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  • Zack Adams 5:28 am on May 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Search for Common Ground   


    Two things that SFCG does well are embracing some newer approaches to conflict resolution and recognizing a good thing when it comes along. The first results from my surprise at the degree to which local stakeholders are involved in projects. More than eighty percent of the employees of SFCG are local nationals in the various countries of operation. One of the newest projects is a television drama called The Team. It utilizes near-universal love of football to show conflict resolution among multiethnic members of a soccer team (though, Pakistan’s version follows a cricket team). Actually, The Team is many dramas. It is produced separately in each of eight countries and addresses the unique conflict issues of each. And each is primarily written, directed, and produced by local community members. As to the second point, the fact that this program has become so successful is wonderful; SFCG is concentrating massive amounts of energy into its expansion.

  • Zack Adams 6:04 pm on May 11, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Mixed Methods, Search for Common Ground,   

    I am rather close to completing the Mixe… 

    I am rather close to completing the Mixed Methods Research Module that seems to represent the primary product of my internship. The previous version (the second draft) of the module was reviewed by my supervisors and returned to me with some mixed reviews. While they felt that the structure and important touchstones of the module were present, the primary concerns seemed to be with my language choice, with the absence of examples, and with explicating some of the strategies for approaching mixed methods projects. In the ensuing weeks, I spoke with some people at SFCG who had been in the field about their experience with mixed methods design. My co-intern, a former participant in SFCG’s International Internship Program in Sierra Leone, pointed me to some documents on monitoring and evaluation for SFCG’s radio programs in that country. These documents revealed a strategy that combined qualitative research in the form of interviews and focus groups with target audiences with quantitative research that was based on the subsequent data. Perfect! So I integrated this example, along with a number of non-SFCG examples to address the second issue.

    The language concern dealt with my use of “academic” language and the probable audience. This issue vexed me. First, the academic language was partially a result of the way in which I’ve been taught to communicate formally over the last seven years and partially a reflection of the manuals and books from which I got much of my own guidance on mixed methods research. Nevertheless, I should have been conscious of my audience. Rather, it should have been made clear who the audience is. Once this was made clear, I remained in a difficult position. The audience has a range of educational backgrounds from very, very little formal education (usually for some local “Searchers” who have not been afforded many educational opportunities) to graduate-level professionals. So the question is, “how to be understood by those with less formal education, yet respected by those with more?” The question remains unanswered. I took out some more technical terminology and reworked some sentence structures, but the decisions on language use need to be discussed among the ILT team, potential users, and even the funders of the project (primarily USIP, I believe).

    Finally, the particular strategies were not difficult to elucidate. I should have gone more in-depth with triangulation, etc. in the first place. I also added some visual aids in the form of circles and arrows. Those types of visual representations of processes and designs are of little help to me personally, but may help others (and seem to be favored by my boss) with different learning styles. I have yet to receive formal commentary on the reworked module, but the preliminary response of my direct adviser was quite positive. In the time between submitting that module and receiving commentary, I began a new project working with some indicators for monitoring and evaluation. The project is so very unclear to me that I feel I’m fumbling along in the dark. I have been asked to compile indicators from various organizations into a single excel document. I am left with more questions than answers. What is the point of this document? Who will use it?

    I feel that this has been a common theme during this internship. I feel improperly oriented to what I’m doing and a bit alienated from any sort of end product. It is understandable that this would be the case in nearly any internship, especially in an NGO headquarters. But if I understand the origins, context, and implications of the work I am doing, I imagine the work I produce would be significantly higher quality.

  • Zack Adams 2:54 pm on March 8, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: internet, , Search for Common Ground   

    A Brief Update 

    My internship at SFCG continues without earth-shattering developments (though I get to use my boss’ office while she’s in Armenia: fast computer and a window over Dupont Circle!).  The Knowledge Management project is proving even more difficult than I first imagined.  As I mentioned in previous posts, KM tries to deal with implicit and explicit knowledge.  Explicit knowledge is supposed to be the easy one to collect and disseminate.  While it is certainly easier, I am discovering that the great global equalizer of the internet is not quite as ubiquitous as I’d thought.  My director recently returned from Sierra Leone to  report on the utter snailpace bandwidth available at country offices in sub-Saharan Africa (where most SFCG country offices are located).  Since my thinking had been that the internet was the tool to address at least some of our KM issues, this makes me take a step back and reevaluate my assumptions about access.  It seems that we can purchase greater bandwidth, but the next greater speed comes at four times the cost.  As a cash-strapped NGO, can we justify this extra expense?  Will it improve our efficiency or outcomes enough to offset the cost?  These are, of course, salient and persistent questions for any organization’s (for-profit or not) decision-making bodies.  In the meantime, I will do some brainstorming and see what ideas I can generate…

    • fblume 4:25 pm on March 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      What’s the status with mobile phones? I know in some places where broadband is prohibitive, they use smart phones.

  • Zack Adams 8:49 pm on January 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: applying, , resumes, Search for Common Ground   

    How’d I Get Here? 

    In response to a comment, I’ll mention how I got here. An advertisement for an open internship in the Children and Youth program of the Search for Common Ground was sent out on the SIS listserv sometime in December (naturally, in the midst of finals and the associated confusion; I must thank fellow blogger Mohsin for goading me to apply). As requested, I submitted my resume and cover letter via email and waited. I know that positions here tend to attract some significant numbers of applicants, so I gave them some time before attempting a follow-up.

    (More …)

    • FB 7:32 pm on February 8, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      That’s a great story of how one door may close but another could open! Thanks for sharing it!

  • Zack Adams 6:09 pm on January 22, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Search for Common Ground   

    Zack Adams’ Introduction 

    I’m a first year graduate student in the School of International Service’s International Peace and Conflict Resolution program.  I am primarily focusing on genocide and post-genocide transformative issues, but I am also interested in  refugees, internal displacement, natural disasters, and human rights.

    I’ve just begun an internship at the Search for Common Ground, an NGO that focuses on conflict transformation and peacebuilding.  I will be working in the Institutional Learning Department and look forward to filling you in on what that is…

    • Mohsin 10:09 pm on January 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Can’t wait to see updates of your work at SFCG.

      • David Fletcher 6:20 pm on January 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply


        Many AU students have interned here and many more would like to. Can you mention how you found this opportunity, how you landed it and what like best about what you are doing?


    • FB 7:23 pm on February 8, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      How did you get interested in these issues in the first place?

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