Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What I Do: Part II

What I Do: Part II

Recently I was in a meeting between the Consejo de Administración (Board of Directors) and the Junta de Vigilancia (Supervisory Committee/Auditing Committee), when all hell broke loose. The Presidents of the Consejo and the Junta launched into a shouting match. Ever watched a WWF wrestling match? It was a lot like that. Here’s how it went down:

[translation by Pooja Virani]

PRESIDENT OF CONSEJO (PC): We’ve invited the Junta here today to this meeting of the Consejo to keep you informed of our decisions. We’d like to talk about X …

PRESIDENT OF JUNTA (PJ): We don’t like who you’ve chosen. Why did you choose them?

PC: It’s very important that the Consejo and the Junta work together.

PJ: You say you want us to work together, but how when we participate when the Consejo makes all the decisions?

PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER [in this episode featured wearing a cape and a large PCV imprinted on her shirt]: Excuse me…

PC: We chose them because we taught they would be an appropriate match for the job.

PJ: How come the Consejo made that decision? Why didn’t we get a say in it?

PC: Because we made it.

PCV: Excuse me…

PJ: You only care about yourselves!

PC: No. We think that they are doing a great job and are very trustworthy.

Member of Consejo: “I’d like to apologize on behalf of the Consejo…”

PC: Maybe if you did your jobs…

PCV: Excuse me…

PJ: You all are stupid and you smell! [ok, I’m embellishing here]

Member of Junta: “Can’t we all just get along?”
PC: Well my daddy can beat up your daddy! [still embellishing]

[After half-an-hour or so of these back-and-forth accusations, I was finally able to get in a word. I pulled out one of my handy-dandy guides to cooperatives and read from it.]

PCV: The principal tasks of the Consejo, among others, are to make administrative decisions and to hire all cooperative employees and assign them responsibilities. The role of the Junta is to control the social and economic activities of the cooperative. In other words, their job is to revise the finances and the Consejo’s decisions and ensure that they comply with the cooperative’s by-laws. Under no circumstances, should the Junta interfere with the administrative decision-making process.

[I was so riled up that I couldn’t even properly pronounce the three-four-syllable Spanish vocabulary and had to have the Secretary read these passages]

PCV: [to the Consejo] Your job is to make administrative decisions. [to the Junta] Your job is to make sure that the decisions of the Consejo comply with the by-laws. If by chance they do not or you believe they will not benefit the cooperative members, you can bring your objections to the Consejo’s attention through your monthly report [which of course they have never actually written or submitted in all their months of service].

[Stunned expressions on the faces of both the Consejo and the Junta members. Of course, that only lasted a moment before the fighting resumed.]

PJ: We can’t participate in your decision-making, but that doesn’t mean we agree with the people you chose.

PC: We don’t care, we’re sticking with them.

PJ: You’re still stupid and you still smell.

[Once again, the PCV saves the day…?]

A large part of my job focuses on cooperative education. How do you run a cooperative if you don’t know what your job is? A Peace Corps Volunteer has the opportunity to train local leaders in managerial skills. I accomplish this goal through several approaches, including attending the cooperative’s directors’ meetings, conversing with the directors one-on-one, and directly teaching the directors. I hold classes with the Education Committees of both cooperatives, in which I teach the members about “cooperativism” and the functioning of cooperatives, among other things. The aim is to teach these members to teach the other members of the cooperatives. The same way that Paraguayans feel the need to share how I don’t eat meat with every new Paraguayan that I meet; wouldn’t it be great if they repeated the 7 principles of cooperativism or how great crop diversification is to every new member who attended a cooperative meeting?

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