Posted by: Jimely Flores | October 20, 2013

Challenges of Advising a FIP: my personal journey – Series 2

After a year from doing the profile of the blue swimming crab fisheries and supply chain for SFP, I was informed that they are looking for a coordinator for the Philippines. Having been impressed by the very innovative strategy of SFP to promote sustainable fisheries resources, I applied for the job and set September as the starting date. I was accepted.

Having a deep wide knowledge of the BSC fisheries and ecology, I am confident we could help sustain the resources. I spent the first month learning the ins and outs of how the organization operates. This is a must because SFP is an international virtual organization and most of the management setup is through the web, communication though very regular is either through Skype, emails or redmines.

The next few months is immersion into the Fisheries Improvement Project on Blue swimming crab in the Philippines. The FIP is financed by the United States Crab Council (USCC) under the roof of the National Fisheries institute (NFI) and implemented by the association of crab processors in the Philippines. The crab processors association hired a project director to oversee the project, to whom I should closely work with.

I worked vigorously and passionately, thinking of ways on how to improve the implementation of their workplan. Being aware of the difficulties my superiors in SFP went through in starting the FIP with the implementers, I also tried to work with them very carefully, trying very hard to make my suggestions very subtle so in the end, they could own as their ideas. I also made myself always accessible to the project director but made my public presence unnoticeable as much as possible; in short I worked passionately and vigorously on the background but always a nobody in the foreground. I shared all of my expertise despite the smirk and ridicule; I persist explaining it respectfully why we need to change some of the set up; sometimes it is accepted bu only after so much patience, i just need to close my thoughts and accept that maybe more time is needed. To name some: changes in the size, structure, depth and location of the holding cages for berried females, the monitoring scheme for the holding cages operation and impact, the need to establish baseline facts, the need to collaborate with other institutions and organizations, the need to establish pre-hatchery, hatchery, release and post-release protocols of their stock enhancement program, and the need to come up with truthful and effective information education campaign scheme and materials. That was 2010-2011 and until now (end quarter of 2013) most of it are still works to do.

Third quarter of 2011, I got my biggest trial, the chairperson of the association wrote a complain letter to my superiors. The complains had been many including their assertion of leadership of the FIP (which they fully have); we are not doing our work which is stock assessment (I thought I made myself clear that stock assessment is not our job and I could only help them look for funds and scientists-one of my frustrations because answers i received is that they are not ready yet); i seem to treat some BFAR Personnel as friends/casually (which indeed some are my good friends); others which are lies (going around the processors asking for data). I am very lucky that my superiors are self-confident and fair-playing people. I was very disappointed because I did my best to stay in the background and biting my tongue instead of putting up a counter-argument, that best was not good enough (very appropriate words borrowed from a song). While SFP and the complainants are trying to work on the matter, I stayed silent. I thought of resigning but I just don’t believe (that time) its the best solution, so I stayed. I tried to work through the situation, adjusting my working style.

To stay objective and focused through it all, I became more meditative, more observant and more silent. My patience was and is being stretched. Was I devastated? Yes but I gained a lot from the experience. I had encountered first hand the different kind of people I only read from books, I tried applying all the psychology techniques and realized that some of Bible verses which I thought were encouraging too much martyrdom was practical and effective.

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