Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Usurper

I am the one who changed the password. You can call me The Usurper. And I may change it again, just because I can.

Now that Aldie has retired, the aid blog scene is as boring as a peace-corps party given for the local mormon missionaries. Even this place starts to look more like some retard's tedious myspace (please-please friend-me). 

Here is a fact: aid blogs get as much critical thinking as the UN's strategic plan. I have just done a round and for fuck's sake people, have some dignity. 

All you get is pretentious wankers writing endlessly about some obscure shit or if not, some other sort of long, tedious, self-important masturbation of people who most certainly perpetuate the sort of inneffective "aid systems" they are busy rationalizing on their stupid blogs. You get categorical statements and pompous attempts to formulate pseudo-scientific principles about "aid", in bullet points. And you get smug, patronizing morons desperate to attract more hits on their shitty websites and please anyone "influential" enough to get them a like and a follower on twitter.

It's like a ride in an UNDPKO elevator, but worse.  

You even get people trying to sell their own t-shirts and mugs (Aldie even you are twitter chums with some of them).   

Who the fuck reads all this shit, never-mind write it? When do they find the time to "save lives" and apply the higher standards they preach?

What you people need is more beer. And a life.

Piss me off and I'll return with links.

The Usurper
PS - Aldie, if you delete my post you are a shit like the rest of them and I'll change the password again.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pretty Fucking Please With Sugar on Top

So here I am enjoying my retirement on a humble golf estate, out of sight/ out of mind of some train-wreck of a slum, with the right mix of good climate, availability of wine and good choice of servants, practicing my swing and lowering my handicap, when "work" catches up with me in the form of an emergency.

As all of yous remember, I have decided to crowd-source this important newsletter to impress donors with HRI's modernity and innovation and to free up some space on my busy agenda for more serious activities, such as the aforementioned improvement of my handicap.

Work catches up, I say, in the form of an emergency, complaints filling my inbox reporting that some asshole changed the password, making crowdsourcing very difficult as it were, putting the whole well-thought strategy at risk, endangering lives and wastuing everyone's time in the process.

So I rushed and responded to this emergency with the sort of speed and efficiency that made HRI famous, and here are the new credentials:

(comic sans forever)
So guys? Pretty fucking please with sugar on top, don't fuck with the password anyomore. OK?

Now, where was my wood?

Monday, October 31, 2011

I am Aikido Aidworker

Dr. Kurtz has humiliated me in public long enough.

I am Aikido Aidworker. I am strong. I am peace. I am Zen with my logframe, and business class ticket.

I am here. Next to you on the plane, behind you in the working group, in front of you in the passenger seat of the Land-cruiser as the driver illuminates the past into the present.

I am Aikido Aidworker - the Usurper.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Doctor's Orders

This is Dr. Peacekeeper. Your friendly "Bones" in an unnamed peacekeeping operation, usually in Africa. Oh Africa, what a gawd awful place, at least its a long way from my ex-wife. No doubt she feels the same.

I am very grateful to HRI for allowing me this space.

Unlike HRI, and Dr. Kurtz, I really do not give much of a toss about stakeholders and you hand-ringing Aid types. However, I am very fond of the fresh volunteers that get off the C-130 every week. The most interesting ones are the alluring HRI interns looking for a way out of country.

One thing that I have discovered is that the lost and earnest EAW and UN Volunteer wants to fly on my UN transport planes. Without a little chit from me they cannot get that all important MOP (Movement of Personnel) form signed on short notice. I have real power, as they desperately want to get out of country.

Why are they so dedicated to the 3 day trip beyond the wire? So they can skype back to Mum and Dad from their shiny iPad telling them how bloody hip it is to be a peacekeeper. All from the edge of a salted pool, with slinky bums parading up and down the pool deck.

The things they will do for that chit. They follow doctor's orders.

I might have to get back to the bar now. I do not blog or tweet much, its just not as satisfying as a Pink Gin.

Who is Dr. Kurtz?

It's been a while this "electronic newsletter" going - so long that I have lost count of all the interns that passed through and learned the ropes under my visionary leadership.

I have also had my share of constructive feedback, which I duly "actionized" using the appropuiate tool-kit, in order to become a better person:
And obviously, this improvement of the person process has also not gone unnoticed:

But most importantly, during all this this time I have never allowed myself to step out of character, and have generally tried to remain dignified in my bubbly existence.

Like you, at times I have been accused of being "that guy who writes that blog", and like you I have duly denied it. The fact that it may have been me is obviously irrelevant because you knows it: all of yous is just a little bit Dr. Kurtz, just a little bit Hand Relief.

So then, in order to allow Dr. Kurtz all the creative freedom his oversized ego deserves, why not bring this to its logical conclusions and spell it out right here right now, black on white:

Who is Dr. Kurtz?
Well, obviously, it is you, reader.

And if you don't believe me, go to and check it out:

(comic sans forever)
 And in the unlikely event you are wondering what the angle is, well, I have it from reliable sources that donors these days are suckers for "crowdsourcing", so why not crowdsource the shit out of this "newsletter" and ride the innovations gravy train?

Sure, it may happen that the "newsletter" will turn into a platform for promoting "intimate enhancers" and business opportunities involving Gaddafi's many surviving relatives, but to the right kind of eye that in itself is nothing but a great "PPP" opportunity.

So, see you around the next junket, reader, and do keep up the enabling environment synergies that build capacity and continue to streamline cooperation - those vulnerable people in our calendar pictures will be forever grateful.

UPDATE: here's open source at its best: some despicable character has changed the password, so here is the new one:
comic sans forever 2
And Guys? Do me a favor? Please stop fucking with the password, ok? Think of all the poor children that need our help.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Important Communication to All Aid Bloggers Related to the Urgent Need for Better Coordination in the Sector

Dear Stakeholders,

It has come to my attention that there really are too many aid blogs out there, aren't there? That's obviously not good for the aid-blog sector, because as you surely agree there is too much "duplication of effort" and lack of "sharing of lessons learned" and "best practices" and "leverage of knowledge" among the different stakeholders.

Obviously what we need is more coordination.

As a self-appointed leader of the sector HRI is hereby suggesting we start focusing on coordination of all aid-blogging activities across the aid-blogging sector. HRI has already helpfully received an award from The Donor to support with this coordination effort (why would it have been competed? better to "sole-source" these things to the coordination experts) and as we speak a reasonably paid consultant is on the way here and should be shortly in touch with some matrix or other.

What you all need to do now is nominate a focal point (for now - you will need more focal points shortly as we expect coordination activities to start branching out across sub-themes and sub-committees).

The plan is we'll start by having weekly meetings at the heads-of-blogging-agency level and there will be weekly focal point meetings in the coordination task force. Various sub-themes will be then identified (aid, development, M&E, snark, etc.) and Lead Blogs will be allocated to each of these themes.

Sub-committees should be in place ("scaled-up") by mid-October and leading agencies should start reporting regularly to the Task Force and Coordination Group regularly. The Coordination Matrix will be filled in by individual blogs and then reviewed by our consultant. Tool-kits shoudl be distributed in January 2012.

In the following phase, a Communication Coordination Sub-Group will be set up that will be tasked with "clearing" any new post in the aid-blogging sector, to ensure coordinated messages and to avoid conflicting communication. We are also expected to agree on geographical priorities and different countries/ continents will be allocated to different blogs to ensure uniform coverage and "bridging of gaps".

Finally, sometime next year, HRI's M&E consultant will be in touch with a strategy that will prove beyond any doubt the added value of a truly coordinated strategy.

Thanks folks for your cooperation - and I have no doubt that together we'll successfully coordinate the shit out of the aid-blogging industry!

PS: costs will be shared across the sector, please ensure you allocate sufficient resources in your 2012 work-plans for this important activity.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Dilemma that Wasn't

Straight from the hip, boys: there comes a point in this business when every single one of us has to make a simple choice:

  1. You either go for "impact" (however you choose to define that, let's not get into details); or
  2. You go for pleasing The Donor.
It is the business' oldest trick, all of us will get to this fork in the road sooner or later and do spare a thought for the poor bastards who make the mistake of crossing a donor for the sake of some weak-assed idea that no-one gives a shit about anyway. Spare a thought for them I say, because their days in this business are numbered and few as they are, they sure aren't any fun.

What's this "impact" business about anyway? No-one can define it and it's achievement remains in the realm of opinion, and you know what they say about opinions:

Opinions are like assholes
Anyway, whine the poor bastards as they may, this "impact" vs. pleasing the donor dilemma is not really a dilemma at all and any HRI employee worth their salt knows what to do: it's an easy case of yes-sir-yes-ma'am all the way to "sustainability".

And therefore, since I always wanted to mark the place where Prados are doing u-turns in the reasonably-sized yard of our office in Moroni, around the place where our visibly branded vehicles get expertly washed by our drivers, I am currently having a duly-procured contractor put up a tasteful 3D sculpture of "A Donor's Logo" as a long-lasting testimony to our right order of priorities.

Make sure you come to the "unveiling" - Emma will be there and let's be honest: it will be a great opportunity to network.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dr. K's Annals of Unsolicited Advice: How to Handle the Hunger in the Horn

This is probably obvious to those familiar with the business: the nature of our life-saving work in Somalia has subtly changed since last time we spoke about it, on account of several fortunate complex events, the most significant of which being a massive famine in “The Horn” and, of course, the fact that it is easier these days to pop by Mogadishu for a photo opportunity than has ever been since the fateful events of '93. (just a few weeks ago a simple stopover at K50 would be a badge of honor for the field-conscious HRI employee).

Among those in the know, another fact has not remained unnoticed: there is more money flowing in than used to and that, reader, is excellent news.

The shit continues to be real in Nairobi, the dignified hub of any meaningful Somalia project, with necessary field trips to Dadaab, where HRI has quickly  set up cutting-edge infrastructure to ferry high-flyers through, complete with up-to-the minute roster of the photogenic fresh arrivals that can be summoned in an instant with their families for that perfect picture, should the visitor require one for the cover of their all-important trip report or their obligatory article in newspaper of choice back home.

A few months ago it was all about “clan complexity”  and supporting the right “government” with capacity building and in general organizing logistically complicated but symbolically vital series of life-saving meetings, many of which requiring state-of-the art teleconferencing facilities to accommodate participation on the New York-Geneva-Nairobi-Shithole axis. These days the increased level of emergency and the “comprehensive” nature of the required “response” made it necessary for HRI to “scale up” the extent and nature of the staple life-saving meeting portfolio that defines our “proven approach”: In addition to bi-weekly inter-agency meetings in all relevant locations, we have daily standing briefings in Nairobi, bi-weekly “country team meetings”, task-forces, cluster meetings, NGO coordination groups, technical meetings, action groups and of course emergency coordination initiatives and ad-hoc meetings called to coordinate this or the other situation, incident or VIP visit, all of which require all hands on deck and then some, not to mention a newly energized army of interns, volunteers, consultants and support staff tasked with the all-important job of compiling minutes and reports and having them approved by participants and other “stakeholders”.

Of course we have increased “boots on the ground” by a factor of 100 to the pre-emergency levels and we have rapidly deployed an efficient newsletter creation and dissemination task force, complete with a “new media” wing - efficient in distributing links to pdf versions of the respective newsletters to millions of defenseless twitter and facebook users – and a special calendar creation team, tasked with the development in real-time of calendars containing the best photographs of big-eyed starving children, the staple of any “complex” emergency.

Like best things in life, a good emergency always boils down to money. Raising it (a matter of principle) and spending it fast.


Emergencies are never about subtleties and if you are new to one, here's an advice: spend the shit out of those budgets and ignore your natural tendencies to cringe. Visibility is everything: get your flag in every picture and make sure your logo is on TV, ideally behind the Kevlar-suited anchor.

This, reader, is the time when it's all about triggering emotions in punters – HRI's form of “brand awareness”: no-one on the street cares or understands what can be done “out there”, but everyone wants to “give well” and that's perfectly fine because of a simple fact, proven again and again by HRI:

If you throw money at a catastrophe, it will go away.

And as a bonus, you get to sleep better at night, bless your generous soul.

And soon enough, with all the additional “experience” we are currently acquiring, we will be best placed to handle the next catastrophe, perhaps in Libya?

And in case you wonder how will we approach that I am here to tell you that we are well prepared: don't you worry about the details – we'll just throw some money at it, and this one, too, will go away.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Letter to our Donors

Dearest Donor,

For a long time now, I have wanted to write you a letter, as yet another opportunity to flatter you and reassure you that you are doing a tremendous job of alleviating the poverty of the miserable lot we are are mandated to help, one prudent coordination initiative at a time, and to thank you one more time for a strong, mutually beneficial partnership.

I said it before: we have also always been delighted about the high complexity of your award procedures. Our reasonably paid consultants do a way better job than those small-timers who try to compete partner with us of putting together  a decent application and our roster of "Key Staff" has always been better populated by the sort of degree-flaunting over-achievers that have implemented the shit out of so many other paradigm-shifting projects you have so generously funded in the past, both here and elsewhere.

I should also mention how thankful we have always been to be able to exploit your high interest in stories in the local media reflecting your generosity and support; an interest far superior to your interest in developing an independent media in respective country, if you know what I mean. Sure, as your partner we have always been keen to create an enabling environment for an independent media, where "creating an enabling environment" is an euphemism for inviting the media to residential "trainings" at the Dusit Thani about the universal and inalienable right of any journalist to write positive stories about the programs you are supporting and the partnership between relevant governments.

May I also take the opportunity to commend your commitment to transparency. We love the fact that you choose sometimes to publicize your partners budget on the internet, as that allows us to compete against them with a symbolically lower overhead rate, as a way to ensure we always remain competitive. The fact that your performance indicators are both mind-boggling complicated to define and impossible to measure in any reliable fashion conveniently ensures that evaluating performance remains in the realm of politics where it belongs, a world we naturally navigate much better than any of our competitors partners.

We also need to mention here your brilliant approach to staffing your own presence on the ground. We have always been excited to work with a large team of inexperienced micro-managing bureaucrats, fond of back-stabbing each other while faking cooperation and incapable to take any decision that would threaten our own unwillingness to move away from life-saving meetings as expressions of smart aid. We love to exploit their inability to interpret data, the reassuring comfort they take in a well crafted progress report and their general fondness for the right kind of visibility not to mention their commitment to coordination meetings.

Speaking of progress reports. We love your reports time-lines, always. And the fact that there are the same with all other affiliates, which ensures your overworked staff love a well-edited copy-paste affair, with flash photos featuring the right characters and heart-lifting success stories.

We love also your predictability. The detailed negotiations years before implementation. The difficult procedures involved in revising budgets and strategies. There is nothing HRI loves more than spending millions on irrelevant activities and promoting dated development theories around the world.

In short, you are the best, Donor. Please don't change anytime soon.

Sincerely yours,
Dr. Alden M. Kurtz

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Interngate and the efficiency of Class Warfare

Don't know about you, but I quite enjoyed the intensity of the most recent episode of interngate, fought like all good battles by the forces of good an evil, neatly grouped in easily identifiable formations.

It made me realize that in the tactical arsenal of the discerning theoretician there has rarely been an option more powerful than the Class Warfare. As asymmetric than asymmetric warfare itself but much more reliable, class warfare has a history that is surprisingly similar with the history of this business of hours, in the sense that it has always involved a lot of obfuscation and "coordination" but rarely has it helped the "beneficiaries" on behalf of whom the war is always waged.

Have a good look around - it will be hard to find a place where class warfare is not fought this very moment, be it by a politician temporary adopting the accent of a mortal while campaigning in some shithole full of potential voters or by some visionary leader sacrificing his health to lead his dim-witted people out of the darkness, from the back seat of a Merc S600 doing 100miles an hour past the galaxy's second filthiest slum.

And I'm not making this shit up. I know it because I am often following the Class Warrior's S600's in my HRI branded Land Cruiser and I spend much of my time patting their backs or the lesser backs of their numerous minions.

And why the trouble? Well, I do it for the poor and the vulnerable, me. I am a class warrior.

The truth is I do feel guilt for my privileged upbringing, my liberal art education and my six post-graduate degrees which I earned at six different "respectable" education establishments. And it is indeed this class guilt that has been the foundation of my brilliant career and of my willingness to trade a mediocre job in the private sector complete with small suburban house somewhere in Ohio for a series of dignified residences and the opportunity to slap backs with dignitaries, the world over, on behalf of the poor and vulnerable.

It's hard, but someone's gotta do it.

And I can't be alone in my suffering, because as far as I can tell most HRI employees have a similar background, with the visible exception of the occasional token colleague, usually holding only three degrees themselves rather than six, a convenient detail that will also ensure that we are intellectually aligned and that we have "continuity of ideas".

Of course I never held a real job until I was 36, after which my expectations were quite high, what with my six degrees, so I finally accepted a management position with a HRI affiliate quickly impressed by my pile of degrees, and I learned fast that competence, or the absence thereof, must never be regarded as a limiter in one's own professional growth.

I also learned to make good use of the intern, a skill that continues to served me well in an industry that loves as much free labour as it can get. Of course, some HRI interns get higher stipends than the salaries of their senior "local" colleagues, which is a class warfare in a class of its own, often fought drunkenly over $10 beer at the local night-club, the parking-lot of which comes alive at night with hundreds of drivers waiting in hundreds of vehicles for hundreds of interns to return them safely to their respective accommodation.

The truth is, it's all very complicated. But who am I to miss an opportunity to simplify a complicated reality in order to prove my class warrior credentials on the internet? So, in less than 140 characters, here is my position on interngate:
Now, if you are still concerned with interngate and wonder what you can do, here is a solution: You should start up a charity that fund-raises and puts together pay packages for less privileged people who want to do internships with HRI but can't afford to do unpaid work. Just remember, please, we only accept people with at least two degrees from "respectable" institutions.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On the Significance of Facial Hair

In our donor-fueled pursuit of grand ideas and grander gestures, it is often too easy to lose sight of the smaller details which, as so often in life, turn out to be more significant than with hidsight.

Take facial hair for example.

More than an individual choice based on personal hygiene and esthetics standards, facial hair is to the keen eye also a pretty reliable sign of character and competence that must not be ignored if one pursues the highest echelons in this business.

Here is some advice:

The humble mustache is a pretty good tell-tale sign of a certain touch for leadership:

You've got the timeless "Hitler"
Or the more tasteful "groomed sheriff"

Then there is "The Cleric", known to give the wearer an air of trustworthyness and maturity

You've got of course the "Wilford Brimley", an excellent compliment to a comb-over
"Did you say something about my mustache?"
And of course, the "Charmeur" a.k.a. the"Paint-job"
Perhaps you never thought about it, but it is a matter of fact that it is rare to see a dictator this days without a mustache and only a fool will ignore the causality in this correlation. Of course, in certain schools of leadership, partiality to 60’s porno shades trumps a mustache any day:
Shades > Mustache
In our business, of course, mustaches are the thing of donor agencies ("The Bart Reynolds” is the second-favourite mustache style there, after the “Ned Flanders”). However, mustaches are also favored by various accountant species and certain “Asia” old-hands who sport them in combination with side-parted hair and self-darkening eyeglasses, a particularly potent combination that helps with the charm factor in seedy karaoke parlors around Manila.

The three-day stubble of course will forever remain the domain of logisticians and certain HQ people who want to flaunt their field cred and/ or “operational” past. It is often sported in combination with "The Skubble”, a combination of bald patch and stubble (you know the one, right?).

The goatee is a more complicated matter. Volunteers favour them (in combination with various hats specially-made for the tropics), but so do M&E types and consultants. It is fair assumption to make that there is a reverse proportionality between the presence of a goatee and decision-making authority, and Mr. Meles Zenawi of course is the exception that confirms this rule (and there are experts who dispute the goatee characteristics of Zenawi's facial hair and prefer to put this to this style in a separate category, known as "The D'artagnan":

The D'artagnan: Is it a goatee or a mustache? Hard to say.
The side-burn, or the mutton-chop is pretty much a non-French-working-for-French-medical-NGO exclusive, very rarely also seen among veterinarians working for small Italian NGOs. A niche.

Finally, "The Sage" is an interesting one as well – it has only been seen among junior aid enthusiasts around their third year internship and, or course, economists:
"The Sage". Or is it a goatee? Hard to say
Finally, from the fine people at, here is a more complete and not industry-specific taxonomy of beards, arranged by trustworthiness:


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mistakes? I haven't made a few!

Reader, I need to go on record once and for all with a clarifying statement:

Unlikely as this may sound, no-one in HRI has ever made a single mistake


Sure there was that fateful excel incident but that was the cock-up of an intern and mistakes made by interns don't count. 


This is not to say that shit doesn't happen. Shit actually happens all the time, but look closer and you will find it is always a problem of:
  • coordination; or
  • clan complexity; or
  • "absorptive capacity"; or
  • government incompetence; or
  • lack of local capacity; or
  • lack of commitment expressed in unwillingness of some stakeholders to attend the right meetings; or
  • lack of resources (of course);
Indeed, never has there been any known instance where shit happened because HRI made a mistake. 

Can't happen. 

I dare you, reader to point out to me a single mistake we ever made. Millions of children, women, refugees, poor and vulnerable people will disagree with you. People who know better because their very survival depends on our perfect execution of life-saving workshops. They have a voice too, as one of them sometimes represents them all in the occasional high-profile workshop. The rest are just content to inhabit a world of children happy to receive a "NFI" here, a better education facilitated by an education advisor there. A world of individuals displaced by unspeakable catastrophes who take solaces in an embrace of a rock star. In Emma's understanding smile. In the opportunity to be photographed by a world class artist. A few square meters of tarpaulin. 
The stuff of dreams, delivered daily by the fearless individuals who populate life-saving meetings and never rest or take a break. 
Or make mistakes. 

A world accurately reflected in so many high quality newsletters that our interns tirelessly put together with your money. 

Go out an read them if you don't believe me.
And, hey, do me a favour: spread the word, will you? We need all the back-slapping we can get.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bad News, Good News

When flying in a Cessna I always insist to sit next to the pilot: aside from making a point of being in the front even where there is no business class, I take pleasure in bantering over the two-way about syncing the torques and tales of Cessnas flying on moonshine and Antonov 24s belly-landing in deserts and mythical Russian pilots walking away from wrecks in their wife-beaters.

That is the least I can do to mitigate the indignity of awkwardly getting my red-faced chino-and-pink-shirt-clad body in and out over the wing of the aircraft.

As we approach, the landscape looks familiar: arid lands scattered with "informal settlements" built out of corrugated iron, cardboard and HRI-branded tarpaulin, surrounded by fences made out of thorn bush and rusty rear axle links cannibalized off who knows what unfortunate trucks. Children forever frolicking nearby along goats and donkeys (a scene also known in the business as a "photo opportunity"). As we approach the camp, we beheld more solid structures and the signs of a lucrative business: people selling building materials, a bizarre and counter-intuitive reality of every respectable refugee camp.

This one here is not just any camp of course, we are about to land nearby Dadaab, the mother of all camps and beloved destination of Hollywood stars and every HRI official worth their salt.

Rule of the thumb is when the construction-materials business is picking up, the seasoned HRI employee knows that fresh refugees are coming in and is moving towards unlocking the necessary sources of "emergency funding" to ensure the HRI presence in the camp grows accordingly. HRI "people on the ground" have done an awesome job out of hijacking every meeting around, cluster or no cluster, and ensuring that HRI is well present in every committee and action group, the better to "leverage" whatever funds are bound to be unlocked by the most recent, highly unfortunate, drought across the border in Somalia, a country few of us actually have visited, but many of us know very well from coordination meetings in Nairobi, field trips right here, in Dadaab and the regular security trainings organized nearby Nairobi to make sure everyone is prepared to talk tough over moccachinos at Doorman's or Java House.

Indeed, bad news are piling up this summer and that is good for business.

Just yesterday I landed in Nairobi all the way from Juba where I was celebrating along other international HRI staff the official independence of Africa's most recent country. Take it from me: these moments must be savored and one must enjoy both the enthusiasm of the masses and the business opportunities while they last.

Sure, the business opportunities always lasts longer than the enthusiasm (shit, sometimes when enthusiasm leads to disappointment which leads to "social unrest", the business gets even better, along with the "hardship pay"), but good news, bad news, we enjoy them all while they last.

Besides there will come a point when someone will ask: "Where were you when so and so happened". Being able to say "I was there" is crucial to both your field cred and the ability to pass as a better "key personnel" in various applications for funding.

That is all good for business.

Of course, like you, I am looking forward to more opportunities to absorb the enthusiasm that comes with a new country, speculate on the new Government's inexperience and monetize on donors' optimism in such situations. In many ways, you will agree, a newly independent country is a perfect storm for HRI.

As of Dadaab and the drought in Somalia? Well, the global tarpaulin experts are here to help! Ka-Ching!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Man With The Plan

In khakis, polo shirt, ergonomic boots and special filter shades – the field uniform of any experienced consultant – Samuel “The Excel Sheet” Malone looks comfortable in a sumptuous patent-leather Chinese armchair while savoring his well stirred nescafe fitting right in the landscape among plastic flowers, various generations of HRI-donated computers lined up under a culturally-appropriate cover on a desk nearby, and pictures of the country's top brass, adorned tastefully with a rig that is partly fairy light partly paper garland.

Samuel's job in Moroni is almost completed and he carries the features of man ready to reap the benefits of his hard work. In a folder he carries the latest draft of Comoros' Strategic Plan 2007-2011 for Agriculture and Livelihoods. Samuel is one of HRI's top Technical Advisors, posted here back in 2007 and tasked with “supporting” the government of Comoros with the development and “operationalization” of the mentioned 5-year strategic plan (2007 -2011).

This was very serious business, funded through a global HRI mechanism for Policy Development, yet another area of maximum expertize for HRI. It was a multi-million project, of utmost strategic importance for our donor and this is why we put HRI's finest on the job: Samuel has been cutting his teeth in policy development projects the world over and his archives contain strategic matrices used successfully in other such similar projects. He doesn't like to refer to his work as a copy-paste/ Ctrl+H job, but rather as a job in which he manages to leverage “lessons learned” and “best practices” with fine diplomatic skills.

Once politics were taken care of and the need for a 5 year plan was agreed upon at HRI's strong suggestion (after all, the money was already in the bank), it all started with Sam's very detailed Planing Matrix which got shared with all relevant “focal points” and the “kick-off” in November 2007. At the kick-off meeting – a residential affair in a stately location, to ensure that participants were not tempted to leave the premises to attend who knows what urgent issues on their busy agendas - Sam facilitated several plenary sessions and ensured that sufficient break-out groups are formed to address the various section of the policy, which had to be formulated in the strategic plan and then "operationalized" in various action plans, divided by strategic areas and years.

Names were put forward for the various sub-committees and working groups, timelines were agreed upon and a special group was formed to agree on various indicators. It all run by script and, out of experience, Sam knew that it would take about two years to agree on “strategic objectives” and respective indicators. Once that happend, at the end of 2008, annual action plans started to be developed, and by the end of 2009, the plans for years 2007 and 2008 were finalized and the M&E group kicked in. A consultant was hired to ensure that the performance was in line with the plan.

An extra 100K and 6 months later it turned out that it was. But then, it always is.

We are now halfway through 2011, the last year of the 5 year-plan, and the Strategic Plan is almost finished. The 60 or so various focal points are already well into their routines; the vast groups, sub-groups, working-groups and committees are meeting regularly, emails get sent to all partners to remind them of each meeting, consultants are on the job churning out reports and toolkits. People were hired, cars were bought along with printers, computers, field trips were organized, suppliers contracted - the whole machinery, the works. 

Presently, the Plan is a complex document, 46 sheets, each covering one important strategic area of implementation, impossible to print and with a healthy dose of circular formulas, that can only be sent around in .zip format and is occasionally projected on a wall in minuscule characters when the various groups meet (in such situations, Sam often complains about conference facilities that do not have a Mac adaptor. “It's 2011, for fuck's sake” is his signature reaction, muttered half-loud but with a certain note of  smugness.)

Time is short though and it was decided that more money must be thrown at the Plan, to ensure it will be finalized before the end of 2011. And indeed it will, with great effort. A meeting is about to get called, the final draft gets presented and then, finally, it will be forwarded to the Cabinet, where it will be expected to be approved within the first quarter of 2012.
Sure, this strategy has its critics, but hey, look at the benefits:
1. Money gets disbursed, keeping HRI's “burn” at a healthy level;
2. The government gets involved, which builds their capacity; What kind of short-term thinking asshole doesn't agree with that?
3. Any plan finalized after the passing of the period it covers benefits from clarity of hindsight - this is a very obvious but crucial benefit, which ensures high scores when judging compliance with the plan;
4. HRI is well placed to support the Government in developing their 2012-2016 Strategic Plan: with more lessons learned and best practices from right here, in Moroni.

And Samuel? Well, Sam will leave – his time is up here, he already accepted the Integrated Policy Support Chief Of Party position in a newly Awarded HRI project in Indonesia.

Which means that the Advisor Job in Moroni is currently vacant so we are welcoming applications. Any experts out there?

Monday, May 23, 2011

What happens in Aid Vegas stays in Aid Vegas

Here's the best thing about this business:

No one's watching.

It would all be very different indeed, if there would be public opinion, courts or other scrutiny on what does who and what goes where. It would also be a sadder place for me: HRI would be an entirely different entity and, well, Emma would be out of a job.

I'd just hate that!

Think about it: money goes out of coffers to do “something good” and soon enough, it reaches Emma's desk, along with priority areas and guidelines designed to serve a good mix of crowd-pleasing, political agendas and the personal ambitions of this or the other bureaucrat sat stiffly between here and the capital of a Certain Country South of Canada.

Like you or me, Emma has priorities, too, pet causes, feelings. There are people she likes, organizations she respects. There are boxes to tick, agendas to follow. In the complicated map of her decision-making, "the people in need of " out there are an abstract entity, represented in meetings by the impassioned speech of the odd government official and the few pixelized pictures on the walls, filling to the “values” of the Agency.

It's lack of knowledge meets lack of experience meets unchecked authority, The Best Of.

Like you or me, Emma will sooner or later take a very bad decision. If this would not be Aid Vegas, someone would call it, she would admit it, become a better person, yadda yadda, no damage done. If there would be damage, she would have a sudden career change, facilitated by the press or a court, or her superior worried about the press or a court.

In Aid Vegas, however, things work differently because the only ones partial to noticing mistakes fit into one of these three categories:

1. The Losers: Trying to blow the whistle or otherwise point out potential flaws in Emma's strategy or her logic. They usually leave the country before term and/ or their unfortunate organizations get de-funded and relegated to the fringes of the business, forever scrambling for a tiny little line of some minor sub-award, and i'm talking best case scenario here;

2. The Insiders – Emma's peers would obviously not get involved. Her superiors will back her up because admitting her failures is admitting their failure. Covering up and going along with it is the best possible strategy;

and of course

3. The Smart ones – Play along, win awards, hire people, run life-saving meetings, thank you very much.

There are no outsiders, no courts, no evidence. We are in the realm of opinions, built by jargony reports no-one reads, cables no-one knows about and the occasional whispered briefing or phone call, all of them apt to present a reality we all can live with.

Success is forever relative, measured by complicated but elusive indicators eventually judged by Emma and HRI jointly. It's a fact that failure, though very fashionable these days, only happens in small doses and thankfully, due the life-saving nature of our work, never has significant consequences.

Meanwhile, more funding our way just makes business sense.

(Bono of course has all the attention and he tends to speak of HRI and our good, selfless work, and our eternal need for more resources, so I am glad you are all buying his music).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

10 Remarkable Individuals in Aid

  1. That guy who, having been an incompetent bureaucrat his whole career, has become an efficient, result-oriented employee after having attended a HRI management training;
  2. The guy who changed his domestic ways to become a loving, caring husband after having been exposed once at a road-crossing to a billboard that said: "Stop GBV Now! (HRI with support from Country South of Canada)";
  3. The underpaid employee of a community-based HRI affiliate who felt a sudden commitment-inducing calling after a brief meeting with a HRI consultant who spoke to him about HRIs "Vision and Mission Statement" during a short field-trip;
  4. The Donor representative who, every month, reads every one of the 76 reports they receive from relevant HRI affiliates and therefore has a very clear idea of what each affiliate is doing and where they need most support;
  5. The refugee-camp dweller whose quality of life has suddenly improved after her camp was visited briefly by Angelina, who successfully "declared" an "end to violence now";   
  6. The inhabitant of the village in "Africa" whose life has changed to the better once she received a slightly used pair of shoes from a mythical place South of Canada;
  7. The owner of a yogurt-business in Baltimore who succeeded to "give something back" during his one-month trip to the Philippines, when he gave a free lecture abut yogurt to a group of local entrepreneurs, facilitated by his local church back home;   
  8. The government employee who has successfully made the transition from a cynical, underpaid, mis-qualified relative-of-someone-important to a dynamic, modern element of change in the government, after having interacted with a HRI "Technical Advisor" during a capacity building workshop;
  9. The guy who returned part of his per-diem after a trip to Nairobi, claiming that the three meals and tea offered during the training were quite sufficient for his subsistence; 
  10. The "social media enthusiast" who learns something from the daily platitudes posted on the HRI official twitter account ("HRI Executive Director mentions importance of right-based approach in speech given at meeting with African Delegates") 
Here's to all these remarkable people. The world of aid would just not be the same without you.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Same Same but Different

After a mildly satisfying mid-morning round on the estate's 19 holes I have retired to the presidential suite where I am currently washing down a complementary ferrero rocher with a glass of new-world bubbly, chilled to the right temperature.

Which is just as well with the scorching heat out there.

The view from the stately terrace is pleasant: generous streams of pulverized water intended to keep the golf course proper allow a rainbow to form over the fake dunes towards the pyramids, a vista almost apt to bring a tear or two to yours truly hardened eyes.

The soundtrack is Lionel Ritchie, straight off an ear-worm acquired during the trip from the airport out of the tin speakers of my driver's cellphone.

The roads were quieter than usual but should you be concerned, I am happy to report that the well publicized changes have not much affected the trim of the golf course and neither have they affected the life-saving work HRI is doing here in the area of capacity building.

Quite to the contrary.

Of course HRI has never struggled to get funded around here - what with the special relationship between Egypt and a certain mythical place south of Canada - but things are getting better by the day, reader, in case you thought they wouldn't. The game is changing naturally. It is the dawn of a new era folks but even new eras need adequate capacity (or was it capacities, plural?) and they need gestures from countries south of Canada that reassures them and keeps everyone sweet.

Mubarak who? Oh, that old crook? That's all from the days of realpolitik, people, the fly-by-night days of gang-ho “middle east politics”. These days it's all about democracy, the poor, the vulnerable and those in desperate need of capacity.

The not-yet-capacitated billion, The People in the Names of...

I am reminded by a hospitality card in the hotel that recently we have marked the International Water Day (where "marked" is an euphemism for "organized dignified functions where discerning individuals of my persuasion pat each-other's back over fingerfood"*). The fine hotel here has done its part by ensuring that the ice-cold water brought by colonial-era dressed staff to the guests on the golf course is bottled in reusable containers and that discerning visitors have an opportunity to leave their spare change in an HRI branded envelope, complete with “award-winning” pictures of starving children taken by star-photographers somewhere in a nasty country not-so-near you and, for your box-ticking pleasure, a practical list of worthy causes your spare change might be used for – an enterprise that surely must be recognized as a cutting edge example of public-private-partnership, another area where HRI excels.

You might have guessed: I am in Egypt to relaunch one of HRI's flagship programs in the region, aimed at “enhancing” the capacity of Egypt's civil society and to “empower” communities to take a “gender-mainstreamed”, “rights-based” approach to development.

As it happens, a funding mechanism has been in place between HRI and a country South of Canada in Egypt for the last three years, and what better way to channel new money, “change money” to the needy masses than this existing mechanism? When lives are at stake and speed of deployment is of essence competing for funds would be an unrealistic, unnecessary distraction. Besides, when funding capacity you want to work with reliable, known entities. The ones that have proven themselves over decades of successes everywhere where aid is needed.

Welcome friends, to a new era.

* In case you wonder, I spent my World Water Day at a dignified function just outside Cape-Town, hosted on a tasteful wine estate, 10 minutes or so from the eye-sore of Khayelitsha, a depressing, miserable, WASH-less place that could very likely be visible from space but not so from the hills nearby, as it has been thankfully fenced off by the authorities, lest the squalor would spread to the dignified suburbs, magically close and yet so far away. At the end of the day, like the city itself, someone's gotta be working for you.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

In which Dr. J is answering a Life-Saving Question: "What's it All About?"

If you've been around a bit in this business, you must have noticed how small this world is. That consultant you dissed when she was writing up a proposal for a competitor partner back in Bogotá shows up just when you are taking the edge off with a vodka tonic in the Emirates lounge and mentions she is on a donor assignment that happens to be very relevant to you; the guy you hired back in Kosovo to make a lame attempt at coordination of distribution of "Non Food Items" turns up in Manila flying high with another HRI affiliate, and yesterday's little green intern is tomorrow's Emma, funding or de-funding an affiliate near you, on a whim.

Speaking of Emma, just the other day, in a moment of lobster-induced introspection she asked, perhaps rhetorically "what's it all about, this business?"

Never the ones to leave a donor wondering, I thought why don't we do her a favour and find out. What with us being cutting edge and all, we thought we find a consultant that can make an assessment for us and answer this simple question with a comprehensive report.

We looked around and, since time was a factor, we "sole-sourced" an old acquaintance, a reliable, known entity, a man with a fair share of assessments under his tasteful white patent leather belt. A busy man of course but who, for the sake of old days, only charged us 60 days consultancy fee plus some change in travel and subsistence while fact-finding in "the field" - a bargain that, yet again confirms HRIs awesome cost-efficiency.  

So, without further ado, let's hear it from Dr. J, our old mate from TFH*:

"It’s harder than you think, driving an appropriately rugged SUV (with GPS) between the plate-glass highrise that houses the HQ of a HRI-affiliate and the modestly upscale (and racially monochromatic) suburb of a “Humanitarian Capital”, to stay focused on what is really important in this incredibly important business of ours. Somewhere between facipulating life-saving workshops, supervising interns, and remembering mission-critical details such as which Star Alliance lounges in Europe have the best wet bars, we too easily lose touch with the core of our raison d’etre:

Brown Babies.

Thankfully the leadership of most the most cutting-edge HRI-affiliates frequently roll out different “initiatives” meant to keep us all focused on this central purpose. On the surface such initiatives will involve lots of enlarged glossy photographs of Brown Babies on foam core, mounted or hung at intervals over the warren of cubicles that characterize the HQ and regional offices of the best HRI-affiliates. This way, no matter how many spreadsheet disasters we may be called upon to respond to, all we have to do is look up and be reminded that this is all really about the Brown Babies.

Brown Babies are truly part of the culture and language of any HRI-affiliate worth the day-rate of its’ reasonably-paid consultants. Whenever some poor misguided soul (from, say, the finance department) gets frustrated in a meeting by an insignificant discrepancy (say, on a report that we’re overdue to submit to a donor representing the country just south of Canada) there will usually be someone who, with cat-like mental reflexes, calmly reminds him or her that it’s okay, really. Let’s lower our voices, take some deep breaths, and refocus. Let’s remind ourselves why we’re here. It’s all about the Brown Babies.

Or maybe it’s been a hard day of “negotiating” with HRI HR about whether that 72-hour layover in Singapore qualifies as “work” and so also counts toward “comp days” (already taken). In such an instance, one can always count on a sympathetic colleague to poke his or her head around the cubicle wall and in a voice laden with empathy, say something like: “Tough day? Yeah… just remember, it’s really all about the Brown Babies…”

It’s all about the Brown Babies”, or some close variant thereof, can be invoked in even the most fraught and charged debates – like a Scotch neat (and make it a double, thank you very much) after a day in “the field” with our respective organizational Emmas – as a way of bringing the universe back into internal self-alignment. Or at least dulling somewhat the pain of obvious dumbassery that is beyond the control of anyone at this paygrade. “Training” retreats at all-expenses-paid resorts in Bali and “monitoring” trips to Cape Town are what make this otherwise thankless job bearable (oh, the hardships we endure). But it is the Brown Babies who give us that higher purity of purpose, so crucial to maintaining unity, morale and also moral high ground with the sacred confines of a HRI-affiliate HQ.

But the concept of Brown Babies is more than just simple industry and organizational culture. Brown Babies are also Big Business.

The value of Brown Babies as a marketing strategy is incontrovertible. Many from within the brotherhood of successful HRI-affiliates have repeatedly proven the viability of Brown Babies in generating that all-important, life-saving revenue (Brown Babies bring in the cash + GIK keeps the overhead low = the consummate “win-win”). I know this will come as a surprise to many who consider themselves “do-ers”, safely distanced from and unconcerned by the messy world of marketing, but the Brown Babies pay their salaries. Imagine a world where HRI-affiliates could only show pictures of latrines or tarps in their glossy, three-fold pamphlets or on their websites (please update your browser so that you can view the flash video)? That would be a dreary world indeed.

Some of us who are a little closer to the cutting edge of sustainable aid marketing are taking things even a step further. We’ve been be able to build Brown Babies in as integral parts of actual programs in the field (imagine!). With Brown Babies as our core programming model, we are able to align every activity (whether direct program or support) and every stream of income (whether cash or GIK) against a specific “Brown Baby Outcome.” The “Brown Baby Outcomes”, are then supported by a discreet set of “Brown Baby Holistic Wellness Indicators.” As a result of this innovative way of integrating programming with marketing, we are able to report to our donors with great precision regarding the specific impacts of their donations on Brown Baby X in community Y, with pages of supporting data on which holistic wellness indicators were measured over what period to help us track success towards Brown Baby Outcome Q.

I’m afraid that I cannot divulge much detail beyond this, as a) our operations research is still very much a work in progress, and b) we don’t want other HRI-affiliates to overtake us on the integration-of-programs-with-marketing front (this is still a competitive business, and I still have a mortgage…). Rest assured, though, that Brown Baby-focused organizations are not merely the wave of the future, but in fact define the future of replicable, sustainable life-saving poverty reduction programming".

*before someone asks, TFH is short for "Tales From the Hood"

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mystical Experiences about Ancestors and T-shirts

Seeing that it is almost naptime on a Holy Friday, it is only appropriate to retire to the private suite in my humble residence, pour myself a stiff one of Moroni’s best smuggled Malagasy toddy and reminisce a bit over the significant events of the past few weeks.
HRIs more regular readers may have noticed that I have kept silent lately. That has to do with my natural avoidance of taking any position that may harm this organization short to medium term (I am willing to take positions that will harm HRI long term, as long as "long-term" is defined as the time after I have retired with a comfortable pay and the negative consequences will befallen my successor). 
Like any self-respecting executive director of a cutting edge life-saving organization, I prefer to avoid taking any position that may put me at odds with the complex world of politics. Post-factum, once significant consequences are obvious for everyone to see I am ready to shout. 

I have lost very little sleep over the news from Egypt and Tunisia. Initially I was worried that the disturbances will ruin our hard-earned good relationships with local authorities (built over decades of generously funded life-saving capacity building projects implemented by HRIs affiliates). But then, when it became obvious that some sort of change is unavoidable I instructed our office in Cairo to shred all archives and be reborn as a voice of change, ready to work with whatever system will be in place once the enthusiasm is gone.

Just like old days, in "CIS" (for our younger readers, back in the day "CIS" was a donor euphemism for “former soviet countries that no-one can place on the map”).
I am more worried about ongoing stuff in Bahrain, but then our affiliation with the small Kingdom is mostly related to venues for life-saving meetings, an important but manageable matter, with several plan Bs in the region .
It is my habit to have Nathan the intern walk a few steps behind me and carrying my standard issue I-pad, ready to hand it to me discreetly should I have a need to study something.

That's exactly what i was doing (studying something on my standard issue ipad) when I felt a warm wave entering my Abercrombie & Fitch khakis (my trouser-ware of choice when at the tropics). I immediately understood what was happening - I was having a mystical experience and his most divine of incidents was caused by the following message from far away:

It was finally happening.

Ever since I took over at the helm of HRI, it has always been my ambition to re-create the genealogical tree and the map of all HRI affiliates, the details of which were forever lost in a fateful excel incident years ago (the memory, the horror, the horror). Now, after all these years a first sign that my search may be bearing fruits. While the full list of affiliates may remain impossible to re-create, I discovered the First Affiliate, The One, the Afiliate that Started it All: Noah's Ark International, NAI

I will forever be thankful to Blurred Vision International (BVI - HRIs most sinificant faith-based affiliate) and Mr. Warren (a BVI reasonably paid consultant) for pointing it all out to me. It was there all along but it is so obvious, isn't it? Mr. Noah, NAI's executive director and my professional ancestor has still many a good lesson to teach HRI affiliates. Among them, my favourite three:
  1. Always stay close to the donor, whatever happens and do everything they tell you even if it does not make any sense (imagine Mr. Noah would have ignored the donor's advice about the flood and emergency preparedness);
  2. A good disaster may be bad for some people, but if you play your cards well, it is always good for NAI and the ones close to it;
  3. Take credit even for stuff that is hard to prove; moreover, busy yourself with stuff that is hard to prove and focus on "telling the story", in a compelling, donor-approved way;
However, it is not all rosy in this business and while we're on the subject, I would like to use the opportunity to provide some constructive feedback to BVI about the mentioned Tweet. As i said, i very much appreciate experiencing the heat wave in my khakis and I remain forever thankful for the support with inferring about The First Affiliate and all, but I must point out that the reference to mosquitoes in that tweet could have been dangerous. Here is why:

  1. First of all HRI affiliates make a pretty good living off those mosquitoes, so that's quite obvious there isn't it, don't wanna ruin that;
  2. Then there is the small matter of claiming credit for donor targets. of all the animals, mosquitoes are the hardest to claim credit for, as they are not technically on the ark, right. they are more like hovering above the ark, which may not be in full compliance with donor requirements for claimable indicators; of course everyone interprets these standards to our own benefits but you don't wnat to go out there and yell about it on twitter;
The toddy is running out and the mellow afternoon sleep of the hard worker is upon me but I cannot let Nathan go with my Ipad before I mention this - I have always maintained that t-shirts are a smart way to do development. In any form. Recent events involving BVI have not only confirmed that but they have shown, for the second time, that t-shirts can also create excitement on the web, where everything worth mentioning is happening.
As far as i'm concerned, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the champs. Ask anyone in "Africa"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dr. K's Diary - Roughing it in Nicaragua

Compliments of the season all, and I do hope everyone managed to combine their R&R with all that leave accumulated from overtime, for a decent 6 weeks holiday on top of the 10 days during which the HRI affiliate you are working for has closed this time of year, at least for people of a certain status.

Of course, for people above the certain status, such as yours truly, such seasonal strategies make little sense as I rather indulge in the sort of holidays that also pay some DSA and cover my minimum incidentals while I endure the indignities of travel.

For instance, I am presently in Managua and am dictating this dispatch from the Real Metrocentro, one of the very few choices for the discerning aid worker on duty travel to Nicaragua. Back in Comoros, Nathan the intern, reinvigorated after a well deserved holiday spent at the bosom of his family in a mythical country north of Mexico is taking notes off a state-of-the art videoconferencing facility, recently installed at high but well justified cost in every HRI office worldwide.

Like our donors, I love the fact that we have embraced technology innovation so warmly but allow me to go on record with the controversial statement that technology has its down sides as well, including the fact that I can’t dictate this dispatch in my Y-fronts while watching the telly, but have to put on a HRI t-shirt and pretend I actually think about what I am saying.

In case you wonder what I’m doing in Managua, well, on behalf of HRI and in close cooperation with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Justice, I have just signed a 15 year, multi-million award with the funding agency of a country south of Canada, for the joint CVTP program ("Comprehensive Vocational Training Program").

Part of this program, HRI has committed to "coordinate" the cultural orientation and vocational education of thousands of Nicaraguans deported assisted "back home" from the country South of Canada. Most of them fled Nicaragua with their families in the 70s and 80s, when they were toddlers, but hey, that'll teach them to engage in drunk driving while holding the wrong passport.

Once "back home", the ones that do not join the lucrative US/ Nicaragua narco-cooperation head straight for the east coast to work with local fishermen around in the search and rescue of discreetly packaged 45lbs parcels of cocaine, thrown over board by fellow returnees that have fused their love of two countries in the "loggie" business of south-to-north supply chain management, in those rare cases when the technically-advised counter-trafficking police unit reluctantly pretends they try to intercept drug trafficking, to get that photo opportunity that will keep donors happy.

HRIs job will be easy – using our vast experience and expertise, “coordinate” the development of highly participatory courses and training of trainers trainings (TTT) that will “create an enabling environment” for these wayward youth to become carpenters, plumbers, and perhaps even drivers or other "support staff" for HRIs office in La Barra. It’s a sound plan and it will succeed of course. Or else the local partners will need more absorptive capacity building, which we will be happy to provide, at a competitive cost.

Besides, there will be no shortage of summarily deported  returnees in need of humanitarian assistance around these parts anytime soon and as long as that is the case, money will keep flowing form the country south of Canada to sugarcoat the whole affair for the benefit of the Nicaraguan authorities. Finally, the whole thing will be presented as “aid” to the sort of critical taxpaying public that dedicate themselves equally to advocating for cycling lanes, encouraging consumption of organic lattes and stopping, like, all the bad stuff in, like, Africa.

And this is how, again, everyone wins – I just hope that HRIs and my personal contribution to this cause will be well reflected in the cables going out to the capital of the country south of Canada.

Continued Success in 2011!