Fellow Adam Hirsch finished his 2-year commitment as a fellow this past week for PeacePlayers – Cyprus. Of Adam, our Managing Director Marina Vasilara says “PPI-CY is grateful to Adam for being a great coach, art teacher, blogger, communication innovator, and supporter of peace in every way. We shall miss him every day.” Adam was here for about two and a half years and his impact was something that I could see in all aspects of the job. At first I was referred to as “the new Adam.”
I remember the first few practices I went to, the kids would stare up at me curisouly. I would point to the middle of my chest and say simply: “new Adam.” They would smile and nod, as if I was a little cooler simply by association. After a while I began to refer to myself as “the new Adam” everywhere I went. I would meet coaches for the first time and explain who I was putting my identity in the context of old fellows, whose names continue to pop up in conversations. Adam’s work on monitroing and evaluation projects, his astuteness as an artist who not only could produce amazing murals in record time but lend to them a social impact as well, and his obvious passion for the work he was doing were all aspects of his personality that were assets PeacePlayer’s came to appreciate and benefit from.
Now that Adam is no longer working for PeacePlayers the question “what now” pops into mind. Adam was a excellent trainer, but there are still parts of his tenure that are lost; the differences between a new fellow and an experienced fellow manifest in understanding of society, organizational structure, and a number of other positives that only come with time. Such “brain drain” caused by attrition in international development organizations can often be a large problem.
A pertinent issue in international development organizations is sustainability and the retention of workers and knowledge. For example, organizations in the public health field that operate in developing and third world countries face a common problem of worker turnover and attrition, where, for various reasons, community health workers leave their posts and move on to other jobs. Groups are often left where they started: in need of workers and a system of sustainable recruitment and retention.
PeacePlayer’s reaction to a similar problem of attrition is an impressive one.
The local partnerships set up between the office in DC and the local staff in each of our four locations neutralize the threats of volunteer departure.
While volunteers come and go, the staff and the knowledge remain. The local staff, including managing directors, coordinators, and coaches, form a group of workers that localize PeacePlayers. Sometimes I sit in my office and stare in amazement as our coaches, coordinators, and managers rattle off impressive lists of twinning locations, practice times, player’s names, and PPI know-how.
This retention of knowledge can also be seen by anyone who observes a PeacePlayers activity. For example, at our end of the year tournament I was tasked with various duties to make sure the Greek-Cypriot and Turksih-Cypriot participants followed the rules and played the PPI way. I had a team of local staff helping me with every question I had. My head was on a swivel and each spin simply made me more and more confused, but each time my head stopped moving someone with a PPI shirt was there to answer my questions.
In conclusion, fellows as important and helpful as Adam Hirsch can be tough to wave goodbye to, but the structure that PPI has set up retains the local skills and knowledge of the PPI-way.