Monday, 9 November 2015

Midnight Ramblings on Management and IHL

10,000 hours. That's the Malcolm Gladwell rule on becoming an expert, right? Or at least, becoming so familiar with something that you are well-positioned to take advantage of opportunities related to it as they come along. I have a hunch there is more to it than that, but let's go with it for now.

I feel like I must have spent at least 10,000 hours on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in recent years - a good portion of that in the last few weeks. It's interesting. Okay, it's fascinating. I find myself constantly on the look-out for new courses, online learning and discussions about it. I see applications of it everywhere, not in a dry or theoretical policy sense, but in the practicalities of the work. Humanitarian law is so closely related to humanitarian access and "humanitarian space". Plus MSF's hospital got bombed, so IHL has suddenly become a hot topic in the sector (really looking forward to this discussion on the issue). I'm beginning to realise that my particular interest is pretty solidly rooted in the roots of humanitarian law - humanitarianism specifically focused on conflict contexts.

It's also terribly frustrating because my day-to-day is still stuck in the banality of fundraising. We talk about a glass ceiling - the idea that people are unable to move beyond a particular level because invisible prejudices and structural barriers to advancement. That is certainly happening. There seems to be an entirely layer of staff who are constantly banging their heads against the glass ceiling while managers fiddle and fret about not wanting to upset anyone by creating opportunities for movement.

At the same time, it's as if everyone is stuck in a glass box - we can all see what other people are working on but no-one is allowed to step out of their prescribed roles and engage with, contribute to or support anyone else's work. It's... odd. I've always enjoyed the kind of space I work in because the humanitarian and development spaces lend themselves so much more towards generalist skills sets as a simple and probably inevitable result of never really having enough money to hire people who do only one thing. The networks of intelligence that result can stimulate and create fantastic outcomes because different perspectives, experiences and spheres of knowledge combine to produce new ideas and improved ways of getting to where you want to be.

Little glass boxes of frustration. I'm writing an IHL exam today. Best part of my week!

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