28 10 2007

Rather than give the impression I spend all my time worrying about water or strolling home I thought I’d write about work. I was going to leave this until I was more established but then thought that it would be good to have something to compare with in a years time. It also gives me an opportunity to “think out loud” about what I’m doing. It may be dull, so I’ll forgive you if you skip it.

I’m working for a Ghanaian NGO called ISODEC as an IT trainer. I’ll write more about ISODEC in the future, but in summary, they started in Accra providing basic services (health, education, water) to the poorest. Now they work across Ghana and are much more interested in advocacy, helping the poorest to get from the government and other bodies what is theirs by right and campaigning for pro-poor policies. They are still involved with service delivery, but try to learn what policies work in order to improve the efficiency of their advocacy. They work extensively in partnerships and alliances with other NGOs and local community based organisations. In the Tamale office (where I’m based) there are 8 members of staff including me.

My aim for this year:
To increase the effectiveness of ISODEC staff members by helping them make more efficient use of the IT resources available to them

Some Objectives:

  • To provide training and other tools so that they can use MS Office and other software more effectively
  • To help organise and collate existing documents and articles in a way that enables these documents to be readily available to members of staff.
  • To advise on network and other infrastructure to ensure the safest and most efficient configuration
  • To provide tools, such as databases, that will help members of staff to perform their jobs more effectively

My official role is IT trainer, and that will be the biggest part of my job. As well as training I’ve been asked to look at some of their information organisation. Basically I’ve been asked to help sort out their filing too. In addition I’m looking at the infrastructure and general IT of the Tamale office and its satellite offices in Sunyani and Bolgatanga.

The challenge for me is to get to know the organisation and people in order to deliver appropriate solutions. One of the most arresting training sessions I had with VSO demonstrated how easy it is to get fixated on the task and to forget the process and purpose. This can result in the delivery of a solution which is elegant, well though out, well designed, well executed and utterly irrelevant to the needs of the people. And even if it is relevant the people feel excluded and resentful and probably won’t use it to the full effect.

The director of ISODEC has asked me to provide a 30 – 45 minute training session once a week. Tomorrow (Monday 29th Oct) will be my first of these and I plan to use it to do a “training needs analysis”. I have created example word, excel and PowerPoint documents which demonstrate many aspects of those applications. I intend to ask the staff to look at the documents and tell me which features they would like training on. I have also acquired an excellent CD-ROM that provides basic training in the various packages. I hope that they will use the CD-ROM to get up to a level and then I will provide training on some of the trickier or more interesting aspects.

For the rest of my time I intend developing the following weeks training, writing general documents on aspects of IT that would be useful to them (I’m working on one that covers using the internet for research), constructing the databases and learning and observing. I’ve already delivered one database, but I’ve doubts about its design and usefulness. Next week my colleague Wahabu will be using it to collect information about some of the partners we work with in the area of health. I’ll sit with him and watch how he goes. Ironically (maybe usefully) I choose the member of staff most nervous of computers to deliver my first database to.

What do I want to get professionally from this job? I’m interested to see how IT can be used to help in NGOs and other development agencies in the poorer world, and the poor generally. I’m also interested in developing my systems analysis and training skills.

Would I go back to my old job? At the moment the thought of facing a journey jammed into the Jubilee line in order to sit at a desk doing dull, valueless work for an organisation with which I have no shared values fills me with horror.




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