Mangoes, geckos, and monsoons continued…

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It’s starting…! On Friday, it was heavy and humid all day… then, as I was getting ready to head out to yoga, it suddenly became very, very dark. And windy, blowing dust everywhere.

It was raining lightly by the time I got to class, then started thunderstorming during class (our instructor shut off the AC and opened the doors to the courtyard, it’s a nice way to practice evening yoga!). We walked home in the rain because it was so nice to be outside and not soaked in sweat. Saturday, I got up and it was COOL OUTSIDE! This is the first time it’s been comfortable outside of the air conditioned bubbles we live in during the summer. So I went for a run in the park. I mean, it’s not the best running weather. It was 26 degrees, “feels like 42”. So I only did 3 laps and when I got home I was soaked and red-faced like only the humidity can do for you. But it still feels a lot cooler and the rain is such a welcome change from living in an oven. The water coming out of tap is cold; I can lean against the tile wall and counter in the kitchen and it’s not hot to the touch.

On Sunday I went to the Mango Festival. It wasn’t as big a deal as I thought it would be, but I think there were events later in the day. It was a Delhi Haat, which is a big outdoor bazaar with handicrafts. There was an exhibit of the 500 kinds of mangoes grown in India; some of them were interesting-looking but honestly a lot of them look the same.  We bought a case of something that started with a D (chosen completely arbitrarily) and a medley of others to do a tasting at home. For some reason I thought this would be an option at the festival, but it wasn’t.

I got brave and had my first introduction to Delhi chaat (street food) when we got some Rajastani chaat for lunch; I don’t know what it’s called but it’s a pepper stuffed with potato and chutney, battered and fried. It was really good. Since a certain colleague wasn’t around to take an unflattering picture of me eating, I got someone else to do it for me.

The other day, I was eating a mango over the sink like the dish-dirtying averse slob that I am and I felt something drop on my foot. I thought it was a piece of mango (they’re slippery and drippy, ok?!) but when I looked down, it was a GECKO!! I’d like to point out that he found me this time; I didn’t step on him, he stepped on me. He’s little and cute. Here’s a pic; pardon my foot but I left it in the pic for reference of scale. He’s been quite active lately, flitting all over the floors and counters and under appliances.

I feel like I should update you on my work here and not just the fun and random stuff. Hang on to your seats… When my manager returned in mid-June, we had a week-long session with a consultant on developing our knowledge management strategy and becoming a knowledge organization. Here’s what’s happening: CARE India is currently a branch of CARE USA but has been moving towards becoming its own organization, a member of CARE International, for the last several years, and will become independent hopefully next year. I think. They’re referring to this as the “organizational evolution.” Right now, they’re basically operating as two organizations (and if you’re confused about this works, just think how they feel!). Along with this organizational change, the way CARE’s work is planned is also changing. They currently have over 30 discrete projects operating in 15 states across four sectors: health, education, livelihoods, and disaster response. Unfortunately, impact and outcome measures have indicated that this way of structuring the interventions is not actually leading to any lasting, sustainable change in the lives of girls and women. At the end of the projects, which are usually 3-5 years long, the project team withdraws and the community in which they were working often reverts back to the way they were before. There may be some improvement for some people, but not on the scale intended. It’s not for lack of foresight or lack of trying; the ownership of the project is handed over to the impact community and they are prepared for this as they are actively involved in the project management from the beginning, a lot of thought goes into the plan for project completion. At this stage the beneficiaries are ideally empowered enough to keep the work going on their own, and for a while, they do. But for some reason, it doesn’t last. Or the changes aren’t significant enough to really impact their lives. Consequently, the whole CARE organization is shifting from a project-oriented approach to a program-oriented approach. Other organizations like Oxfam and ChildFund are also doing this sort of thing and getting away from the projects. CARE will have programs targeted at specific impact groups which will run for 10-15 years. For CARE India, they will have two programs to start, one for scheduled tribes and one for scheduled castes (dalits) – eventually they will have one for urban poor too. Within these programs they want to focus on several themes, such as migration, gender, and natural resources management. Getting complicated already, right? Now, on top of this, CARE has decided they want to become a Knowledge Organization. What is this, you might ask? Being a Knowledge Organization is really a business philosophy which allows their people (known as Knowledge Workers) to share and leverage their knowledge to meet business objectives. This is usually linked with Organization Development or Organization Strategy and such in most companies and is often driven by a separate team or the Human Resources group because when we start to consider the people and their knowledge as THE key resource in an organization, Knowledge Organization becomes intrinsically linked to talent management, succession planning, etc. Here, though, HR is basically operational and doesn’t have anything to do with this culture shift. Instead, my department (Impact Measurement, sub-dept of Program Quality and Learning) is leading. There’s a lot of confusion about this, in general, and I don’t get the impression people are really looking forward to this change, partly due to job security reasons and also because they think it means more work. Last week, I started working on the content for the Program Approach microsite, but I’m basically working from scratch trying to come up with materials. There’s been a lot of talk about this for a while, but very little (and by that I mean pretty much nothing) has come out of this. The leadership team in their meetings has this way of stating what “needs to be” but no one really comes up with a plan, a path, or a solution. My manager wants me to create some “vibrancy” around this shift; we have to get people talking on the discussion boards and learning to think of themselves as Knowledge Workers, start networking more through the Learning Circles (Communities of Practice) which I’m helping set up, etc. This all ties in, eventually, with our Knowledge Management Strategy and how we really capture and capitalize on the knowledge that exists within the organization so it doesn’t get extinguished with the completion of a discrete project or leave when a colleague leaves the organization. Yes, it’s hugely convoluted and it’s taken me this long to realize that as much as I’m confused about what I’m supposed to be doing, I actually have a clearer picture than most of the CARE India colleagues. Organizational culture change is not my realm of expertise, but coming from Pfizer I do have the benefit of having seen first-hand how it’s done right. Pfizer colleagues, think of all the new initiatives that come out every year, like The Year of the Manager or OWN IT!. There is a lot of work that goes into those, but driving change takes a lot of cooperative effort and buy-in. Getting leadership onboard has been difficult too; people realize this is going to happen so they have to go along with it, but I don’t think they realize the advantages outweigh the initial costs so they’re not excited about it or anything. My position here makes this particularly difficult because people don’t know me, I’m new and an outsider from a completely different industry so sounding credible and convincing is more of a challenge.

Still reading? Wow, someone must be bored at work today if you’ve stuck with me this long! I’ll end the work discussion here. I have no upcoming field work since my scope has been changed in the last few weeks. I might get back to that community mobilization approach work later during my stint, but I don’t know for sure.

As you’ve perhaps noticed, my blog updates are becoming less frequent. The reason for this is that as I’ve become more settled, obviously there are fewer new, crazy, and wonderful (or not so wonderful) things that happen/that I see. I am still trying to get out and do things on the weekends, but some of it is really not going to be all that interesting; I mean, I don’t tell you all the stuff I do on my weekends at home because often it’s quite boring (went to the dog park, cooked something fun, did homework, read a book… who really needs to hear about this?). I have my school assignment due in approximately 7 weeks so I do have to knuckle down and actually do it, and I promise I won’t make you read about that. One person’s sufferance is enough when it comes to grant applications for childhood obesity interventions. I don’t have any long weekends here and travelling is difficult in terms of time needed, so other than the one trip we’ve planned for Kerala in August, I’m probably just going to be in Delhi for the next little while. I will continue to update so you know that I’m alive, just don’t expect anything too exciting. That said, I’m carrying my camera with me constantly now because when the flashflood happens, I want to show you!!

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