The best job with the “worst” job title

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Recording a discussion on advocacy

We are currently recruiting for a new Advocacy Accompanier. When one donor representative heard the job title her reaction was ‘Wow that is possibly the worst job title in the world’.

So when we came to put together the job description for this post we thought long and hard about it.

It goes without saying, we cannot compete with Peace Dividend Trust’s groundbreaking job descriptions (“Ability to quote entire episodes of Arrested Development from memory”).

We went through lots of possibilities – advisor, facilitator, capacity building officer – but as Rosalind Eyben argues, labels have power.

We eventually came back to “Accompanier” after reading a post by Paul Farmer in Foreign Affairs:

Reflect, for a minute, on the limits and the potential of the activity that used to be called “charity” or “foreign aid” but that I prefer to call “accompaniment.”

“Accompaniment” is an elastic term. It has a basic, everyday meaning. To accompany someone is to go somewhere with him or her, to break bread together, to be present on a journey with a beginning and an end. There’s an element of mystery, of openness, of trust, in accompaniment. The companion, the accompagnateur, says: “I’ll go with you and support you on your journey wherever it leads; I’ll share your fate for a while. And by ‘a while,’ I don’t mean a little while.” Accompaniment is about sticking with a task until it’s deemed completed, not by the accompagnateur but by the person being accompanied.

This is the nature of the support we are trying to provide in this post. We are not aiming to do narrowly defined ‘capacity building’ on advocacy. We don’t provide a predetermined training – the previous post holder never did the same workshop twice. Instead what we are trying to do is walk alongside the partners and respond to the needs that they have, encouraging innovation and change.

This has led us to some unusual places.

Accompaniers have found themselves meeting local “royalty” in Mozambique, literally tripping over IMF representatives in the Ministry of Finance in Zambia and spending weeks with urban squatters in Brazil.

However it has also led us to see some amazing changes –

–      farmers in Mozambique monitoring local budgets and documenting the “green revolution”

–      housing activists  in Brazil using a tweet to get mass media coverage of evictions

–      partners developing interactive maps to monitor conflict in the DRC,

–      newly formed networks recognised in government processes in a difficult Ethiopian context,

–      corrupt contractors being called back to rebuild roads by the government following community monitoring in East Timor and Sierra Leone

–      bringing in design thinking and illustrators to track and document the  impact of our work

So would you like this job – or do you know someone who would? We are not necessarily looking for world experts in budget monitoring or social media gurus (although that would be nice) but definitely for people who understand the power of advocacy and are willing to work creatively alongside others to help them try out new ideas.

Please spread the word and if you want to apply go here.

Working alongside local organisations helping them find their voice, develop their research and bring together communities to mobilise change can be slow, frustrating and confusing but it is also possibly the best job in the world.

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