Archive for October, 2009

mongolian grasslands

The recent Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences is a woman (one of the two, rather), which is unique in its own right.  But more exciting, much of her work centers around the proper management of the commons, which is an important issue in Mongolia today.  Fittingly, that work involved Mongolian grasslands, demonstrating that locally-based, community management is more effective than both privatization and socialism.

morin khuur

Mongolian music is world-class.  Unlike much of the rest of Asia, it isn’t tacky or boring (though modern Mongolian pop can be hit-or-miss). But the traditional music is evocative and beautiful, reminiscent of the open steppe.  My favorite instrument (in an almost cliche way) is the morin khuur.   I haven’t yet seen them, but the Morin Khuur Ensemble is supposed to be one of the best live performances in town.

A peek.

policy training

As part of my work with OSF, I have been assisting with the policy fellowship.  The fellows are all affiliated with NGOs or universities for the most part, and have little to no experience with public policy.  Thus, part of the fellowship’s objective is to allow the fellows to become familiar with policy analysis and research, through the pursuit of their own policy study project.

I can’t speak for the fellows, but I am definitely learning a lot. Having to teach concepts requires a person to really delve into a topic and learn a lot about it. We have a lot of words in English that we use interchangeably but that have distinct meanings.  When communicating in English, we can gloss over these specific and non-specific definitions. But when te words need to be translated into another language their usage needs to be precise and clear. Add the complication of Mongolian having far fewer words, and I”ve never had to think so hard about basic words like “fact”, “assumption”, “problem”, etc. The other major thing I’ve learned is one that every training facilitator learns – group dynamics makes or or breaks the workshop. And the trainers’ role is to ensure that cohesion is found quickly.

Now put these together – group dynamic and translation issues – and you have my situation – facilitating a training in a language I don’t speak on a topic with a lot of universal elements that are strongly contextual.

For the most, I’d say we were successful, in surprising ways. The activities on argument and analysis worked better than expected, given that the examples were taken almost verbatim from the GRE.  At the last minute, I removed the game “2 truths and a lie”, only to have the fellows ask to play it. So we did, and not only did they enjoy it but they understood the point immediately. And even better, they picked up on subtexts in another exercise, intuitively getting the point, which leads me to wonder if critical thinking does not need to be extensively taught, but just encouraged to emerge.

In other news, I am undergoing a spur-of-the-moment apartment move and have recently returned from the countryside, so expect pictures of Western Mongolia once I’m resettled.