My GVV Experience is a series of testimonials of educators, higher education administrators and individuals who share their experiences in taking the GVV course. This series highlights Mary-Pearl Opare-Addo

Edited for clarity and brevity

Q: What inspired you to participate in GVV Africa?

As a volunteer for the June Convening, it was a requirement in the Student Leadership program. However, I found the course to be interesting, and it aligned strongly with my interests.

Q: Since completing GVV Africa, can you share a story where your learnings from the course have helped you?

Oh, there have been a number of instances where the course has helped me. So, in the first instance, there was a time where there was an executive meeting where everyone had their own interests. People were not willing to compromise – everyone wanted to keep their individualistic mindsets. I was able to draw everyone’s attention to the fact that we were in the same boat and could only have achieved the goal if we worked together. I actually talked to everyone separately, and let them understand another POV, and put all biases aside.
Nonetheless, the aspect of the course that made me talk to my colleagues individually was that part that highlighted on formulating persuasive responses to rationalisations by reframing and also using certain levers to influence people who might be in disagreement. I also thought to use my ability to calm people down and settle differences as a resource to find a more efficient solution to the issue at hand, knowing how the parties involved may react if I were to talk to them together.

In another instance, where I stood up for my values when my team told me otherwise, I actually had one team member tell me: ‘I’m proud of what you did.” It’s not difficult to do the wrong thing usually. GVV principles really helped me because under normal circumstances, I would want to keep quiet but now, I want to share my thoughts and opinions.

There was also an anniversary event. There was a chair that always made the final decision. Within one of the committees, in charge of supporting the event, there was a President that was taking matters into their own hands and failing to communicate with the team. Even though, I was Vice-President, he would often make decisions that did not take into consideration the full planning for the program. Each time I and other members of the team would speak up, he would go and champion an action without our input. Due to this, when the event came, we faced many challenges such as underestimating the quantity for food and the bus needed to pick up participants. In one instance, he had mentioned that for a full-day event, people would only get yoghurt and pie, but we pushed back and pushed for Kenkey ( a heavier Ghanaian meal). I had him be completely upset with me, but I was thinking about the people’s ‘voice that had to be heard.’ One thing that helped was knowing people’s interests and understanding their reasons and rationalizations. Sometimes, it’s not just about the good and the bad, it’s about the good vs. the good, about individual vs. community, long term or short term.

We have to come to the realization that everyone has their own interests and there’s always something at stake for everyone whether directly or indirectly. The world will be a much better place if we live being considerate of the other person and how our actions or inactions may affect the people close or far from us.

Click here to read more stories in the series.