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The EXIT INTERVIEW: fascinating new insights from aid workers who have left their jobs

"If I could start over in my job..." This is the first in our new series where we ask Myanmar and international aid workers who have recently left their organisation to give us their reflections on their own work, and what we could all do differently. First up we talk to an international aid worker who has been in Myanmar for several years working with NGOs.

PK: Is there anything you might have done differently in your job if you had your time over?

If I could start over again in my job, I would resist the pressure to implement until everyone was on the same page – including management, donors and partners.

That requires open conversations, a willingness to look critically at the original proposal, and the flexibility to make important changes that are informed by the reality of the context.

I would push harder to make those happen, and sharpen my own advocacy skills regarding making changes while still staying true to the donors’ goals. Because of the dynamic nature of working in Myanmar, we have to always find the balance between short timelines and thoughtful approaches.

PK: What is the most important role of civil society organisations in Myanmar right now?

In my opinion, the most important role of CSOs right now is to amplify the voices of moderation, tolerance and compassion.

There’s a lot of focus on what’s not working well, but people need to know what’s working if we’re going to create more of it. Because of their networks, the real power of CSOs lies in their ability to spread concepts and messages.

But to do that they’ll need to become better networked, more inter-dependent, and more willing to share knowledge and information. They have the ability to shore up the immune system of the country – to resist the viruses of hate and fear. I think this is a critical need at the moment.

PK: What do you think international organisations could do differently to better support local organisations?

I think one thing international organisations could do differently is to become learning organisations, and let knowledge flow both ways.

I’d like to see them question their own assumptions, be willing to become more self-aware and recognize their own worldview and how that shapes their actions and choices in Myanmar.

To do that requires slowing down long enough to listen and reflect, and explore new options – basically choosing a longer-term view over the “tyranny of the urgent”.

There’s a fair amount of advocacy needed with donors to manage their expectations with regards to timeframes, but I think it’s needed if we’re going to walk our talk regarding “do no harm”.

PK: Thanks very much....

Another exit interview next week....

pic. wat luke

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