Her name is actually Emily, but she prefers to be called Emma as she thinks that sounds more mature. She has been known to give very negative “technical reviews” to organizations whose “chief of party” referred to her as Emily once. Her surname is vaguely French and that contributes to her being even more of a social bore as she always makes reference to her “European heritage”, at dinner parties implying that cooking soufflés is somehow imbedded in her DNA and no soufflés cooked by anybody else is ever good enough. She doesn’t speak any French, although “she used to be fluent when she was in the Peace Corps” – Emma has the distinction of completely having forgotten a language in two years “because of lack of practice”, being busy with her job and all, in spite of the three months spent in Paris “for language training” before taking up her job with the donor agency, in what is after all a francophone country. The two years between her peace corps stint and this job were spent in “grad school”, the destination of choice for any unemployable, skill-les overachiever who never had a proper job although they are well in their thirties.
On account of the combination of her masters’ degree from a very good school and her overwhelming practical experience in the peace corps, she fancies herself as both a strong technical expert and someone who knows the ins and outs of “community-based” implementation. She has also attended a training on communication once, which makes her a communications expert, having a specific expertise in the benign impact of logos on larger communication strategies. Given that in her world Moroni is not exactly a desirable destination she gets the big fish in the small pond benefit, which effectively puts more responsibilities in her hand that she can handle.
She never left the city (except on a PR visit when she escorted the ambassador to see a HRI "Launch") and spends all her time with the Embassy staff at the compound. She drives around in a white Rav4 (the car of choice for any discerning expat) and has no friends in town. Like many of us she has impeded her ability to operate machinery several times at the usual Thursday night parties-that-only-expats-attend, which made her even more bitter and secluded. She does not attend the parties anymore and when asked why she blames it on “too much work” and on the fact that, given her position, she needs to be always careful to separate her private life from her work.
In grad school she once sat through a case-study on HRI, which makes her a knowledgeable friend. That and the fact that during her peace corps days she was used as a community contact by a HRI affiliate partial to selling American college kids as community credentials to donors. She also really appreciates having a genuine friend in Nathan the intern whom she managed to bond with over similar peace corps experiences – she particularly likes calling him up and treating him like the minion he is. She genuinely appreciates the “comprehensive” approach HRI has to our work, and the consistency with which we give credit to her agency for their generous support. She understands that our NICRA rates and overheads can be a bit too high and that, in a difficult environment, one has to rely on outside consultants all too often, and she definitely understands "capacity challenges" we are encountering working in such a difficult environment and our reluctance to measure impact, neatly formulated as “not wasting money on research”, which is somebody else’s business. She keeps saying she is “an implementer at heart” and she is very pleased to hear me say that she would do a great job working for HRI.
Emma thinks in 300 words snippets. She can never mention Uganda without making reference to a “that successful campaign” and she could never mention Sierra Leone without mentioning the “amputee soccer club”. She has a good feel for fashionable ("trending?") topics and reacts positively when stimulated with empty talk of “innovation” and “using modern technology, such as cell phones”. This is why, in her head she equates HRI with innovation which goes to show that she really is the right person on the right job.
Her massive professional insecurity is actually a significant advantage as she takes easy offence from
So here’s to Emma, you rock!