Impact Entrepreneurs Replication School: Week 6, Problem Solving and Decision Making – Phnom Penh, Cambodia

March 12, 2012 at 9:16 pm Leave a comment

PSU’s Impact entrepreneurs, in partnership with Digital Divide Data and The Rockefeller Foundation, has been delivering Impact Sourcing Training to social entrepreneurs hand selected by Rockefeller. The training, hosted by digital Divide Data, is preparing these entrepreneurs from Africa and South Asia to launch or expand their own social enterprise initiatives in the Business Process Outsourcing space in their countries.

By Josh Mathis, MBA Candidate at Portland State University, Student Teacher Week 6

Day 3

After the third round of “Making Room,” the journaling exercise that the class has been doing only since Monday, I asked the room for feedback on what they were experiencing. Joan (pronounced “Jo-ahn”), from Kenya, articulated how the writing helped her to see that her true task list was much more manageable on paper than it was swimming in her mind. Others mentioned that they were finding the process much easier after some practice. The final comment reflected an appreciation for the opportunity to vent the issues that he was dealing with. I urged the group to pay attention to recurring themes that seem to surface over and over again in their writing if they continue this practice. These things tend to be the priorities, either in their lives, work, or relationships. I gave this advice knowing that we would be talking about Steven Covey’s famous illustration of filling an empty vessel with different sized objects (large rocks, pebbles, sand, water, etc.). If you fill the vessel with the small things first, the large objects overflow the vessel. If the large objects are inserted first, the smaller ones fill in the empty spaces between enabling all of the objects to fit in the vessel. The metaphor illustrates that a life led with prioritization allows for a richer, fuller life. This metaphor served as the context for our discussion on Situational Appraisal. Identifying all of the issues at hand, understanding how to prioritize and cluster them, and then defining the appropriate path forward and key stakeholders to accomplish the goal are at the essence of this skill. It is not easy.

The participants have expressed that this subject, PSDM, is the hardest that they have experienced thus far in the program. At first, I thought this must be because of the way I was teaching or my lack of professorial acumen. They graciously reassured me that this was not the case. I’m sure with more practice I would be able to communicate the material with more eloquence and grace, but is that really what would make the difference? Kathleen and I have been working very diligently with the group: I’ve been delivering the material and then giving examples, then they practice, then they present and we collectively “enhance the thinking” around the presentations. Then they practice on their own with the homework assignments/readings. Difficult as the subject is, today, one of the participants was reflecting back to Monday and the problem solving segment and made a comment that showed his clear understanding of the framework. I actually got chills! I wasn’t expecting that. The chills, that is…not that he would comprehend the material, of course. It was incredibly gratifying to know that I was an instrument in his experience. That said, I need to remember that it’s not about me and that I really just need to stay out of the way and let the process work, something that appears repeatedly in my own “Making Room” sessions. Becoming that channel, however, is a truly rewarding experience despite the challenging material.

I continued to question of why the material was so difficult. Uncovering true solutions to address complicated problems is not black and white. I really think this is what is difficult to both communicate and to comprehend. What is actually the root of the problem? The best anyone can do is to isolate the problem, reduce or eliminate assumptions and move forward perceptively and determined manner as if he knows what he’s doing. Also, decisions have consequences which need to be thoughtfully mitigated. And sometimes the best decision is still difficult. What could go wrong? What are the consequences? What am I not thinking about yet, but need to be? I think I’ve uncovered another perplexing face of this subject. It’s a subject taught in questions rather than statements. We’re so used to being told how things are and what we should do. The Socratic method is uncomfortable by nature. But I’ve been told and have experienced, often, that it is in discomfort that we grow. My group is hanging in there and bearing with me through this week. Despite the ambiguous nature of the subject at hand, they are catching on. I appreciate their efforts and insights and look forward to tomorrow.

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Impact Entrepreneurs Replication School: Week 6, Problem Solving and Decision Making – Phnom Penh, Cambodia Mercy Corps NW: Small Business Loans, Grants, and Classes

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