Lessons for the field

  • It is possible to make a difference to lives of people by sustained intervention at the grassroots. Keep in mind, the concept of big and small development – the big can take over the small, but don’t wait for the positive big swell to take you over; and dont worry about the negative swell undoing all of your good work. While you are on the ground, keep chipping away
  • No one out there wants your sympathy, except maybe your underpaid long serving colleagues. But if the communities you are working with see you getting emotional, you are in for trouble. However, admire openly. That usually works.
  • Any change is excruciatingly slow. Patience is key in everything – action and communication. For that reason alone, dont worry about taking your time
  • People usually don’t change because you want them to. They may not be willing to change even if its over an issue you are convinced is to their benefit. They mostly, merely respond to incentives. Understand the incentives involved and try to get them right
  • Some like to be photographed – some don’t. They dont expect you to, but respect this choice.
  • This one was obvious – not all the disprivileged are good souls. Watch out for the smart ones. If you are one, they can be, too.
  • You are never one among them. Keep trying, but don’t claim to have mastered it and even if you do claim so, please don’t believe it yourself.
  • People do not know everything. There is definitely a lot that you can teach them. There is a lot more for you to learn, but thats obvious, right?
  • Approach your job analytically. When in trouble, reflect on what’s going on and what that teaches you about yourself, about development and about how organisations run
  • Start writing – field reports, if nothing else; doesn’t matter if noone is reading. Do it for yourself 
  • Don’t obssess about ‘influencing policy’ – focus on ‘good change’ instead.
  • Learn the language. Works like nothing else can.

One Reply to “Lessons for the field”

  1. Thanks for mentioning the importance of writing. I have always been crap at keeping a diary for myself but find that writing notes/letters/reports as if for someone else – even if I have limited intention to share them – is a good way to motivate me to capture all the details.

    Overall, a good set of lessons to keep learning.


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