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#TheScoop: A soldier should aspire to be a general – John Ulanga

John Ulanga“A bad soldier is the one who doesn’t aspire to be a general. If you don’t have any aspirations, you might die a corporal or a private.”

These are the words of advice John Ulanga got from a friend of his father, and which he has lived by and passes on to younger people he mentors.

Ulanga is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Civil Society, the largest support mechanism for civil society organizations in Tanzania, providing them with grants and enabling a culture of on-going learning within the sector.

Prior to joining the Foundation for Civil Society in late 2005, Mr. Ulanga worked with the Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF), one of the leading policy research think tanks in Tanzania, as its first Coordinator of Commissioned Studies, where he was charged with the responsibility of forming the consultancy department and coordinate consultancy assignments undertaken by ESRF.

Mr. Ulanga is currently the Chairman of the East African Association of Grantmakers (EAAG), an association of grantmakers and philanthropic institutions in East Africa; Board Member of HakiElimu, an organization that works to realize equity, quality, human rights and democracy in education in Tanzania; Board Member of Tanzania Financial Services for the Underserved Settlements (TAFSUS), a UN-Habitat-supported initiative to upgrade slums and underserved settlements in Tanzania; Member of the Steering Committee of African Grantmakers Network (AGN); and member of an independent advisory panel of eminent persons in Tanzania advising the World Bank Country Office on their programmes pertaining to the government of Tanzania. He is also a Fellow of the African Leadership Initiative East Africa and the Aspen Global Leadership Network of the Aspen Institute.

His first job was as an intern immediately after A-levels, before joining University, with a German consulting firm. Ulanga did all kinds of tasks including cleaning, messenger, tea-boy and any other duties his supervisor assigned him.

“That taught me one thing: Versatility to do anything, flexibility of doing jobs like photocopying, making coffee, cleaning which made me appreciate and value people who work in these jobs,” remembers Ulanga.

With a full plate of duties and responsibilities now, Ulanga deliberately keeps work in the office and avoids working over the weekends, to maintain a balance between work and personal life.

“I also delegate a lot, and that’s something I had to learn over time. The best way to delegate is, first to provide capacity, recruit the best team and also challenge people to be at their best, and I have seen it work,” says Ulanga.

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