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Professionalism, and Human Resources in the Development Sector.

In the last couple of years we have seen changes to the way one of our major donors, IM sources its funding and the way that funds have to be applied for. We have all been trained in ways of writing proposals that look more deeply into measurable impacts and have learned new ways of thinking about monitoring and managing. I for one have been very glad of the opportunity to learn about the Log Frame Matrix and lots of my conversations are now suffixed with “and what do you expect to achieve and how will you measure that achievement?”

My working life in India has always been amongst people who are not in the formal sense of the word educated; men and women from leprosy colonies whom we trained to do various admin/office tasks rather than employing outsiders and leaving our own people unemployed. Even in MESH my predecessors took people with limited education and either trained them to fit the job or gave them opportunities for further education. In both Bethany Leprosy Colony and MESH that has been fine…up to a point. I see it as sustainable because one has people that are likely to stay at the job and in the case of the leprosy colony they have more of a sense of ownership.

In the last couple of years though I have been wondering…..

As an organisation grows and approaches to work change those “trained for the job” staff often do not have the capacity to cope with the change so we have a situation where people become ever more anxious as they begin to realise what they do not know and cannot do. That leads in turn to individuals taking a defensive stand and relations in the workplace deteriorate so that soon no one actually wants to come to work any more.

One approach to dealing with the changes and yet keeping your “home grown” team is to take part-time expertise. This year in MESH we have taken the part-time services of a very experienced and senior person to help us straighten out our Admin and Finance matters. Our approach is for him to review the way we work and then to make recommendations that will result in increased efficiency. His initial review threw up all kinds of odd ways of working that each of us has developed over the years to cope. He has then identified betters ways of working, many of which will provide greater efficiency.

We have been fortunate enough to find an elderly person as our advisor who has still very much life and interest in his field and I would suggest to others that there may be elderly people in your locality with years and years of good experience and a keen eye for their field who would welcome a chance to do part-time work of this kind. It is just one way of increasing efficiency without having to take on new staff or pay high salaries to people who may not have the same commitment to your work as your present team.

But even that is no substitute for first quality training. We have made many mistakes in the last couple of years. We tried to promote within the organisation and did not provide enough practical training; the result has been chaos and discontentment and a great deal of extra work. I believe in the abilities of every member of MESH team but often wonder how I can make sure they know enough to do their job well.

I’d be glad to see a debate opened up…..anyone out there have any views?