Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Full Plate

By way of context and on request, here is some of the background on the professional circumstances that enable this experiment in West African living and an introduction to the projects that keep me out of the water.

Several organizations run projects that they call “Connecting Classrooms.” I’ve been working on UNICEF’s version of this initiative for several years. This work involves as much coordination and email juggling as it does curriculum and instructional design. Occasionally, it creates huge and pressing obligations related to the creation of training materials or monitoring and evaluation reports.

The most active community involves junior and secondary school students in Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Senegal, South Africa, Madagascar, Mauritius and Egypt—this is just getting under way with a focus on food and agriculture related subjects. Technical modifications affect this website, often in significant ways, every several weeks.

In the works is the drastic (and, in part, temporary) expansion of this community to include hundreds of schools from Connecting Classrooms projects that are run by other organizations in other countries. This will focus on climate change and environmental themes and requires much more delicate and thorough coordination. Though it hasn’t yet begun, it’s already consuming as much, if not more, time than the currently active iteration.

Simultaneously, I am offering rolling assistance to Palestine, where the country office is making efforts to launch an Arabic version of Connecting Classrooms for students in the West Bank. This effort is intended to scale, rapidly, towards the inclusion of students from the Iraqi diaspora in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The themes for this project are not yet determined as the technical process of translating and flipping (left to right) of the user interface is time consuming.

Meanwhile, I’ll need to do a partial rewrite of the entire curriculum in advance of the 2009-2010 academic year, while leading a very different re-write of our curriculum for E-mentoring Africa who hope to implement an style online mentoring program in Kenya. I’ve been working closely with this hard working team of non-profit educators to formulate a working business plan for online mentoring in the considerably different circumstances of sub-Saharan Africa. I’ll probably end up traveling to Kenya for trainings related to this project. The U.S. based version of also requires regular consulting on branding, marketing, school outreach and instructional design.

UNIDO is sponsoring a youth platform to serve Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire. This happens to be run on the exact same developing internet technology that I am using for the Connecting Classrooms project. The Liberians in charge of generating local uptake of this resource are impressively motivated and switched-on. Elie and I are interested to figure out how we can support their efforts and are leaning towards increasing the democracy building capabilities of the program—especially since a few government ministries have already joined scores of youth organizations in creating accounts.

Finally, I’m Co-founding, co-planning and co-directing “Robertsport Community Works,” a not-yet legally extant NGO dedicated to making sure that tourism benefits the impoverished community that lives on the exceptional point breaks of Robertsport. This involves networking, planning, self-marketing, paperwork, lots of bubble charts and documents along with cash and physical labor—since we’re starting early with beach clean-ups and the establishment of a community-run campground beneath the iconic cotton tree.

Finally, my efforts are ongoing to coordinate with research scientists at Drexel towards the creation of optimal monitoring and evaluation practices for all of these initiatives.

I pulled the first work-related all-nighter that has ever been necessitated in my life. I felt like I was in college. Once, I’m able to switch a few of these projects into auto-pilot, I look forward to using my consultancy corporation to delegate some of these incessant tasks to the capable people in my network.

Oh, we’ve almost acquired all of our car documents (check the license plate); we’ve got our 60 day visa extension and we’re still looking for a place to live—though, increasingly, it seems like it might be smarter to base ourselves in Robertsport in order to help coordinate the efforts of what seem to be a rather large number of people interested in helping that particular portion of the country.

You may notice the shadow of the license plate this once was. Yes, "PP 9460" was pressed, somewhat flat and then hand-painted to provide us with our own vanity plate. True recycling.

Surfing: Last weekend was overhead and glassy at Robertsport, where, for almost every session, there wasn’t a soul in the water. My leash broke, causing my standard midrange thruster to break its nose on one of the smooth black rocks by the shore; this board joins three others in the queue for board repair, a queue that is not currently moving for an absence of sandpaper and time.

Almost every night it rains so hard that from two feet away, I can’t hear the music, blasting at full volume, from the speakers of my laptop.

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