Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Official Site Presentation

October 7th, 2009

Site Presentation is when the APCD of your sector comes to officially present you as a Volunteer to your counterpart and community.

My site presentation went off without a hitch.

First, the general manager presented a general presentation about the cooperative.

Next came a presentation by Elisa, my APCD, which was about:
  • Peace Corps and it’s goals
  • RED sector’s goals
  • What is and is not a Volunteer,
  • Roles and responsibilities of all parties involved
  • Rules and regulations
  • Our training
  • Pay
  • Job assessment

I really like my APCD and Volunteer Coordinator. They are on top of things, and extremely helpful. So if you get a RED assignment in Paraguay in the next little while, you're in good hands. Not to mention, Elisa knows EVERYONE and has tons of experience in this field.

And finally, last but not least, I presented a rather fantastic presentation, if I do say so myself about:
  • Me (Where I’m from, childhood, interests, etc...)
  • Educational experiences (including courses and projects)
  • Professional Experiences
  • Reasons for joining the Peace Corps and coming to Paraguay
  • My vision for the next 2 years
  • Some ideas for possible projects I could work on
  • Q & A

In order to gain credibility and confidence as well as educate my counterparts of my education, skills, and experience, I gave them specific examples of projects I’ve worked on, with photos of the final deliverables, and specifics of my education and work experiences such as course work and accomplishments/duties for various professional roles.

I also performed a rather compelling speech about my vision of my role within the cooperative and community, and what I expect to gain and give during the experience. I ended by throwing out a lot of good ideas for projects, based on fact-based observations and research, which could make the cooperative and/or community better.

An excerpt from that part of the presentation:

“First, I believe the Cooperative and the town of San Juan have much more to teach me than I have to teach them. I've learned a lot in my short time here, such as the importance of relaxing and taking time to enjoy life, and have learned a lot about the day to day operations of a well-run business just by being here and observing the cooperative.

However, I do bring a fresh perspective, energy, the willingness to work long and hard, and some educational and professional experiences that may allow me to work effectively within the community.

Throughout the two years, I would learn from the cooperative and the community, and also provide some good ideas and a new perspective, lead important community and cooperative initiatives, serve as a connecting agent to external funding and technical assistance as well as facilitate the transfer of information.

At the end of the day, I want to serve as a resource for the community and cooperative while working together to increase economic development and the standard of living in San Juan Bautista, it’s surrounding areas, and Paraguay in general.

I would like to engage the community in conversations that will challenge forward thinkers to adopt different ways of thinking, which will benefit the community. I would also like to work with the community and members of the cooperative in identifying and solving existing problems and challenges facing the Cooperative, San Juan and Paraguay.

I am excited to develop my leadership skills, so I'm more than willing to help organize groups and events or to increase the impact of existing groups and causes that are working for the social good.

I am eager to gain a deep understanding and appreciation of the Paraguayan culture.

But above all, I hope to develop in some sense, lifelong friendships, while having the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of others.”

After the presentation, most of us went to another meeting area, where my Coop did it up big by serving baked chicken, chorizo (sausage), and potato salad. Then Elisa and Betsy, my Volunteer Coordinator, drove me back to my place where they gave me my bike, my mail, and some other important documents.

I think I accomplished several things during this presentation and I also think I learned a few things about the business culture in Paraguay from the experience.
  1. I successfully built credibility and confidence in my ability to effectively work within the cooperative and community.
  2. I gained rapport with several senior members of the Cooperative (I mixed in a healthy amount of jokes, Paraguayan slang, professionalism, and evoked pathos and ethos from emotional descriptions of the necessity for certain types of projects. I also allowed some of them to speak during my presentation and specifically addressed some of their earlier questions and points from the previous presentation, recognizing the legitimacy of their point and taking it to the next level).
  3. I gave the managers some ideas for my work.
  4. I learned that hierarchy is important to Paraguayans.
  5. I learned that Paraguayans love to eat snacks and sip on drinks during presentations. The day before, as I was making rounds, confirming attendance, I kept getting the question of what we were going to eat and drink, and I haven’t been to a meeting yet where snacks and drinks weren’t served.
  6. I learned that it is normal to take phone calls in the middle of a meeting, get up and walk out, as well as for someone to walk in and begin serving drinks during a presentation.
  7. I learned that Paraguayans, when possible, like to try to impress people and take control of a meeting.
All of these are great insights about the business culture of Paraguay and will be invaluable as I plan other meetings and presentations as well as if I ever enter into a negotiation type scenario.

Of course these are generalizations and stereotypes based on a very limited amount of experiences so keep that in mind. It would be like attending a few meetings in the US and then claiming you knew what US business culture is like. Kind of ridiculous when you think about it that way, but hey, I have to start somewhere right?

Overall, the site presentation could not have gone any better. The cooperative was great in that most of the important people attended and they provided lunch. It was a great start to the professional aspect of my 2-year Peace Corps experience.

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