very first time. This lady passenger and I were simply beaming with pride at the blue and white craft, that perfectly matched the white patchy clouds and clear blue skies that we were going to fly into. Well, it isn’t exactly the Boeing 777, but it surely is ours, proudly Rwandan.

It didn’t matter that we only got to know of its existence the day it arrived, or that we didn’t know how much it had cost, or to what length it had taken to own it as Rwanda. At that moment of excitement, if we had been given soap and a pail of water to wash the plane, we would have willingly done so..

I guess that’s the true sense of ownership, when you feel you belong, and are allowed to belong, regardless of how involved you had been in the entire set up of a situation. By nature, man is very possessive, but mostly over what he believes is truly his.

For him to adopt another person’s initiative and make it as good as his own is as such a task that most people find hard to consider. Such is life that it is quite hard to get many people aboard an activity you are doing, even where the attempt is simply to reach a common goal that is beneficial to all.

This is very reflective of the work we do at various institutional levels and even so, in private work where you need to combine efforts to achieve better results.

Nothing is as frustrating as working with a counterpart person, company or institution that simply does not see the need for its involvement in achieving a goal. If this is bad in work-related partnerships, it’s much worse in the political arena. In most parts of the developing world, perhaps due to political instability, the immediate response to an initiative by an opponent, is to smear or decampaign any effort the leadership is making. When eventually the leadership changes, perfectly good systems are destroyed and new ones created, particularly to delete from memory any sense of ownership by or linkage to a previous regime to a developing process.

The Communicative Initiative issue of April 2009, describes the sense of ownership as the community’s feeling/belief that the problem/issue and/or programme belong to them and they have a commitment to the programme.

How intensively and extensively the people are involved in defining the issue or programme, the planning process and the implementation, will affect the sense of ownership.

Although quite a number of efforts and training are put into increasing ownership (stakeholder consultations, validation workshops, needs assessments, leadership skills, team-building, name it), a lot more has to be put into ensuring the concerned communities or persons to increase their appreciation and sense of belonging.

Part of this is the charisma of the leader or initiator and the maturity levels of the people being led. It is quite common for a very knowledgeable person to fail to lead a process because of say, his laid-back character or inability to entice people into an activity.

But perhaps the most important way of increasing ownership is to deal directly with the selfish aspects of humanity. In Uganda, a common phrase often referred to is ‘what do I get out this? (nafunilawa?),

so typical of the capitalist world. Is whatever is being done worth a person’s time given limited resources? What opportunity costs will a person have to incur in jumping on the bandwagon? Who will carry the blame? It is important that the concerns of the naturally selfish individual are addressed if one is to get his/her support.

Unfortunately, this often encourages lies and wishful promises, which are what an unwillingly participative person wants to hear…just like with any marketing campaign.
Kramear 1993 provides what he terms as the dimensions of sense of ownership, (still so typical of man’s selfish nature)
 Importance of the issue or programme to participants,
 Sense of responsibility for the programme,
 Contribution to the programme,
 Benefit from the programme,
 Participants’ sense of ownership of either credit or blame in the programme outcome, and
 Personal identification with the programme.

Ends

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