Deepening Strategic Engagement


Proper application of the science of strategic engagement in reaching out to, and connecting with stakeholders is crucial to business growth, Raheem Akingbolu writes.

Getting across to, and engaging with, major and important stakeholders is one of the challenges faced by brands of all kinds – personality brands, products, organisations, institutions or even non-profit and civil society groups – in today’s globalised world. To achieve it requires stakeholder mapping, in which the brand promoters dissect the various publics and then design messages based on the needs of each stake-holding public, without losing the compelling nature of the message and the singularity of its purpose.

More challenging is the fact that most non-governmental and civil society organisations do not consider the need to apply the science of strategic engagement in reaching out to, and connecting with, their core stake-holding publics. One social change, non-profit organisation that appears to be getting this right is the Mindshift Advocacy for Development Initiative.

Setting the pace
After her launch recently in Abuja, to a select audience of government officials, business executives, political actors, the civil service, and members of the public; last week, the group again unveiled its social change blue-print to another critical audience – the Youth – in Lagos. The Mindshift Advocacy group strategically targeted another key audience in this event held in Ikeja, Lagos.

At the event, symbolically tagged ‘Lagos 70,’ were carefully selected urbane and suave youths who are influencers in their own right. The aim is to leverage their clout and discernment to pass on the social change message cultivated and promoted by the Mindshift Advocacy for Development Initiative to the larger Nigerian youth population.

Focus area
The Founder and Board of Trustee member of the Mindshift Advocacy for Development Initiative, Mr. Joko Okupe, in the first presentation, introduced the concept, vision and mission of Mindshift to the audience. According to him, the Initiative was incorporated as a non-partisan movement that all Nigerians can effectively identify with, and get involved, to tackle this menace that has kept Nigeria and the entire African continent down for so long. Okupe also explained that to achieve efficiency and steady results, the initiative has in place well-articulated key focus areas toward its agenda. These areas are: family and society, government and politics, education, business and economy, media, arts and entertainment, innovation and technology, religion, culture, and health and wellness. Additionally, it will approach this systematically through social research, targeted issues campaigns, action-oriented initiatives, knowledge sharing, events, and public discourse.

He rationalised the need for a mental shift of all Nigerians. “We have to change the way we think. I mean to change our mindset – the way we perceive things, our values, our priorities, our beliefs, in fact our worldview. We need to inspire all positive possibilities as more Nigerians buy into the idea of mindshift. People in government need to know that their purpose is to serve the people. They are servants of the people, and not masters to some slaves.

The citizens need to understand their positions in the society; they need to know that they are citizens and not slaves. They need to be responsible and also know how to hold the leaders accountable. Everyone needs to understand their roles in the spectrum. At the two poles of probable virtuosity, service for the common good comes superior compared to service for self. Currently, in Nigeria’s leadership landscape, service for self, super-ordinates service for the common good. This is a function of mindset, and it needs to change. To change it means to change the mindset first.”

Okupe explained that “the bane of Nigeria’s existential condition, and by extension, that of the African continent, is the mindset of Africans as individuals, communities and nations, about themselves and the mindset of the rest of the world about Africa. The wrong mindset of Nigerians and Africans in general, which influences the way we do things, has created myriads of problems for us such as: lack of visionary and purposeful leadership, bad governance standards, erosion and loss of good value systems, corruption, poor understanding of global issues and how it impacts their lives; unprecedented never-ending poverty, heavy debt burdens, over dependence on international aids, endless conflicts, inadequate education etc.”

Africa’s transformation and mindsets
He cited the President of Rwanda, Mr. Paul Kagame, who once said that Africa’s transformational change will first happen at the level of mindsets before it is translated into concrete actions. Okupe firmly believes that Africa’s journey of transformation starts with changing how people think. “It is vital for citizens of all ages and social classes to have the right mindset because they are the ones who would be actively involved in the day-to-day actions that bring about sustainable transformation.” According to Mr. Okupe, the Mindshift Advocacy is actually focused on shifting mindsets from negative to positive. We cannot but pay attention to how people think. We must have that clear understanding. That essentially is the crux of the Mindshift Advocacy.”

He stressed that every effort geared at re-orientating the citizens with a view to making them develop positive and progressive mindsets as individuals, society and at national levels, would put us on the road to meaningful and effective transformation of the continent for sustainable growth and development. This is why: “The changes we wish to make have more to do with how we think than what we actually do, because thinking patterns ultimately influence actions. We need to get our citizens to embrace positive mindsets that can impact thought and action for our progress and development. We must also lead by example by thinking and acting differently.”

A former Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Adamawa State, and member BOT, Mindshift Advocacy for Development Initiative, Ahmad Sajoh also made a presentation at the Lagos programme. In his speech he explained that the Mindshift movement is focused on redirecting the mindset of Nigerians from negative, unproductive and fatalistic thinking; to positive, productive and progressive mindsets. In his words, “When you look at the great nations of the world, you will discover that their people have mindsets of greatness. How can we have progress and development when majority of our citizens have the wrong mindsets? We cannot achieve any meaningful transformation without a re-orientation of the citizens’ mindsets. Even when Government decides to run a campaign on changing attitudes, the success will depend on whether the mindsets of the citizens have changed or not.

Development initiative
In her presentation, Adebo Onabowale, a BOT member of the Mindshift Advocacy for Development Initiative simplified and dissected the chain linking morals, values, ethics and beliefs and how these factors can mould young people to reflect, rethink and do things differently. All these, she explained, are ways Mindshift Advocacy for Development Initiative want to approach the Nigerian problem from a different perspective to ensure visible results.

Also speaking at the event, a Board of Trustee member of Mindshift Advocacy for Development Initiative, Lady Taiwo Adejumo, focused on the need for young people to see themselves as solution providers in the country. She encouraged everyone never to see Nigeria’s situation as an impossible case, and strongly recommended that the greatest good anyone can do for himself is to cultivate his mind to think. “It is mainly through forward and selfless thinking that we can forecast factually and pre-empt effectively, to change our destiny” She stressed.

Some of the young people at the event expressed their desire to be part of the Mindshift Advocacy movement. Adam Opeyeleru, a young social media czar, responding to the call to work for a greater Nigeria said, “I am grateful that I attended this launch. I want to associate with a team of professionals and intellectuals who are thinking of a progressive Nigeria. Members of the Mindshift Group are progressive minded Nigerians who are seeking for solution instead of blaming everyone except themselves. They are hitting at the fundamental of our problem – our mindsets, the way we think. I applaud them and I will take the message to my other youth groups”.

In his contribution, another youth attendee, George Enema, a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, commended Mr. Joko Okupe for his initiative and vision. “I will suggest that we develop an online platform to warehouse our knowledge and information about the programme through which the youths will be enlightened about the vision and mission of this movement. A movement to change Nigeria and place her on the part of progress” Many of them who spoke were full of accolades for Mr. Okupe and his team for this initiative. Collectively they promised to be part of the mobilising force for the movement, as they take the message to their friends, colleagues and family members.

Responding to questions, Joko said “We are open to more knowledge and contributions from other credible knowledge base. It is all a matter of approach and method. Our initiatives would be determined by research and insight. There is a reason or rationale behind every mindset. How much have we researched into why we behave the way we do? Why do we think the way we do? We will make efforts to dig into the foundation to understand the issues and gain necessary insights before we develop initiatives. A man whose mind is conditioned to darkness tends to acclimatise to the situation and live in it. People’s eyes can only be opened through enlightenment which will serve as an illumination to the thick, engulfing darkness and ignorance around us. Adequate exposure to realities will compel them to see and think differently. If we continue at the current pace, we are definitely on a suicide mission as a nation, though we may be fully aware of this”.