The Difference Between Grassroot and Policy Work
I am glad I work for Nuru. One of the reasons that I am glad I work for Nuru is that we are a grassroots organization. We spend time with people experiencing extreme poverty and we try to tailor the work we do to their specific needs. We don’t develop solutions from the ivory tower. We don’t come into communities thinking we know the answers. We don’t work from the top down to try to change policies, we work from the bottom up to try to change individual lives.
Sometimes policies need to be changed in order for people to experience freedom from the shackles of extreme poverty. So, it is important that organizations with goals similar to Nuru’s goals do policy work. The reason I feel that I myself am not necessarily cut out for policy work is that it takes a lot of interpersonal sensitivity, a lot of finesse, a lot of patience, and a real way with words and negotiation. None of these personal attributes are things I feel that I particularly possess. I suppose I can pull them out as skills when I try very hard to, but they are not on the top of my list of natural personal attributes.
Another thing that policy-based work entails is a lot of discussion about the topic of extreme poverty. This, I actually enjoy and spend a lot of time on. Great portions of my discussions and ruminations about the problem of extreme poverty, though, are always around how specifically to assess and measure it and what to do about it once it has been assessed. Policy discussions and writings often spend more time on defining the topic and problem with a sentence at the end of the discussion stating that “policy makers should…” with a recommendation that can be represented with just a few words but would entail lifetimes of altered realities to make real.
I am happy that my discussions are often around what we are actually going to do as an organization, as opposed to what we think entities that are very difficult to effect ought to do.
As I often do, I want to just quickly change the subject and report on a few things. A local volunteer here in Columbus has offered to help me out with my volunteer management process. She is a QC specialist at a local very big and very cool company, and she is viewing my work in volunteer management with a critical eye and coming up with some ideas for how I can improve the process. This is a great thing.
Another thing to report on: we’re working on standardizing and improving our use of two major tools that we use a lot: Power Point and Microsoft Excel. I have developed a template for power point that we will use as an organization pretty soon, and we are working on narrowing down a few options for good Excel training for a number of our employees. Both great things that harken back to my time as a consultant. Great stuff!