‘To move forward we need to hire, train, motivate and reward the right people’
Debola Deji-Kurunmi, is a Certified Workplace Personality Profile Analyst, Job Evaluation Analyst as well as a World Bank project facilitator. She has received degrees and executive education from Obafemi Awolowo University, United Nations University of Peace, Pan Atlantic University, Nigeria and University of Minnesota, USA. Since 2004, she has actively inspired young people especially women, to pursue their passion and serve their purpose through her transformative mentoring, coaching and leadership. Deji-Kurunmi is the Founder and Executive Director at Ideation Hub Africa, a social impact incubator for early-stage social entrepreneurs and nonprofits. Since 2015, Ideation Hub has hosted Development Dialogue, which is currently Nigeria’s foremost thought-leadership conference for NGOs, Social Entrepreneurs and Changemakers. She speaks with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA on its forthcoming Development Dialogue among other issues.
What issues in the society will the Development Dialogue conferences address?
We are quite excited about the dialogue because it is one of the leading conferences in Nigeria today bringing together the players in the development sector. We started the Development Dialogue in 2015, so this is our fourth edition and so far, over 700 entrepreneurs, social innovators, NGO leaders, CSR practitioners and public servants have been part of the experience in person but we have an online network of over 4, 000 professionals who are impacted by our different initiatives. My central aim for convening the dialogue is to help our delegates plug into a powerful community of other change-makers, as well as learn the key insights needed for transforming society in whichever sector. This year, our focus is on Advancing Sustainable Impact through effective Human Capital Management. Basically, we want to show these nonprofits, foundations and civil societies how to better leverage people power to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We’ve been talking a lot about pushing for the SDGs and we’ve mapped out strategies for fundraising, credible data gathering, grassroots engagement and impact evaluation. But the real missing link is people. If we don’t know how to hire, train, motivate, reward and rally the right people for the vision; we are going nowhere.
What has been the impact of the conference and what stands this year’s edition out?
Development Dialogue has been a highly anticipated event for the social sector. We’ve been the platform that congregates Africa’s foremost thought-leaders, creates platforms for collaboration amongst the entrepreneurs, and we’ve seen eight ventures start from delegates who attended the Dialogue. Some of past speakers have been Dr. Ousman Dore (Nigerian Country Director, African Development Bank), Ndidi Nwuneli, Mosun Layode, Gbenga Sesan, Akin Fatunke, Chude Jideonwo, Nike Adeyemi (ED, FATE Foundation), Akin Olukiran, Peter Bankole, Dr. Bryon-Adesina, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Ronke Eko Aderionye, Funbi Falayi amongst others. This year’s Dialogue holds on November 29, 2018 at Zone Tech Park, Lagos. Finally, our highest highlight is the Talent of the Future Awards. We encourage organisations to nominate their young exceptional employees, and we will award them a Talent of the Future. Awardees also receive honorary plaques, career mentorship, field trip to an international nonprofit as well as books and resources.
In your vast experience working with women, what do you consider the biggest obstacle to pursuing their dreams and achieving set goals?
I believe that women are exceptional beings with irrepressible strength and incredible wisdom. Satan knows that if a woman is not deceived, a family stands strong – so he goes for the woman. He goes for the woman like a prime target because she is a prime threat. When I look at women, I often wonder why it is so tough for this special specie of God to see how blessed they are and how powerfully they are wired. There are so many challenges that human beings face, and it is tough to put it down to one thing that holds a woman back, but permit me to speak of the Identity War. The Identity War is an age long assault against women, and it could be a huge obstacle I have seen a lot of women grapple with. It forces a woman to see herself from the lens of her body only. She is confronted constantly with lies that try to define her by a set of societal expectations – how to look, when to marry, who to marry, how many children she should have, if she should work when she has children, how opinionated she is allowed to be etc. Some women will try to be perfect wives, so they can live under the shadow of their husbands, never finding themselves and always resentful. It’s still the war. So the first liberty is the liberty of definitions. Going on the treasure hunt of discovering who you are, what you want, what you have and where you want to go as a woman will be the beginning of many miracles in your life. It’s why I always recommend my breakthrough online coaching program Immerse 30-Day Transformation Challenge.
You are an author, speaker, entrepreneur, mentor, wife and mum, how do you blend all these caps?
The first is that you must determine the balls to juggle in the different seasons of your life. Your life has many balls, but not every of those balls are priority in every season. Determine what requires foremost focus and set your eyes on them. Vision is what refines and confines our options. It helps us know what to do and what not to do.
And these things are never cast in stone, because our lives consists several fluid transitions from time to time. Second, I closely watch how my mentors balance their lives too.
I thankfully have parents and mentors who have full, productive lives and they hold it up well. So I keenly observe, obtain wisdom and apply to my own life. There’s, however, need to adjust to suit your unique reality. Finally, I cannot overemphasize the great importance of a support system. My dad and mum are two of the most significant support systems in my life. Just this weekend, I am dropping off my children with them so I can be at a critical weekend-long event along with my husband. Find your support system; nurture those relationships so you can leverage them when needed.
What is your key advise to women on being relevant?
Don’t copy anyone. Until you find your message, don’t seek a platform. Let your voice be formed and fortified before you start to speak from the top of the mountains. Don’t allow any other person’s success put you under pressure. Be under the creative pressure of personal growth and personal evolution. As you grow, your relevance will grow.
How has your growing up influenced your passion for what you do?
Growing up has been the most defining part of my life so far. I think the first 15 years of my life shaped everything that I have really become because my parents have a right mix of tenderness and discipline. I also grew with siblings who indulged me so much, because I was the opinionated and moody girl who they’d literally pamper out of her moods. I’m not that girl anymore, but it’s indelible in my heart that I was surrounded with love all my growing years. I have memories of a lot of fun outings with the entire family. I also have fond memories of my father speaking to me and challenging my thinking as a girl. He gave us newspapers to read, and by 11, I had read Ake, the Years of Childhood by Wole Soyinka. My dad and I still have insider jokes from books and childhood experiences. I remember him clearly asking us to repeat after him the things he had said to us. We were literally making things like faith confessions as at then and we didn’t even know. I think these deeply shaped my desire for God and my spirituality.
How do you relax?
Spending time with my amazing lover-husband relaxes me. I know it sounds like cliché but it’s the truth. I also clown around with my children, friends and sisters. Solitude also refreshes my soul, and that’s why spending time alone is non-negotiable in my routine.