Twelve Consultants, Four Continents, A University that serves four Central Asian Countries, and One Mission. In April 2021, recruitment began for a TKN assignment for the University of Central Asia.  Twelve Finance Consultants were onboarded to embark on a memorable journey they will never forget. It was a unique initiative whereby within the University’s Finance Department, twelve highly successful professionals from around the world were recruited to serve remotely and fulfill their TKN Niyyah.

These 12 unique individuals hailed from the United Arab Emirates, Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, and United States of America. They were made responsible to support 6 divisions of UCA’s Finance department: Audit, Analytics/Dashboard, Grant Management, Accounting, Value Added Tax and Financial Planning and Analysis. While reporting directly to the University of Central Asia’s Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Saleem Hirani, they were also aligned with one local lead in each department to ensure smooth communication and implementation.

These 12 individuals marveled at the smooth on-boarding process and were highly impressed with the IT Department’s swift and efficient handling of the entire project along with ensuring that they were provided all necessary system access and log in credentials. Even though the volunteers were logging in from multiple different time zones, excellent collaboration and communication made it possible for them to find mutually convenient times to meet and discuss best practices and implement key improvements and solutions at UCA. Simultaneous efforts were being made to build local capacity and expertise through the help and guidance of these professional experts. “Under the guidance and with continuous help provided by the TKN consultants, we were able to create a detailed bottom-up budget in SAP for the first time at The University of Central Asia”, complimented Karim Munir, Finance Director at UCA.

Not only was this project beneficial to UCA’s finance team in building skills, creative problem solving and networking with colleagues around the globe; it was an equally enriching experience for the volunteers too as they were each exposed to 11 other like minded professionals in their fields each with a unique skill set and niche in their careers. Sharing best practices and accomplishments with each other, brainstorming about their obstacles and collaborating towards a common goal was something they each found enlightening and rewarding at the same time. In addition, they also had many opportunities to interact with UCA leadership, whereby they shared with them Mawlana Hazar Imam’s vision for UCA. “The highlight of my experience in this TKN assignment was to hear from guest speakers about their personal stories and interactions with Mawlana Hazar Imam communicating his aspirations for this young University; these sessions charged me up emotionally and spiritually because I felt personally connected with my Imam’s work and mission”, passionately reports Rahim Jaffer, one of the 12 TKN volunteers.

“From Dashboard Reporting to Financial Reports and SAP tips, improvements and best practices were implemented and shared across the board.  The best part is that the local team still uses many of the tips we shared,” Rahim states proudly.

This Time and Knowledge project was broken in two halves.  During the first half, volunteers were focused on the respective divisions they had been assigned to.  The second half was focused on providing support to the University’s Budgeting function.  This process was extremely detailed and collaborating with the local team was of immense importance. Budgeting support was also extended towards the School of Professional and Continuing Education in Afghanistan. Remotely meeting with people on ground zero where there had been a drastic regime change, was both eye opening and a humble experience the volunteers encountered. They realized on a firsthand basis, the fragility of the situation in many countries where AKDN serves and operates. "We were blown away witnessing how quickly things can change and how situations in many parts of the world literally change overnight.  Inflation sky-rocketed in Afghanistan within one night and that influenced a drastic modification of the entire budget for SPCE Afghanistan” remarks one of the TKN volunteers.

As the project was approaching its close, the 12 volunteers had high emotions about this opportunity and humbling experience, something they will cherish for many years. "I really enjoyed working with the Team for TKN.  It was very fulfilling to work for the institution and provide support for the budget process for UCA.  I learned a lot and this will aid me in my career," were the emotions shared by Alim Mawani, one of the TKN volunteers.

This project’s successful culmination was ensured by the extreme professionalism of the TKN head office based in Toronto, the relentless commitment and excellence of the 12 volunteers, and the remarkable collaboration between industry experts and UCA department employees.

"The International TKN office did an excellent job identifying and recruiting TKN consultants based on our needs. All TKN consultants who joined our team were very passionate and served to the best of their abilities. I highly encourage all AKDN agencies to avail top talent and industry experts committed to building our local capacity by sharing best practices," commented Saleem Hirani, Chief Finance and Information Officer at UCA.