Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Changing: Seasons and Jobs

After a couple of windy, nasty days, summer is finally here in Maputo. Today it is bright blue skies and feels like it's easily 40C. I'm excited about the onset of summer, even though it is unbearably hot and humid at times. This year I am determined to take advantage of living in such a beautiful place. I want to do more trips to the beach, visit new places like Tofo and Ponta Mamoli, finally go to Kruger, and continue the trend that A. and I started the last weekend it was this hot - freshly squeezed Bloody Marys using our juice extractor and the tomatoes and veg from her garden.

Along with the weather, today marks the end of a chapter in my professional life. I have accepted a full-time job (gasp!) with an organization whose tag-line is something like "Business solutions to rural poverty." Technically they are an NGO, which has me a bit wary given my general opinion of aid, however they *are* heavily private sector focused, and their mission is to strengthen business operating environments and develop specific sectors, cooperatives and entrepreneurs. One thing that has me cautiously optimistic is that they use quantitative, business-inspired indicators to measure their activities and successes - or lack thereof.

If nothing else, it is always good to understand both sides of an argument. Leaving the private sector for the time being will give me valuable insight to the day-to-day workings and strategies of a business-oriented NGO in Mozambique. I continue to believe there is some model out there that provides a positive impact, though on my more cynical days all I can think about is how all donors and capacity-builders and long-term sustainable developers should just get the hell out and leave Mozambique and the Mozambicans to sort themselves out - same thing for all "developing" nations.

Anyhow, it will be an experience, that is for sure. I hope to take something good out of it, as well as contribute something valuable in the process. One thing sem dúvida is that I am ready to leave Big International Corporation. For all the private sector, bottom-line-focused, small-business-enabling rhetoric around here, my end evaluation after working as a consultant here for 8 months is that it is one of the more supremely, maddeningly, absurdly inefficient institutions I've ever encountered, both internally and externally. So much for the "private sector is more efficient" argument, although BIC is more like an aid organization in that their funding for this particular fund comes from donors, and therefore heads don't roll in the face of non-performance like they do in traditional financial institutions.

So what will I be doing in my new job? A lot of different things, but I hope that keeps me interested. My title is Director of Stakeholder Relations, which I am trying to ignore because I hate the wishy-washy sound of it. Essentially I will be responsible for: 1) ensuring the quality and timeliness of all written proposals to funding sources; 2) ensuring the quality and timeliness of all reporting to funding sources and other stakeholders; 3) managing the volunteer consultant program; and 4) developing and implementing knowledge management practices, including trainings and mentorships for staff.

The part of the job that I am most looking forward to is working with the volunteer consultants. This particular organization brings very high-caliber individuals to work on specific projects in each of the countries where they operate. For example, an executive from Shell Oil might come to Mozambique to work for 2 months helping a group of coconut producers develop a biodiesel business plan. Or a consultant from McKinsey might come for 6 months to create a marketing plan for the country's cashew industry. I am hoping that the interaction with all of the volunteer consultants keeps me inspired, on my toes, and interested in my job.

I'm counting down the hours until I say goodbye to BIC. More than anything, the bureaucracy drove me crazy. I already knew that I'm not cut out to work in an environment that doesn't embrace innovation and flexibility, but this experience confirmed it 100%. The saddest part is that BIC is staffed with some of the most intelligent, committed people you could hope to come across, both Mozambican and expats. The cumbersome, ineffective system, however, almost negates that fact...

Adeus, senhores. It's been a good ride, but it's even better to get out when the time is right.


Lacithecat said...

Gasp. Really, you are not!

Well I look forward to what you think ...

Brandie said...

As a current aid worker - I say, 'welcome to the DARK SIDE!!!' ok just kidding (kinda). My new org just won another contract in Moz doing very similar work as your organization. I definitely look forward to reading about your experiences!

jorgeG said...

Hi, great blog! I'm about to arrive in Maputo and spent almost 3 hours perusing some of your entries. I'll be doing similar work to the one you are describing here and would love to know what is the name of your organization. I'd appreciated it if you tell me over email, or just respond with the email.
Um abraco,

Ali la Loca said...

~Jorge - I need you to email me so I can have your contact info - I can't find an email for you on your blogger account. My email is rosa_brazil at yahoo dot com.