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Learning on the job with Rana Warrad Sandouka

July 10, 2012 | LND | SDC Experiences |

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Rana Warrad Sandouka As with many things knowledge management starts with ourselves. Today’s interviewee Rana Warrad Sandouka talks about her personal strategies, about knowledge sources and networks supporting her in daily work.  Rana Warrad Sandouka has been working with the Swiss Cooperation Office (SCO) Gaza and West Bank based in Jerusalem since August 2005 in the position of a National Program Officer. Rana’s background is in International Relations and Diplomacy. Her previous working experience was characterised by assignments with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Palestinian Ministry of Labour (MoL), the Palestinian Ministry of Planning & International Cooperation and Birzeit University in West Bank. Being member of the Employment and Income Portfolio team at the SCO Gaza and West Bank, she is developing, monitoring and supervising a number of development cooperation programs related to economic issues in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. 

Interview by Carsten Schulz, Agridea

What aspects of your educational and professional background most support you in doing a good job at SDC?

The field of international relations provided the bases for looking at things from different angles. While working for the International Labour Organization ILO and within the Palestinian Ministries, my studies provided the backbone of my understanding on how the donor community functions and gave insight on how to work in the field of development cooperation and employment creation.

What has been the most helpful support from your team at the SDC cooperation office?

The existing open exchange of information and knowledge that we have in the office between our Swiss colleagues and the local employees is the main supporting factor helping to learn new things by both sides.
So we work on a give-and-take basis: our Swiss colleagues provide thematic input and backstopping, whereas we as local employees play the eye-opening role to the specificities of the Palestinian context, which is well taken by our Swiss colleagues. By the way: this trustful system we are as well applying with our colleagues at SDC Head office in Berne.

What are other supporting factors from outside (professional network, friends, books, training courses, Internet etc.) that you find useful?

The main source for receiving support is the internet with very useful information related to my job and the subject matter I am working with. Second comes all my colleagues at the office, and as well my professional network of professionals working for other donor agencies, NGOs or UN here in the region.

In the last few weeks, what was the most important information source that you have used in your job?

I want to tell a story not about a particular information source, but about how information flow has been triggered in a particular way in the last 4 weeks: We are currently in the handing-over process from our Deputy Coordinator leaving to Kenya to the new person arriving here in July 2012. During 5 days we visited most of the partner organisations and their projects in order to review SDC’s main activities in the Employment and Income Portfolio. Review means that we are looking back on the project history, as well as ahead on what is planned for the next 6 months specifically and beyond in general. What was particularly impressive for me about the way information sources were tapped in this process, were the questions raised by the successor. This “outside view” helped me a lot to better reflect the reason, why SDC is supporting partners here in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. And these questions have been helpful as well for the person who leaves to better conclude on what we have done during his presence at the Swiss Cooperation Office in the past years.

In what aspects and fields do you see a need for support to do your job even better?

I would very much like to get more insights in technical aspects, for example approaches in Private Sector Development, particularly in the Making Markets Work for the Poor (M4P) approach.

Are you member of a SDC thematic network? In which one(s)? How do you assess your learning being a network member?

Yes, I am member of the e+i network and have participated in the last year’s f2f event in Gwatt / Switzerland. I mainly profit from the circulation of information through the Focal Point – and as well through the e-discussions with the participation of all network members on specific topics. What I really like very much is the attitude of the network members to make use of the lessons learned by different project activities. But I think that what has been written or discussed in these events needs further follow up!
So far, I have presented our work in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as a case during the last year’s e+i f2f event in Switzerland. And I feel more and more confident to contribute something to the e-discussions of the network.
In particular the f2f gave me a lot of positive energy for my work, showing that development is functioning in other regions on our planet. In addition to that I have learned that different geographical regions require different implementation modalities. They all need to be as contextualised as possible.
For my personal learning I cannot say, whether I prefer the e-discussions or the f2f-events. I see advantages for both forms of interaction. I consider the e-discussions to be more suitable as a learning event. They provide a platform to express your reflections on how things are done, whereas the f2f is where you are prepared to listen to what people would like to tell you, which is also a learning event but rather a broader one. As an event for sharing and exchanging information, the f2f meetings are suitable given that the content is well prepared and rather focused.

Do you have any wishes or ideas on how SDC (particularly the Learning and Networking Division) could support your work or the work of your team?

To be honest: I learnt for the first time that such a division exists within SDC through this interview.
I want to advise the Learning and Networking Division to make their services and offers more visible to us working in the SCOs. Then maybe their work would become more demand driven rather than one offer to all.

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