(With apologies to Messrs Nicholson & Cruise.)
SCENE: A BADLY LIT, SWELTERING FIELD OFFICE SOMEWHERE. ANYWHERE. NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL STAFF ARE GATHERED AROUND A WELL DRESSED FIGURE, FRESH OFF A PLANE.
This jury of NGO field staff call Fundraising Director Nathan R. Jessep to the stand. Raise your right hand, please. Will you tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
A colleague of mine, who’s just started blogging as ‘nobody is perfect’, writes:
“The development community is often plighted by high cost trainings, where people all get paid transport fees and have accommodation and expensive consultants to train us. Often the training gets squeezed into 4 or 5 days. The results of these trainings are rarely reviewed, and by that very fact, we could assume not always very positive in terms of change.
And then comes the exception.”
He’s referring to the three-country trial of some different learning approaches on project management that I kicked off and wrote about back in February. You can read part one, part two, part three and part four. My colleague is in Tanzania, the ‘condition 3’ country – distance learning support only, no face to face workshop. He continues:
“The training was done through a series of on-line sessions over a period of about 8 weeks, but in total, we were together (virtually) for only about 12 hours, so the equivalent of 1.5 days. This training came with no real additional costs to our organisation. And the thing that I personally liked, there was no certificates for participation, only for passing a test. Adding to that, a pass mark was set at a level of at least 70%.”
At the six month mark (in August) I’ll be doing an end line survey of all participants and discovering what the impact has been in each country – have people actually learned and changed the way they work for the better? But I’m very pleased to be beaten to the punch on this with what he writes next:
Recently, I was with some members of the team that took part in the training in a general meeting, which was bringing together people from the private sector, universities, research institutes, government and fellow NGO’s to review and confirm the allocation of responsibilities under a newly awarded donor contract.
Impressive it was to see some of the familiar slides from the training up on the projector. But that would be easy, just copying and pasting. What was impressive is that the team had learnt and adapted the training tools to the piece of work that they were sharing. More than that, in the process of the meeting they were training others on what they have learnt so that their work is improved as well (and doing this in a low cost way).
Field team: Hello? Hello? HEY! Yes. Down here. Helooooo… ok thank you. Just so you know, we are in the shit.
Regional office: Thanks for the update. You OK or you need some help with that shit?
Field: Shit yeah.
Region: What kind of shit is going down?
Field: Really shitty shit. I mean, there are shitloads of people coming across the border. Refugees. Returnees. You name it, we got it. And would you believe it, they all need shit, and they all need to shit.
Region: Sheeeeit. OK. Yo, HQ. Field is in the shit.
HQ: Well go help them with their shit.
Region: No shit, Sherlock. We are. It’s still shit. And it’s getting shitter. And now there’s like, bombs dropping and shit.
HQ: Oh, shit.
HQ: OK EVERYONE LISTEN UP WE ARE ON IT NOW AND IN CHARGE AND WE ALL HAVE TO GET OUR SHIT TOGETHER. I WANT DAILY UPDATES ABOUT THE SHITTYNESS OF THIS SHIT!
Region: Oh, shit.
Fundraising: Hi guys! Um… how much is all the shit you need gonna cost?
Field: Dunno. But shitloads, definitely shitloads. Call it ten million.
Fundraising: Oh, shit.
Region: HQ, can you give us some cash to give to Field, so they can get going while fundraising does their shit?
HQ: Ah, shit. Look it’s end of financial year… I’m a bit short right now… here’s $100k.
Region and Field: You have got to be shitting me.
Fundraising: Don’t worry guys! I totally got this. Field, can you please stop what you’re doing and send me some pictures of your shit?
Field: Shitshitshitshit. OK… fine. Here.
Fundraising: Thanks for the pictures guys! I’m afraid these pictures of your shit are a bit shitty. We’ll send out a shit-hot photographer. Also we’ll go shoot the shit with the donors.
HQ: WHY IS NO ONE PAYING ATTENTION TO ME? MORE SHITREPS PEOPLE!
Region: LOL! Well played.
Field: Ahem… can we get on with our shit now??
HQ and Region: YES! GO GO GO GO!
Logistics: Hey! Nobody told me you need ze big piles of sheet!! Whaz iz wiz you people, you teenk shit grow on trees!!
Region: Calm down logs, no need to lose your shit.
Field: Just ignore them. They’re always like that.
Logistics: Merde! *drags on cigarette*
Finance: What the shit is going on? You’ve spent a million quid! Which shit for brains signed off on all this shit!?
Field: Sometimes the spirit just moves you. Y’know, humanitarian imperative an’ shit. Soz.
Region: “The spirit” just moves you? Bullshit! Right. Gin is now banned from all team sites.
HQ: The shit is really gonna hit the fan when audit hear about this.
Fundraising: Hi guys! Got you a couple million, enough to muddle through, but not the proper shitload you really need. Some donors have some other nasty shit on their plate. Others have to hang back until this crisis is officially designated as “deep shit”. And frankly, some just don’t have their shit together. And as you know…. all this shit just rolls downhill.
HQ: Ah, shit.
Region: Ah, shit.
Field: Eh. Same old shit.
Couldn’t really give a fig about the ‘Stop Kony’ flap.
But just noticed this:
I dont know, im nothing even close to a philanthropist, politician or nothing even NEAR an activist or even fucking EDUCATED for that matter. I just want to encourage more people to think for themselves more often… we’re all very apt at “spreading awareness” as a nation, a culture, WE HAVE THAT SHIT DOWN.
Let’s focus a little more on what kinds of peaceful resolve and positive action… can be taken to resolve a global issue. By asking the people claiming to be the “frontmen of the cause” (which is no doubt, usually a noble cause) who are asking for money or attention, WHERE is this going, HOW is it getting there, WHERE is the data, WHO is doing the footwork, and most importantly what are the predicted results.
Attention, [b]advocacy practitioners. You have just been schooled by deadmau5, a man who travels the world wearing a giant mouse head, performing his music which is popular with huge crowds of people, many of whom have taken random pharmaceuticals with the express aim of diminishing their cognitive capacity for the evening.
If you’ve got less of a handle on it than this bloke, maybe consider a new career.
Sorry for the delay. Stuff getting in the way. Airports and Life Saving Workshops(TM) of course. Where were we? Oh yeah, self deprecation:
And the answer is, of course this isn’t anything new. I’m not trying to be Steve Jobs. I’m just trying to solve problems of cornerstone effectiveness down in the cogs of the aid machine. We’re pretty good at giving people heroically crushing expectations of quantity and quality of work and aid delivery. We’re less good at ensuring everyone in that team has the skills to deliver from day one. I think we need a bold view of professionalization of the sector; one that foregrounds teams as much as individuals, nationals not expats, and backgrounds the rest as (necessary) surge capacity.