The Sisters Leadership Development Initiative (SLDI) program offers Catholic sisters in ten African countries the opportunity to enhance their leadership competencies and professional skills in the areas of technology, administration and finance. In the SLDI program, sisters not only learn relevant skills that benefit their congregations and ministries, but also receive a laptop, mentorship instruction and guidance. Upon completion of the program, sisters enter into the ASEC alumnae network.
The alumnae of the SLDI program are members of over 420 different congregations, working in a wide range of ministries and representing more than 40 countries of citizenship, allowing for new and exciting connections within a diverse network of sisters. The SLDI program collaborates with partner consultants, congregational superiors and national conferences/associations of Women Religious to develop and deliver the program, which is taught over a three-year period.
Since 2007, the SLDI program has served 3,170 sisters.
As of 2019, the SLDI program has served 3,170 sisters, empowering them to become more effective in their congregations and apostolates. Through additional activities, such as workshops for General Superiors and other trainings, the program has served 3,200 stakeholders since 2007.
As the SLDI program began Phase V this past year, there is ample evidence that sisters complete the program with increased skills and leadership abilities, a desire to pursue higher education and the ability to create positive impacts on ministries, congregations and human development.
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SLDI Phase V, Year 1: Exceeding Expectations Despite Challenges
ASEC successfully started SLDI Phase V, Year 1 in 2019. The program is projected to serve more than 610 sisters over the three year period (2019-2021) of Phase V. In the first year of the program, 681 unique sisters were served. The program was able to increase the projected total number to be served during Phase V, to 751 sisters.
There were challenges in implementing SLDI workshops over the past year, due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, ASEC began close monitoring of the public health situations in each country of operation in Africa, as well as the U.S. and discussed how to adapt the program to a new reality. Although many SLDI workshops were postponed, ASEC Country Directors and Coordinators put their creativity and skills to use as they transitioned SLDI workshops online, or partially online, in several countries. In countries where in-person workshops could still take place, new safety precautions and protocols were implemented.
Overall, the SLDI participants and instructors handled the changes well and many were excited to attend or teach workshops online. More specific feedback about the online SLDI workshops will be provided in the SLDI Phase V, Year 2 SLDI evaluation report.
Alumnae Impact: Making a Difference
Program evaluation outcomes indicate that SLDI alumnae are able to put the skills and knowledge they learn into action.
Impact can be observed at three levels: individual, congregational (or organizational) and ministerial (or societal). At the individual level, sisters have consistently reported that they improve their self perception, relationships with others and leadership capabilities through participation in the program.
The most recent data show that 91% (n = 378) of alumnae improved their perception of themselves and 89.4% (n = 378) saw improvements in their personal and/or professional relationships. Alumnae also report taking up new leadership roles within their ministries (77%, n = 365) and outside their ministries (46%, n =359).
At the congregational level, about 82% (n = 401) of SLDI alumnae have implemented or improved internal systems in their ministry and/or congregation in the areas of strategic planning, financial planning and management and/or human resources management.
Nearly 3/4 of alumnae create systemic change in their congregations & ministries.
About 72% (n = 401) of alumnae are creating systemic change in both their congregation and ministry. A total of 163 congregations improved their internal systems through the work of alumnae. Additionally, 92.6% (n = 378) of alumnae serve as mentors and their mentees include both religious and lay people.
52% of funding secured by alumnae supports education and health needs across Africa.
Finally, at the ministerial, or societal level, ASEC alumnae and their mentees have secured more than $19.3 million for human development projects across Africa, contributing to the achievement of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 52% of all funds support education and health focused projects, largely in rural areas.
Through the SLDI program, sisters develop skills to positively impact their congregations and ministries. However, there remains a need to further develop internal systems within the larger institutions to which sisters belong, such as their congregations and their national conferences/associations.
With this in mind, ASEC initiated a pilot Institutional Capacity Building (ICB) program. In Year 1 of the pilot, ASEC staff engaged with the Conference of Major Superiors of Religious in Ghana (CMSRGH), with the help of local consultants on the ground. As a result, CMSRGH achieved several significant milestones, including the legal registration of CMSRGH with the government.
Although ASEC was unaware of CMSRGH's lack of legal status when the ICB process began, this was a key piece of the capacity building process. Without properly registering with the government, CMSRGH was not a legally recognized institution in the country.
CMSRGH obtained legal status and, as a result, established a database of congregation members and also obtained land rights. CMSRGH also revised their constitution to include a newly created executive body and created a new 5-year strategic plan. Some other outcomes include new financial assets, a new website and a search for a new Secretary General.
Read all of the year 1 ICB program outcomes.
While each capacity building process with an institution will be different, the first year of ICB has proven more productive and fruitful than anticipated and provided many useful lessons for continued capacity building with CMSRGH and future institutions.