Monday, June 24, 2013

Lessons Learned

I feel I was very fortunate to be able to attend the annual planning and strategy meeting for JEN this week.  My job was to type the minutes and record the meeting in English but I feel like I got so much more out of the experience than simply typing their conversations.  One of the main reasons I came to Japan in the first place was to see how a large NGO operates.  I have often been on the serving side of volunteer work but I have never really experienced the organizational side of it (or at least not the organization required of an NGO to successfully operate in eight countries as JEN does).

However, one of the most surprising things I have learned, is that irregardless of your organization's size, there are some problems and issues that seem systemic.  Many of the problems that student leadership boards face at Duke, are the same problems that JEN faces here at their headquarters in Tokyo.

Here are some common problems:
  • How do we facilitate communication?--both between the board and the organization, people within the organization, and between the organization and the general public.
  • How do we not overwork our staff or leaders?
  • How can we make advocacy more prominent in our organization?
  • How can we give a name and a face to our organization?

It is amazing how much I have learned just in this week alone.  From the annual conference last Saturday and the strategy meeting this past week, I have learned that confidence is essential to active leadership and that empowerment and communication with group members are essential to an organization's success.  Hopefully, I can take the lessons I have learned to heart and use this knowledge in the coming year at Duke.

Some favorite quotes from the week:
"I have heard that a goal you know how to get to is a goal that is too small to accomplish.  If we know how to achieve something, then that goal is too small."
"I think the goal we are aiming for, is not simply a goal we can achieve, but a goal we want to achieve."
Jamie and I with our supervisor, PR manager, Miyako Hamasaka


  1. loved reading about your DE experience. sometimes it's weird to be doing a service internship but not doing the actual direct service--this made me feel more comfortable with that. also I hope you added some spice to the meeting minutes like Jeff Campbell does!

    1. Thanks Andrew, I have really enjoyed reading about your DE experience too. I think both of our summers are very different from our other service experiences, which is strange but is kind of thrilling too. Also, I can't claim to have Jeff Campbell's skills at writing minutes but I think I definitely think I added a dash of spice to them ;)