Sunday, December 11, 2011

What I Do

So I’ve been in my volunteer placement a month now and I finally feel ready to explain a little bit about what it is I do here.

I work in the C4D Section of the UNICEF KCO. I help to coordinate campaigns on PMTCT and VMMC with the GoK and NASCOP. I also support the work of our F4L and YLL campaigns, in line with our section’s RWP and IRs and as outlines in my TOR.

(I shall award a prize to whoever understands all of these!)

This is just to illustrate how much the UN loves acronyms. Every time I think I have them all down I read an email or hear someone mention another one that I am unfamiliar with and it sends me on a frantic google and Wikipedia search for meaning.

So yes, what does all of that actually mean? What do I do all day? I work as part of the Communication for Development team in the UNICEF Kenya Country Office. Our role is to support the other UNICEF sections such as Health, Nutrition, Child Protection etc, if they are putting together a communications campaign, whether its through the mass media (TV, radio, online) or whether its an interpersonal communications campaign, maybe using youth or religious leaders to spread particular messages. The messages might be about good hygiene and handwashing practices, the proper use of Insecticide Treated Nets, or around how to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to child (PMTCT).

In practice this means that I spend lots of my time in meetings, either within UNICEF or with other stakeholders and groups that we work with. We work closely with the Government of Kenya on many of our campaigns so the Ministries of Public Health, or the Ministry for Youth and Sport are big partners of ours. We also work through existing community groups and network. The Faith for Life initiative (F4L as referenced above) involves UNICEF working with the Inter Religious Council of Kenya which is a grouping of many Christian churches in Kenya, as well as many Islamic communities. We often use the services of outside creative agencies to help design particular campaigns, or communication materials like posters, handbooks and the like, but UNICEF are there to give structured feedback. We also spend a good bit of time trying to measure the impact of our work so we either conduct monitoring and evaluation ourselves, or get our partners to help with this.

So what did I do this past week? As we're coming to the end of the calendar year lots of the work we're doing at the moment is reporting on what happened in 2011 and looking forward to 2012 on what can be improved. On Monday I helped my boss to put together some of our annual reports so I tried to collate lots of information from different reports to try and see if our programmes have made an impact in our key impact areas. On Tuesday I attended a meeting with other UNICEF departments to review how well we're working together and what we can improve on for next year. On Wednesday I was at a large Kenya Country Office (KCO) Annual review meeting where all of the different sections presented their achievements for the year. On Thursday I sat in on a Faith for Life training session for religious leaders in Huruma slum where they were briefed on child and maternal health best practices so that they can spread these messages to their congregations. A lot of it was in Swahili (highlighting my own need for more lessons urgently) but I still learned loads; it helped to show me what this programme entails 'on the ground' as it were. And on Friday I went with my manager to a meeting with the National Aids and STI Control Programme, UNAIDS, UNFPA and other on our joint PMTCT campaign and what we can do to promote it further next year.

The role is a rather atypical VSO role for a number of reasons. Firstly instead of working for a local NGO or Community-Based Organisation (CBO) - as the vast majority of VSO volunteers do – I am volunteering within a UN agency, and a rather large office at that. This means that I often have resources available to me that other volunteers do not have, I have a good size office, a computer with good internet access and clear structures to work within (most of the time). They also serve pretty nice coffee and the grounds are lush and gorgeous (and replete with monkeys!). On the other hand it means that I have extra bureaucracies and systems to work within. Lots of paperwork. Lots.

Relatedly, I am not engaged in the sort of organisational capacity building that other VSOs are typically involved in. The Kenya Country Office is a high functioning organisation, I am more doing a job than developing the organisation.

So I hope that makes it a bit clearer what it is I am doing out here. If this has been too development speak-y, let me know and I’ll be less techy in future posts or clarify anything that’s too woolly in this one.

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