Work, part II

25 01 2008

After three months I’m beginning to get a grip on what I can achieve here. When I first arrived I felt a little overwhelmed by the alienness of my situation. It wasn’t just the aspect of being in a different, poorer country. It was also moving to a small charitable organisation after spending most of my career in organisations that were rarely small and never charitable. To say the work environment is different would be something of an understatement. I’ve had to learn new acronyms and language as well as attitudes and expectations. My initial response was the classic “tech-head’s”, head down and bash out code to hide my terror of being completely out of my depth. Fortunately Matthew, my older brother, left a great comment on one of my posts which made me stop and think.

Obviously my grand plans have been whittled down, but I still think an Access database to hold details of the 800+ recipients of scholarships from the Ambassador Girls Scholarship Program is achievable, appropriate and reasonably sustainable. I will need to do a lot more work understanding how it will be used etc before I put finger to keyboard.

The other problem I’m trying to address is the lack of any system to files, folders and documents. Currently documents appear to be created or received from partner NGOs and then simply placed in whatever folder on whichever computer is convenient. Most of the staff here try to be vaguely logical, but each is following their own logic. When I arrived I was asked to create a database to help document organisation. This is what I duly started. But sitting and watching I realised it would be a waste of time. Technology isn’t going to fix a lack of procedure or care, it would become another thing to ignore. I may instigate simple spreadsheets as catalogues; I’ve come to terms with the idea that a spreadsheet can also be a database. I will even try to facilitate a workshop where key members of staff draw up their own procedures. Perhaps I’ll use some of my SkWiD skills.

I think that one of the main things I’ve learnt here is how important it is to get to know the organisation and the people before plunging into creating solutions. I’ve been here three months now and have delivered very little, but that is part of being here. I’m learning patience, and to not feel too guilty about wasting hours surfing or playing free cell. I have a year to deliver a relatively small set of objectives, being busy and delivering the wrong thing quickly isn’t helpful, even if I do feel better about myself while doing it. Because of the nature of things, with such a small staff who are often away, it can be very hard to establish ISODEC’s needs and to fill my time. I have written a few documents on aspects of IT and prepared some training, but only delivered one session.

Having a long break was helpful. I wouldn’t say that I’m completely refreshed, but I have put a distance from where I was before Christmas.

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