More than one year ago, Dr. Neil Prose, a pediatrician and dermatologist at Duke University in the United States, and Dr. Thirusha Naidu, a psychologist at University of Kwazulu-Natal, began a research project about Woza Moya. Their goal was to understand the specific routines and methods of leadership that have led to enormous success, and the very low turnover rate of its caregivers, despite their strenuous physical and emotional work.
After receiving permission from Woza Moya and ethical clearance from Duke University and UKZN, Dr Prose and Dr Naidu conducted interviews with staff and community members, group discussions with community caregivers, observed support groups in the community and just spent time at time at Woza Moya seeing how people work together.
Drs. Prose and Naidu returned to Woza Moya last month to share what they had learned with a large group of caregivers and the Woza Moya staff. They explained that they have identified two specific methods that sustain the work at Woza Moya.
The first relates to the specific rituals that occur every morning at the Woza Moya office, and in support groups for caregivers and for community members (children, gogos, people living with HIV). They noted that the Woza Moya community often meet in circles to think, talk and reflect about the things they experience in their work and within their own lives and families. In the circles, participants use both mindfulness (concentrating attention and energy on what is happening right now) and reflective practice (thinking carefully about feelings, words and actions and how these impact on others).
Secondly, Dr. Prose and Dr. Naidu believe that Woza Moya’s success is due to the fact that the organization operates under a good leadership team. People are expected to give and receive respect. Woza Moya believes in people and constantly invests in skill development for staff members and the local community. The organization’s leadership is accountable for its actions, and continuously involves community members in their day to day decision making and governing structures.
Dr Prose and Dr Naidu will be writing an article about what they learned, and are hopeful this will be published in an academic journal. Their ultimate goal is to share the Woza Moya approach with the world, and encourage other similar organizations to follow its successful model.