the working life

It occurs to me that there are a lot of posts here about parties and horseback riding and other frivolous adventures, but not much about my daily activities. Mostly, that is because on a semi-regular basis, I actually work, and that isn’t all that exciting to write about (or read).  But for the purposes of explaining life here in Mongolia, here’s a post on work.

I work with the Open Society Forum, which is part of the Soros Open Society Institute network.  The network is an amazing model – while initially each country office was a subsidiary of the main office in New York, eventually each branch spins off to become semi- or even fully autonomous.  Yet, each office in-country retains its contacts in other countries (and New York), providing a web of organizations each with a common purpose.

In Mongolia, OSF operates in a number of sectors, including economic, fiscal, environmental, and social welfare policy.  In addition, election monitoring and anti-corruption are other important areas in which OSF has a vested interest. On a regular basis, OSF staff work in these fields, often collaborating with Parliament, and local and foreign NGOs, as well as other organizations in the OSI network.

My role at OSF is somewhat undefined. I am, of course, here to do my own research.  But at the same time, I have certain expertise that can be useful for them, particularly in terms of methodology.  Our American educational system places a high value on problem solving and critical analysis skills, and Mongolia is still heavily invested in the Soviet model (aka, rote memorization).  So one skill I bring that is useful is a clear understanding of analysis and methodology in research.  Which is beneficial, because OSF currently has a cohort of policy fellows in dire need of some training.

Policy analysis is by no means a difficult field, but without a foundation in the type of thinking that is promoted in our educational system, it can be difficult for students educated here to step outside the system and delve into analysis and synthesis.  So I’ve been working on a training manual for the fellows – just a simple pamphlet outlining the steps in a policy analysis, as well as some brief information on various data collection techniques.   I’ve also been working on developing a private blog to share thoughts and provide critique on some of the documents the fellows are sending in (first step: proper explanation of a literature review).  In this case, it seems clear that the policy fellowship serves two purposes: one is civil society engagement in political processes, and the second is training for the fellows in critical analysis.

Of course my other role at OSF is rather simple – I am the de facto yoga instructor.  It is actually quite a lot of fun, and I do appreciate a weekly committment to my yoga practice.  Ideally, it will help me maintain my own home practice as well.    Other than that, I am also available to edit English documents and help put together a newsletter.  I am also working on setting up a system for producing podcasts.

I am, in other words, a policy analysis expert, methodology trainer, yoga instructor, and new media specialist.

As for life in the office, I have it good.  The staff cook lunch every day, so I get to eat freshly homemade Mongolian food (way better than restaurant food by a mile). Of course, it also requires dropping the vegetarian pretense, which frankly has not bothered me here.  Knowing that my meat is not industrially produced but instead is raised and slaughtered in a traditional manner means I’m not violating any major principles that led me to being a vegetarian in the first place. I meet my awesome friend Dave every so often for lunch – he helps keep me sane and fills me in on all things post-Soviet political. We also tend to eat veg….

And that is working in Mongolia in a nutshell.  I am also here to do my own research which is slowly coalescing.  More on that, soon enough.

In the meantime, as part of a longer (perhaps lifetime?) project, I’ve set up another blog.  It starts here in Mongolia and will branch out…  And will be looking for guest bloggers!


1 Response to “the working life”

  1. 1 jo118 June 15, 2009 at 10:56 am

    really good to write about something els ” work”

    keep going


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