Rules to live by

13 Jun

Continuing to churn out those partial back posts…

If you work in a HQ or regional office, but are fortunate enough to have it be your job to visit the field on a regular basis, here are some rules to live by:

  1. Clarify financial arrangements for your support in-country before you leave home. This will vary some, depending on your organization’s policies. But make sure you and your host have a common understanding about which organizational entity will pay for what, and how (cash, credit card, internal transfers…).
  2. Cut the Country Director some slack. Country Director (or whatever your organization calls the CEO of it’s national programs) is  often the hardest and most thankless job in the aid industry. This position is responsible for a huge range of things, from high-level strategy, to representation, to day-to-day operational. Make it your default stance to give him or her the benefit of the doubt. Be slow to judge him or her.
  3. Don’t get involved in local office drama. As you work with a field team just assume that things are not what they seem, at least in terms of politics and social dynamics. If you come to have direct knowlege of fraud or misconduct or criminal activity, that obviously has to be addressed. But short of those things, stay focused on your TOR and steer clear of partisanship.
  4. Know your technical limitations. If the program needs support that you’re not able to give, say so. And begin working with the field team to get the support that they need.
  5. Know your organizational limitations. Know when to use the phrase, “this conversation is over my pay-grade…” This one is kind of related to #3…

Any other sage advice out there?

4 Responses to “Rules to live by”

  1. Michael Keizer 21 June, 2009 at 3:42 pm #

    6. Be aware that you are not in the line. You are there to deliver expertise, recommendations, and/or support, but the decisions need to be taken by the people who are actually responsible for them (and who will will have to live with the results).

    7. Don’t eat all the cheese (or the pesto, or chocolate, or whatever goodie is difficult to get out there). You will be going back to the relative ease of your HQ/regional office in a couple of days or weeks, but those poor buggers are stuck out there — and that last bit of cheese (or pesto, or chocolate…) could have just helped to get them over that rough spot two days down the line.

    8. Don’t talk, listen. Keep your sage advice for your report and/or debriefing, unless you are asked directly for your immediate recommendation. Ask questions, and listen, listen, listen. You are on the wrong track as soon as you notice that you are talking more than the least talkative of your field partners.

    • J. 23 June, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

      Well said, Michael. All easier said than done…

      Thanks for reading!

      • Michael Keizer 23 June, 2009 at 2:44 pm #

        Thanks for writing! Reading your blog is a joy, but writing it must be bloody hard work.

      • J. 23 June, 2009 at 3:23 pm #

        It’s a labor of love.
        – cheers!

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