Gina writes:

To be honest, I'm not that interested in writing this entry today, because I'm busy doing some things that actually interest me at work. So...what better topic to write about than work?

In the past, Corey has written about work, but I haven't. One of the big reasons for this is because I haven't felt as though I've made any significant progress until recently. That's not necessarily a bad thing; when doing communications for an organization the size of SOVA, it's necessary to take a long time to observe and really get to know the whole organization before recommending and implementing changes. So I spent my first six months doing small projects for individuals and small groups, learning about SOVA's needs and wants and capabilities.

What's taken me six months to learn, I'll summarize in 163 words:

Funders like UNICEF and Save the Children give money to SOVA. This money is meant for specific activities carried out to support specific objectives. For instance, Save the Children wants to increase enrollment of girls in primary school, so they gave money to SOVA to do things like train the parents on the importance of education, provide school books for the poorest families, and inform the girls about their rights. SOVA staff fill out required reports every day, tracking every activity and every child. If they meet certain goals, the grant can be renewed for another project cycle.

SOVA staff each work under different projects and actually get paid from the project grant money (meaning their jobs are never ensured beyond the project period). The 12 or so projects that SOVA is doing all fall within 8 program areas--health, HIV/AIDS, education, governance, livelihoods, disaster relief, community radio, and sponsorship. Some projects fall under multiple program areas, some program areas involve multiple projects.

Since the staff and the money are project-based, but any communications (e.g. website, brochures, presentations) are program-based, it took me awhile to figure out who does what and which projects work for which programs. A negative consequence of the staff thinking only in terms of their own project is that they are uninterested in thinking about SOVA as a whole organization. I've seen that the project teams don't exchange data and are often collecting the same data for 2 or 3 or 4 different projects, all from the same villages!

So as usual, this blog is already as long as Corey's blogs and I haven't even gotten to the point yet...what work have I been doing? Oops! OK, here's a list of the bigger projects:

1. Website - my predecessor created a great website for SOVA. I've been making changes here and there, but also doing work to get the site to a point where the SOVA staff can make changes in the future. Right now, it's too hard to make changes without basic HTML and CSS knowledge.

2. Templates - People's attempts to be creative mixed with India's love of color makes for reports. I'm instituting a system of templates to increase the professional appeal of reports and presentations coming from SOVA. It's a little thing, but a funder's evaluation of the worth of a report will increase if it looks better.

3. Branding - With SOVA's size and decentralization, many of the beneficiaries are aware of the SOVA staff member or the funding organization more that they're aware of SOVA. I'm working to increase recognition of SOVA's name, to increase funding and reputation.

4. Brochures/training materials - I'm excited to be able to do some graphic design again! It's been an uphill battle to convince SOVA that using another organization's stuff and slapping SOVA's logo on it is NOT COOL. Soon, we will have our own materials, specific to SOVA's needs.

5. Mapping - I've become really interested in the idea of community mapping. I developed a tool to create maps in Powerpoint that look and act just like something created with Flash.

From day to day, I'm still editing reports for English grammar, answering endless questions about Excel, and training staff one-on-one to use Word and Powerpoint more effectively (no SmartArt or twirling animations, people!). All of that is fine and helps me to build relationships, but it's not helping me to fulfill my placement objectives.

One last thought: Unlike in my previous work experience, I always have to be thinking of how the organization will continue my work after I'm finished. I'm not using complex graphic design programs or web design software. I'm trying to use Word to make things look polished without being too advanced to replicate. It's something that I find to be really interesting, actually.

All in all, my work is going okay. Some of these initiatives require more public support from the director than is currently being given, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it!