It’s getting harder and harder to find the time to keep this blog updated – especially over the last few weeks, my travel schedule has ramped up heavily, and I’ve gotten more and more embedded into a huge variety of projects, both for my region and for SolCom at large. It’s fun to always be moving and always be flipping back and forth between different things, but it gets exhausting too, and focusing on so many things at once makes it challenging to keep priorities in order.
But the dynamic nature of my job means that there are always new, exciting things being thrown at me. Last week it was helping to facilitate a four-day consulting visit from Deloitte, as the pilot program of a new potential partnership called Partner to Partner. Four teams of five consultants met four different local Guatemalan organizations – in addition to SolCom, projects focused on Mani+, a company marketing and selling an enhanced peanut butter nutritional supplement, Byoearth, an organization focusing on the development potential of empowering cooperatives of women to sell organic fertilizer, and an organization here in Pana, my friend Alyssa’s school AMA and it’s partner entities Hiptipico and Milpa. Krystal and I helped facilitate the consulting project for AMA, which was a blast from start to finish, despite the consolidated time frame.
Day 1: Initial Client Meetings
For about three hours, our team of five consultants, sat down with Alyssa to talk about her current needs and questions, and what sorts of final deliverables would be most helpful for her in moving forward with her school, her ethical fashion export brand, and her crowdfunding educational non-profit – all of which are united in the vision of supporting the local Guatemalan economy, protecting indigenous Mayan heritage, and helping the next generation of Guatemalans seguir adelante. The relationships between the three organizations are complex and deeply intricate, so one of Alyssa’s main goals was determining how best to integrate the entities, and how to brand them, separately or jointly, to achieve her goals. Other goals included putting together a tracking document to measure impact, discussing how to leverage her teaching staff to promote Milpa and Hiptipico, and developing a long-term vision for organizational design and development. It was exciting to see how the Deloitte team approached the project – how they formulated their questions, asked for clarification, and ensured that their understanding was fully accurate, so that their deliverables would be most useful for their client, Alyssa. I could see immediately that these are all tools that I’ll be able to use moving forward – after all, I’m a consultant too, and though many of my client/consultant relationships are unique, more informal, and probably highly dissimilar to those that the Deloitte consultants typically face, the best practices remain the same.
Day 2: Field Visit
Day two was a long one, as we took a day trip to the lake (2.5 hours each way) to visit the school and meet some of the Hiptipico artisans. We had a chance to see the Friday assembly, a weekly event put on by the upper school students in which nearly every grade level put on some sort of presentation, whether it was a song, a poem, or simply presentations of what they were working on that week. Then we had a follow up meeting with Alyssa, where the team was able to ask more clarification questions as well as meet some of the teachers (including my roommate and many of my closest friends!). We made it back to Antigua in the late evening, in time for a second delicious group dinner at one of Antigua’s best restaurants (great meals were also another fun perk of this project!).
Day 3: Results Presentation
I was really looking forward to the Results Presentation, as many of the questions Alyssa had posed to the consultant team were challenging and complex, and I was interested in seeing how the team would approach and present their final suggestions and deliverables. Again, there was so much I was able to note down from this presentation that will benefit me in my own work moving forward – such as re-stating project goals and objectives, short summaries at the beginning, a clear, step-by-step process delineated, and constant checks throughout to make sure that the client (Alyssa) was understanding and on the same page. The final recommendations were extremely detailed and nuanced, and moving forward, I’m excited to see how they are used to foster the growth of three organizations that I’ve come to know so closely since I arrived here in May.
Ultimately, this project was both a wonderful learning experience…and a lot of fun! Beyond the work aspect, we had plenty of time to get to know the group of consultants – who came from 10+ different offices around the U.S., and a whole variety of different backgrounds – to talk about their interests, their lives as consultants, and answer questions about our own work in Guatemala and with SolCom. It was also exciting to see how excited the consultants were about their respective projects – fighting over who had the “best” client at the end of each day, and many consultants asserting that their meetings with their clients were exactly the kinds of client meeting they had hoped for when they decided to become consultants.
One of the most important things I have seen since arriving here four months ago is that when it comes to development work, whether run by a for-profit business, an NGO, or a social movement, whether focusing on a narrow or specific developmental vision or broader structural change, and whether small or large, in many ways, we’re all trying to do the same things. So why not work together? Even a short learning conversation about goals, actions, and next steps can be so productive and enriching in moving forward, and I’m looking forward to making that one of my areas of focus over the next year here in Guatemala.