by Alexander Bossakov
At DARA, office conversations are linguistically diverse in the best of ways. Mid-sentence, my colleagues will blend English, Spanish, and French – whether we’re gathered for Tuesday’s team meeting, someone’s reaching out over the phone to DARA staff members in another country, or one person is talking to another one across the room. This is just one aspect of the work environment on the fourth floor of Calle de Felipe IV, 9.
The DARA team does not exceed more than a handful of people at a time. Many more back up the work we do and a vast network of experts perform work on the field – in places ranging from Pakistan to Bolivia and from Haiti to the DRC – that is at the heart of our humanitarian evaluations. Management and the board are close-knit, but extend across continents and partner organizations. All this makes for a distinct work culture fueled by generous levels of cooperation, simultaneous interdependence and self-reliance.
DARA occupies a very specific place in the humanitarian arena, that generally has little public exposure. The vast majority of our work is directly commissioned by agencies like UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, DFID, ECHO, and others, but we remain a small organization that does not parallel the prominence of UN or government agencies. We have gained admission to a framework of similar nonprofit humanitarian organizations who conduct evaluations of the on-the-ground programs of the aforementioned agencies. At this very moment in time, we are finishing up our evaluation report of UNICEF’s response to Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, while drafting proposals for several new evaluations.
I work with colleagues who are stationed in Madrid and others who either travel regularly or are stationed elsewhere – like in our office in Washington, D.C. During the past two weeks and a half, I have worked heavily on preparing various presentation material for DARA’s Refugee Response Index. This has required collaborating with numerous people in trying to understand their vision for the RRI. On occasion, these visions do not overlap entirely and concessions must be made or discussions must be had to determine the best way to present a certain element of the project to a specific audience. I position myself as somewhat of an external weigh-in during such discussions, as a civil society member, as opposed to someone from within the NGO or humanitarian sector.
On our agenda for the next month are a UNHCR-convened NGO forum in Geneva, during which the RRI will be showcased, as well as a tentative meeting with experts in Thessaloniki. These events, and the sub-programming they will consist of, require a variety of approaches and methods of articulation, in a lot of which I happen to play a central role. At this time, I have reviewed proposals, drafts, correspondence, and have sat on meetings all related to the RRI so as to be able to understand what the most comprehensive, precise, and concise presentation of the RRI could look like.