2014 was an incredible year for Development Three (D3). We, as co-founders, took numerous challenges head on and got results! The year taught us a great deal about ourselves particularly becoming aware of and understanding of the blurred lines between work and fun.
Muneezay Jaffery (MJ): Last year started with us halfway through a 2013 project. We were getting our feet wet and becoming conscious of where our strengths lie both as an organisation and as two individuals. Practical experience gave us an inkling of the work we wanted to do and start focusing on how to get it.
We had two remarkable interns helping us with our business development and social media, researching organisations for us to contact and maintaining our twitter page. We quickly realised the value of having a blog and set one up. One of my first entries was Development Skeptics, in which I wrote:
“Since working at Development Three I have constantly had to think and rethink about the projects I choose to work on. It is a trade-off between getting work and doing the right work.”
I still stand by that. However, at the same time I now realise it isn’t about being rigid, but adapting our services to the needs of the organisations we connect with. Mid-way through the year (on advice of our intern, Claudia) we decided to, set up a Facebook page. I was hesitant about doing this mainly because I was over thinking the “unprofessional” aspects of being on Facebook. Quite the opposite happened, the page has provided us an excellent avenue to engage with people on a personal level alongside sharing the work we are doing.
Akash Ghai (AG): In the earlier part of the year Muneezay and I were moving full flight with our projects, making sure that we widened our network and build on the solid foundation we’d set in 2013. Unexpected moments arose on our side and with clients, which meant we had to achieve results while being flexible enough to account for different situations. This taught me about my personal ability to make executive decisions regarding these moments, and not letting these situations determine our capacity to deliver results.
In the latter part of the year, a lot changed in my personal life I got married and moved from London to New York and had a lovely honeymoon in Hawaii. So no major changes(!) Visa legalities, paperwork, and finding and buying an apartment among many other activities has kept me busy. It’s been difficult to adapt to the move but now that things are settling down it looks like we’re more likely to be in a better place to deliver projects.
MJ: Looking back, I realise working across time zones was a factor through out the year. My most recent memory is from November 2014 when I woke up at 4 am in Cambodia to take a Skype call with Akash and a contact in San Francisco. This wasn’t something new for us; we’d already been working on similar projects since early 2014. My one take-away for working across time zones would be promptness in replies, reliability in getting the work done and efficiency.
AG: Even while I was in London, Muneezay and I were operating across time zones, from Africa to Australia we have been able to adapt the way we work. Moving to New York has added an extra dimension to the time zone situation. This is advantageous for me because by the time I wake up Muneezay’s already done a day’s worth of work! Joking aside, I feel that the time difference is a challenge but is something we have adapted well to.
MJ: Ever since I failed to submit my first ever university essay on time (in 2004) I made a pact with myself to never miss a deadline. A decade later and I have been true to my word. We completed around six projects in 2014 each one submitted on time and well presented (thanks to Akash’s hawk-eye reviewing and editing). A continued struggle is the trade-off between looking for new work and completing the existing work, it almost makes me wish there was two of me!
AG: Running D3 is a constant exhilarating experience, at any one moment we may have two or three projects on the go. This forces me to constantly remember to keep things simple, and use my knowledge in a practical way. I was working for the Commonwealth while set were setting up and running D3 so time management hasn’t been an issue for me. Now I am learning about how to sell D3 to secure new work in the US, a new market that on the surface looks like it is more open to working with us. I realise that my London-based network is becoming a useful tool to generate leads and connections with people in New York. As Muneezay suggested it’s about getting the balance between securing and delivering quality work, which is something that we have to maintain.
MJ: If 2014 was a year of learning and self-growth. I envisage 2015 to be more about honing in on what we are good at and where we are most appreciated.
AG: Having finally got a footing in New York, I am starting to connect with organisations and people within the US nonprofit, NGO and social enterprise communities. This will definitely result in a shift in the type of organizations we work with in 2015. Constant reflection has helped us make decisions and this will surely continue for years to come.