SR article

Cultural Analysis

In this analysis the cultural dimensions of Kenya are explained. We will assess the enables and barriers for development projects and development in general, and the ones who are important for our own internship to take into account. The six parameters for cultural dimensions as mentioned by Otto Kroesen (2014) will be explained in the next paragraphs and how this cultural differences can influence our project.

Collectivism versus Individualism
Collectivism in Kenya prevails the culture. Tribes are dominant in this country, which makes the country collectivist. Individualism is less stimulated because of the dominance of collectivism, the group is more important that the individual. Collectivism can be a positive dimension, because the solidarity inside the group is very strong. The collective responsibility, as explained by Otto Kroesen (2013), where people respond to a situation to act according to the codes of behaviour of the group of which they belong, is a big part of the culture. In development projects and also in our project it will probably be a barrier for success. The village where our project is situated, Okana, shows a closed in-group mentality, with little trust to other families and outsiders. Therefore it will be hard for us as a group to get trust from the local community, and we should make sure that we move tactically between this different cultural value. We should make sure that we are not acting like Western people to just say whatever comes in mind, and thereby will be perceived as much less polite, but act more like people from African culture to win the trust which is needed for a successful development project.

Hierarchy versus Egalitarianism
Hierarchy is overbearing in Kenya, instead of egalitarianism. Decisions are mostly taken top-down, so the people with a lot of power decide. People in societies exhibiting a large degree of Power Distance accept a hierarchical order in which everybody has a place and which needs no further justification (Hofstede). This is exactly the case in Kenya, where the power distance is dominant. For our project it is important to take knowledge of the hierarchy inside the NGO we are working for, to make sure that we will taking steps in our project with approval of the higher hierarchic groups in the organization, as the board, the chairman and the CEO.

Uncertainly avoidance versus Voluntarism
Uncertainly avoidance is dominant in Kenya, people take things as they come, without own initiative to get things done. Because of this, there is a lot of functional responsibility, the employee will fulfil the tasks as his employer requests. The functional responsibility makes people irreplaceable rather than unique (Kroesen, 2013), while voluntarism stimulates people to be unique. The functional responsibility can be seen as an ingredient of a fully developed industrial society, but for real development also individual responsibility is necessary. There is a lack of individual responsibility in the culture of Kenya because of a lack of voluntarism, own initiative from individuals is not so much stimulated as should be for quick development. Because of this, in our project it can be hard to find people who are really committed to help with our project, or just helping because we are telling them to do so. We should stimulate own initiatives so that when we are gone, the project will still be moving forward.

Synchronic versus Sequential
A synchronic approach of work predominates the Kenyan culture. Most of the cases, there is no planning ahead, the things are going parallel instead of sequential and workers are easily distracted. A clear example of this synchronic approach was shown at the carpentry workshop of the NGO where our project took placed. The stocks in this carpentry workshop are not ordered ahead, so there was a lot of wasting time because of waiting for new wood, new nails or new tools. With a sequential approach of ordering stocks, the carpentry would be much more efficient. Another example is given during the building of the resource centre. The planning was that the centre would open in the beginning of January. And as agreed, the resource centre was ready for use in the beginning of January. Well, the building was ready, but there was not one employee hired to work in the resource centre. At the end of January, finally the interviews were taken and employees for different functions were hired. But time is wasted by doing this after the build of the resource centre and not during. This shows the synchronic approach of doing things. For our project is it also important to be aware of this synchronic approach which is intertwined in the Kenyan culture. Sometimes things can go more slowly with this approach, and the efficiency is lower than we perhaps are used to in the Netherlands, so we have to deal with this cultural difference.

Status by position/tradition versus status by achievement/labor
Status by position or tradition instead of status by achievement or labor is dominant in the Kenyan culture. This makes that most of the people are not motivated to achieve goals, because the status will be no different after achieving anything. This is a common problem in countries like Kenya, because it is not a stimulant for development in general. The people with status because of their position on the other hand can easily get things done, so for our project it will be important to take knowledge of the different positions inside the organization.

Particularistic versus Universalistic
Kenya is a particularistic country. In organizations like the NGO of our project, decisions are made according to particularistic relationships and privileges instead of according to general rules and procedures. As an example, the manager of the carpentry workshop of the NGO is also the best friend of the chairman of the NGO. Even when some of the carpenters are more qualified to be a manager of the carpentry, the friend of the chairman still has this function. Just because it is easier to get something done via friends and relations rather than via rules and procedures. Also because of the loyalty of the chairman, his friend is still the manager. In the last weeks of our project, we observed a small shift from particularistic to universalistic. The interviews with different candidates for different functions made that there is hired a new manager of the carpentry workshop. This will stimulate the development of the carpentry workshop. In our project, we should be aware of the particularistic character of the country, so we have to observe all the relations between different stakeholders so that we can take them into account by the way of fulfilling our project.

Concluding, there are a lot of cultural differences between our culture and the Kenyan culture. Most of the cultural dimensions in Kenya are not contributory to development or the success of development projects, because development is not really stimulated for every one of the community.  In our project, we should negotiate differences in the cultures, moving tactically between the different cultural values and find a middle way to let our project work.

Otto Kroesen, Planetary Responsibility: An Ethics of Timing. Wipf and Stock, 2014. Chapters 1, 6 & 7.