One Acre Fund works in six countries across eastern and southern Africa, so the relationships we’ve built with governments have been crucial to keeping our operations running. As we look forward to future growth, the team’s role is becoming even more important. Janina Schnick, a government relations manager based in Nairobi, sat down with recruiter Divya Bisht to talk about how the organization works with governments, as well as new opportunities on the growing team.
Government relations team
Janina Schnick: The core role of our team is to maintain relationships with governments and provide support to key departments, so that One Acre Fund can keep doing its work in all the countries where we operate. We work on compliance, government procedures, risk and issue resolution, relationship management, and policy. Our team takes care of governments, so other teams don’t have to.
We’re one of the departments that doesn’t have a lot of visibility—you don’t hear from us if everything goes well. While working with governments can sometimes be challenging, it’s important to understand that One Acre Fund cannot operate without their approval. Nothing can be done in the long-term without government support. Government relationships depend on different country contexts and often on individuals, so our team focuses on leveraging those relationships to achieve the best possible operating environment in every country.
The team's next 3-5 years
JS: Apart from making sure we have smooth operating environments in the field, we’re moving away from the support function only. We’re going to become more specialized, with different team members focusing on distinct topics such as policy analysis, expansion support, regulatory compliance, and new stakeholder engagement. In some countries, we have also started building political champions, for example by hosting members of parliament to field events, which is great marketing for our program in expansion areas. Of course, as One Acre Fund expands and enters new countries, we will regularly have to reassess our approaches of engaging government in different country contexts. While our strategies have been tried and tested in the places where we’re already established, this doesn’t mean that things will be the same elsewhere, so we’re always trying to keep an open, innovative mind about ways to engage governments for the benefit of One Acre Fund.
The most exciting thing about your team
JS: I really like our department because it is quite nimble and diverse. We don’t need a lot of people to make a lot of things happen in many countries. It’s also interesting because we’re involved in many different aspects of One Acre Fund’s work, which starts in the field and can reach up to the highest levels of government. Our interactions with the Product Innovations team are particularly exciting: In many cases, we need licenses and permissions from the government to conduct field trials for new products, so we get to be involved in those processes from an early stage.