Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Refugee Stuff: Running a Furniture Program --Assessing needs and resources.

It is the nature of blogs that installments go from newest to oldest, which means that should one be writing ideas in a sequence the sequence gets posted backwards from last point to first point. However, it is the nature of the universe that blogs are an increasing part of the publishing and communicating environment and the medium seems suited for this subject --how to run a refugee center furniture program.

Last time I talked about the goals or mission of a refugee furniture program.

Today I am going to talk about assessing and allocating resources to achieve those goals. Forgive me if I sound very basic and even condescending. Much of what I will see here will be common sense.

Please remember that, quite frankly, to achieve goals in an efficient manner, you need to know both what the job is that you wish to do and you also need to know what it is that you have available to do that job.

Sounds like common sense, right?

The fact is. however, that I have seen what happens when people who work in the refugee field ignore or do not think about the basics of assessing or allocating resources to achieve goals. Perhaps one could argue that the refugee field, or perhaps even human services in general, attracts people without common sense. It's a stressful field in which goals are often seen as being set by circumstances beyond one's control, and therefore need not be analyzed or over-considered. Let me argue that no matter what the circumstances, logic, reason, and analysis are useful tools for meeting the circumstances that one faces.

As for those who do not agree, well, if change in human condition is possible, then such positive change is possible for not only human services clients but also human services workers. Therefore no matter how naively, single-mindedly, idealistic you might be let me urge you to consider the following common sense proposition.:

You can't do everything!

First, assess your needs. Determine, what your needs are. How many people have you agreed to provide for? *

And at what rate of speed?

And in what manner?


Obviously if you've agreed to provide furniture for an average of four refugees a month who come as a group and live together it will be an entirely different operation than if you agree to do the same once a week, or, approximately, four times a month. And if you've agreed to house forty refugees a month, and they live in groups of varying sizes, then you've got another sort of project entirely.

Putting together enough furniture for a single household of needy people as a one time project requires a completely different focus and style than doing so once a week or more.

Think in numbers: amounts, rates and groupings, The numbers will be approximate, especially at first, but what you are basically doing is something much more akin to military logistics than to one-on-one psychotherapy or some other traditional human services operation. You are literally trying to find a practical way to house large quantities of people in a comfortable manner in a low-cost manner. Think in these terms, not just in terms of "helping."

Second, assess the resources you have to achieve these desired goals.

Of course, there are ways to increase resources, but begin by assessing what you have on hand for immediate use. After all, if you don't know what you have already, then how will you be able to assess what your own needs truly are?

--much less those of the people you have agreed to assist, which is an entirely different subject.
Remember, assessing their needs are part one of this fine post.

Assessing your accessible resources which can be used to meet those needs is part two of this post.

Part one. Part two.

Part one == "MEASURE PROBLEMS WHICH YOU WANT TO FIX."

Part two == "MEASURE TOOLS TO FIX THOSE PROBLEMS."

Simple. Simple. Simple.)


Think "QUANTITATIVELY"!!!


"MEASURE!!" "ASSESS!" "ANALYZE!!"


Without these things you can never, ever have any efficiency of operations unless you stumble across it by accident.


Remember how I said this post was pretty much common sense and apologized up front for it? Well, it is. Why bother to say it all? Because if you don't you wind up with something that looks like . . .
THIS!
Yup, that's more or less exactly what happened here. Not only has it been my impression that the the director of this program does not think quantitatively, she does not even know what she's doing wrong. To her the problems simply seem like an overwhelming bout of bad luck.

REMEMBER!! ONCE YOU HAVE DEFINED YOUR MISSION, THEN THE NEXT STEP IS TO ASSESS THE NEEDS OF THE ORGANIZATION IN A QUANTITATIVE MANNER, CONSIDERING SUCH THINGS AS NEEDS, RATE OF NEED AND GROUPINGS FOR DISTRIBUTION. FOLLOWING THIS CONSIDER THE RESOURCES YOU HAVE TO MEET THESE NEEDS. BY TAKING THESE TWO SIMPLE, BASIC, COMMON SENSE STEPS YOU WILL HAVE A GOOD START ON ACHIEVING YOUR GOALS.

Need additional reading on the subject? In all seriousness, I recommend checking out Sun Tzu's "The Art of War," the classic Chinese work on strategy. (You'll see a lot of references to military works in these pages. Like I said, what you're doing is basically running a military operation or a very strange moving company. If you start thinking in terms of logistics, not touchy-feely nonsense, then both you and the people you serve will be better off. Besides one of the things I really enjoyed about this field is that I often felt that I was engaged in the moral equivalent of a war.)

Remember, another way to rephrase the above passages is "Know your enemy and know yourself and you will never fear the result of a thousand battles." As many know this is one of the most quoted lines Sun Tzu ever wrote.

The enemy is the immediate materials needs of the newly-arrived refugees. You agreed to fight that enemy. And that's why you entered this field. Don't compromise them and cause them to suffer through using bubble-headed, fuzzy thinking. They're not looking to your furniture program for compassion. They are looking to your furniture program for, SURPRISE!!!, furniture. It's your job to figure out how to get them some.

Peace.





*(Notice I chose the word "agreed" carefully here. Remember, you do not actually have to do any of this. Unless you personally did such things as install the government of Burma (Myanmar) or somehow spent afternoons and weekends inciting war in central Africa, you do not have a moral obligation to fix the problems of every refugee in the world. And you especially do not have to do so just because some clown in the national office of some NGO has contracted with the state department to accept as many refugees as possible for a fee, then dump them in your lap, label them your problem and meanwhile keep a slice of the money while telling people he or she is doing a good thing. Part of the problem with this organization is that they not only failed to assess their own capabilities, they also have a standing policy to accept every single refugee their national organization dumps on them and no matter how short notice. Does this sound like a sensible way to address a global issue?)

1 comment:

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