Friday, February 26, 2010

Almost the Same…. In the Midst of Change - - Flashback to a Previous Life.

Almost the Same…. In the Midst of Change - - Flashback to a Previous Life.

During the last couple of weeks, I have been hit with several “flashbacks” to my previous “corporate” life - - but always with a twist.  This past week, the NGO I work with has been exhibiting at very large agricultural trade show.  It happens that the exhibition center is just across the river from our office, so it makes it easy (and very inexpensive) for us to have a small booth at the show.  My NGO works with Roma and other disadvantaged minorities helping them to build small farms.  Because of that, they represent small farmers, and lobby for their welfare.  We also had a half day seminar for local government officials explaining the plight of the small farmers we work with.

So…. during the week, I found myself helping to set up the booth, checking to make sure there was enough literature in the stand, stuffing packages for the seminar,  and helping out at the booth a little.  Actually it was very little, because my Bulgarian is not quite good enough to explain the intricacies of planting peppers, or taking care of vineyards, or making sure bees have enough flowers to make great honey. 

But it seemed almost the same - - well almost!  Instead of large booths filled with sophisticated computer, or network, or safety equipment, we have a very small booth filled with small booklets which we sell for 2.00 Leva each ( about $1.40).   And instead of other large competitor’s booths nearby blaring their messages over loudspeakers, I had a few head of sheep bleating from a booth in one direction, and rooster crowing from a booth in another direction.   There were also rabbits nearby, - - but they were quiet. 

The show was really quite large, with companies from all over Europe attending, and as you can see from the pictures there were a lot of attendees.  But thankfully, we only do this once per year.   So this is it - - until next February.  And then, I hope I may be able to actually help out in the booth. 

As if attending an international trade show was not strange enough, the week before that I had another “flashback”.  All of the 3Mers reading this blog will appreciate the irony of this next one.   I was asked (along with Lynn and a few other volunteers) to attend a meeting of the Peace Corps Bulgarian staff to help with their STRATEGIC PLAN!   Yes – strategic planning seems to be everywhere - - even in the Peace Corps. 

After having gone through as many plans and “annual agony” strategy sessions, I actually was looking forward to this two day meeting to see how others would do it.   There were some things which were the same, but mostly it was very different.  Here are some of the differences.

  • This plan was completed and sent to Washington in just THREE WEEKS!
  • Our budget INCREASED.  This is the first administration in decades that has actually put money where its mouth is – They support the Peace Corps, and showed it with more than words.
  • We were told to develop a plan to double (if possible) the number of volunteers in three years.  We were told to expect continued increases in budgets.
  • The budget discussion took about 90 minutes!  There were no large excel files.  There was one sheet of flip chart paper with three lines on it creating three spaces – one space for each year.  I found myself having excel withdrawal pains.   I wanted to grab my laptop, and run to the front, and show them how chart budget trends, employ pivot tables, and sync multiple worksheets.  But in the end…. I sat on my hands (well most of the time), and tried to ask probing questions about space, equipment, transportation, training, and skill sets.  It really was a lot of fun!
The Bulgarian PC staff is an awesome group of people.  I have said that before.  There are only three Americans on staff, and they represent most of the “senior” staff.  So… those three people have taken all the inputs, thoughts and ideas from our meetings; and in 15 working days developed the final 13 page plan.  It will be sent out to DC March 1.

OK – I know we are lots smaller than any of the companies, or divisions I have worked for.   But I found the process fascinating, and learned a lot while doing it. 

So… that has been my life for the past couple of weeks.  The more things change … sometimes the more they stay the same.  Who knows what I will be doing in the next few weeks.  But what ever it is, my guess is that it will be interesting. 


Anonymous said...


The trade show looks like most, including the loud clucking and fuzzy participants. I alos noticed the obligatory plastic bags full of giveaways that people were hauling around.


Anonymous said...


I'm sure your enthusiasm showed, in spite of the language barrier! Are you still taking language lessons?