People Champion Spotlight: Xhesi Mane
People for 2030 is fortunate to have some very talented People Champions who embody and inspire change in their respective Country Offices. The Spotlight series aims to highlight them and their efforts. With each Bulletin, we will be featuring an interview with the hope that reading their story motivates our readers as much as collaborating with them energizes us.
For this People Champion Spotlight, we spoke to Xhesi Mane, Programme Associate at UNDP Albania, to learn about her work in the Country Office. Xhesi has been working at UNDP since 2003. Her positive outlook on life and dedication to her vocation is unmatched.
With these five questions, we shine a light on Xhesi’s journey over the years.
Q1. How has your career evolved since starting at UNDP?
I joined UNDP in 2003, then after 6 months I left because I got a scholarship from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to study a Master’s in Local Development for the Balkans at the University of Trento, Italy. During my Master’s I still longed to be involved with UNDP and luckily, I applied and was accepted as intern at UNDP Regional Bureau in Bratislava, Slovakia.
Then two years after graduating, I rejoined UNDP Albania as a Programme Associate in 2006. At this point I knew UNDP is where I wanted to be because it really changes people’s lives and has had a great impact in Albania. I’m glad to have had experience both here in Albania and two short assignments in New York. The first one was in 2014 with the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery and the second detailed assignment was in the Multi-Partner Trust Office in 2017. The assignments were extremely refreshing and motivating!
Q2. As a People Champion, what is one initiative that you have implemented in your Country Office to transform the work culture?
So far in our Country Office we have been focusing on health and well-being. In February 2021, we came up with an idea of a well-being challenge which was a challenge born out of the need to have some fun and let go of any bad feelings, emotions and experiences accumulated in the year we’d all had to deal with COVID-19 as well as the earthquake that happened in Albania. We set a good example in our first exercise of this well-being challenge, but it had its own difficulties.
For instance, we had colleagues who started the challenge but couldn’t continue because they got sick. So, this year we decided to make it even bigger and better by building on the base that we have already established, and I believe the results speak for themselves.
We had more colleagues participating this year; out of an office of 120 people, 110 people participated. The well-being challenge has definitely been about more than well-being. It has brought colleagues from different projects together. On a normal day most of these colleagues would not have had a chance to meet and interact outside the work setting.
Q3. What tips can you give to other Country Offices on how to engage their colleagues with the People for 2030 Strategy?
You have to lead by example. Someone must be the engine and for me that is the People Champion. With the well-being challenge for instance, there were 11 hobby groups including a choir, yoga club and multilingual group, and yet I was part of 5 groups. If I am to show my passion for this vocation to my colleagues, then I must fully participate in order to convince them to take part in the challenge too. This is the only way they will follow. Additionally, I had full support from the country management and even the Resident Representative, who is a yogi and was part of the yoga club, and the Deputy Resident Representative who was part of the multilingual group. The key is to lead by example if you want People for 2030 to be successful.
Q4. As we move on to Phase 2 of the People for 2030 Strategy, what advice would you give to a new People Champion?
You have to believe in the People for 2030 Strategy otherwise it is hard to transmit trust and positive energy to your colleagues. I believe in People for 2030 and the changes it brings. I have witnessed the changes; I have seen the Achievements Report and that is motivation for me to continue working as a People Champion for Phase 2 the and that is motivation for me to continue working as a People Champion for Phase 2.
Q5. Who is Xhesi when she is not working for UNDP?
When I am not working, you will find me running marathons or at home taking care of my mum. Through the well-being challenge I actually learnt that so many colleagues are in the same situation as me, where they are taking care of elderly parents. In Albania, it is a tradition for children to take care of their parents at home when they are old. So, it is a good support system that we have.
Apart from that, I am an animal lover, in fact I just recently adopted a rescue cat, his name is Snowy!