Category Archives: Uncategorized

Beyond the Classroom – Digitally, Remotely & Glocally – Guts & Grace Abroad!

Beyond the Classroom: Digitally, Remotely & Glocally –  

Guts and Grace Abroad!

 ”All you need is guts and grace” is a fitting quote to anyone successful I’ve met working globally across the world. In some fashion or another, from the business to the educational sector, from non-profit to simply networking after work, those who step out of their comfort zone more often than not are generously rewarded. These are the inspirational characters.  When they are met with challenge or a roadblock, they tend to live by the saying, “there’s always another way to get where you’re going.”

For many around the world, it is not easy to reach out to someone you don’t know to ask for help for a school or professional opportunity. It’s hard to take a chance and apply to the program or company you don’t know much about, or travel to a country alone you’ve never been, even if it’s in return for the opportunity of a lifetime. But if you don’t go, you won’t know, right?

I am currently in Europe for a work trip I was able to put together through some of my summer client project work. I’ve been able to travel over land for much of it and cover some good ground and cultural exchanges while at it. I’ve traveled to Barcelona, through Eastern Europe and to Budapest to give a global communications training. Heading over to London to get back to Boston and then MIIS, while visiting a cousin, we discussed his experience working in the technology sector managing large global teams from various countries in Europe and Asia. We talked about some of the challenges of conducting businesses and global communications with so many foreign cultures, diverse expectations and perspectives. He asked me a good question. Why don’t sales teams at big global companies give cultural trainings to people like me who are moved overseas to work, in order to prepare them to work with different teams and clients from different backgrounds and cultures? He thought there could be a lot he could’ve been trained on ahead of time to help him acclimate and work more efficiently upon arrival to the new placement. Well to answer his question — they do. Many organizations and companies do provide cultural training before employees get transferred overseas or get sent out to work in the field. However, more often than not, after checking in with a friend who consults in this space — employees in the corporate sector have to specifically request this type of training. It is not usually compulsory. If it is mandatory, the training is often short-lived and maybe just includes some reading, compared to the months of preparation the state department or the weeks of training the non-profit sector might provide. In this conversation, my cousin and I talked about similar issues we focus on a lot in our MPA classes in terms of organizational sustainability and considerations when facilitating and fostering participatory management and effective leadership.

I think my cousin raises a good point. How come when I went to study abroad, they gave us a pretty in depth training at Semester at Sea before we docked at every foreign port to be successful in engaging in each country? Why couldn’t the same idea in international business be used as when I studied abroad in Australia or when I served for a couple years in Latin America through WorldTeach. It is interesting how these types of multi-cultural trainings happen less in the private sector, where there could be more resources to dedicate in the first place.

I believe a person has to have guts to do this type of global work in the first place. However with help from cultural training, what makes people succeed is the grace, diplomacy and meticulous understanding we need to use when working with our colleagues around the world. Training is necessary to inform this process. The grace is what helps a professional meet colleagues in the middle, build bridges (rather than break them), and ultimately allows people (and in the case of my cousin) “close the deal” or manage people successfully at work.

One organization I’ve been working with this summer, Connect-123, a global social enterprise that encourages students around the world to go beyond the study abroad experience, promotes guts and grace through global work experience. They offer tailored intern opportunities with civil society organizations and local entrepreneurs and businesses to contribute to the local culture, economic development and social impact they’re living in. In addition to this, they offer cultural and professional training to help interns acclimate when working in the foreign country. In return, the “beyond the classroom” reward is tenfold academically and personally, while participants of this program develop professionally on a global level.

From Latin America to Eastern Europe, NESsT, another organization I’m working with this summer, works tirelessly with social enterprises and businesses to sustain for profit and marketable opportunities to re-invest in their organization and achieve their mission. While NESsT fulfills their mission to help social enterprises, they also contribute to civil society and promote positive economic and environmental impact in their work. I’ve worked with their Latin American and Eastern Europe offices for the past 9 months and gotten to know them well and the sustainable social impact they are making in emerging markets. Boasting 13 different languages on their global team,  they all took a chance in their career to help the growing sector of social enterprise. They carve sustainable solutions out of international development opportunities daily. In doing so, they provide better livelihoods to hundreds of organizations and communities in emerging markets around the world. With a little guts and grace myself, this trip throughout Europe has been solo. During this trip, I’ve gotten to work with colleagues from NESsT in Budapest hailing from Romania, who also work with Slovakia, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Hungary on global communications and management solutions online.

How are you exhibiting guts and grace in your professional and personal life? How do you see innovation playing a part in this, if at all? Do you have good stories to share about others sticking their neck out and making a difference in their own careers, educational journey or to help others?

As I write, I remember how I took a boat, train, bus and plane to get me from Spain over to Budapest and then back to London to fly home. In my own guts and grace global journey, I’ve enjoyed keeping my eyes peeled for new and gutsy confidence and innovation along the way– and looking forward to sharing more later.

For now, the door is open. Stay bold and take hold of those opportunities; they are out there. They are not waiting on you, so why wait on them?

Turtle Rodeo

This is the third in a series of three blog posts about a two-week field experience I had in Baja California, Mexico this summer

When Grupo Tortuguero’s director invited me to spend a couple of weeks in their field station, he mentioned that it would be a good time to come because they would be doing turtle rodeos and I could ride along. Sure, I’m always up for an adventure and I love being on the water. I packed a few Dramamine and some extra sunscreen, unsure of what to expect. A turtle rodeo involves exactly that—rodeoing turtles. Two boats scan the water in search of sea turtles that have come to hang out on the surface. Once a turtle is spotted, the boat carefully approaches from behind while the um, turtle cowboy, prepares himself. As soon as we were close to a turtle, the “cowboy” (frequently Grupo Tortuguero’s Science and Fisheries Director, Hoyt Peckham) leaps into the water, grabs hold of the turtle’s shell and wrangles it to the boat. A few people help lift it onto the boat for measurements and assessment. The wrangling part is the most exciting, but what comes next is most important.

A small damp rag is placed over the turtle’s face to help keep it calm. Hoyt and his team measure, weigh and tag the turtle. Then they remove barnacles from the turtle’s shell that, although natural, can harm the turtle by changing its hydrodynamics and causing harm to the shell. A small sample of skin and shell is taken so that the scientists can analyze isotopes to better understand the turtle’s diet. The turtle is then gently released and continues its day unharmed. The actual “rodeoing” part is quite challenging because the turtle is strong and frequently dives under the water. For that reason, my chance to “rodeo” came during the release of a turtle. I jumped into the water so that Hoyt and his team could pass me the turtle. I held onto it for a moment, then gently released it so that it could glide under the water. Yes, it was as fun and magical as you’d imagine.

Data from the turtle rodeos are used to help us better understand the turtle’s habitat needs and informs conservation efforts. A big thank you to Grupo Tortuguero for letting me come along on the rodeo!


Bycatch: The Real Deal

This is the first in a series of three blog posts about a two-week field experience I had with a local NGO, Grupo Tortuguero, in Baja California, Mexico this summer.


It stinks in the field station this morning. I stepped outside onto the street and it smells like dead fish out there too. Someone explained that the smell is from the tuna cannery down the street. Some days, too many fish are brought to the cannery than they can process. The solution: burn them down into fishmeal, which can be sold as an organic fertilizer.

A definition of bycatch: the unintentional catch of living organisms by fishing gear.

The work I do frequently includes considerations to deal with bycatch. I’ve read a lot of reports and seen numerous upsetting pictures of fish, birds and turtles entangled in nets. I brainstorm ways to assign fishing rights that encourage responsible fishing and methods to utilize fishermen as monitors of their own actions.

I care about these animals and the ecosystems they inhabit, but a caring based on something unseen is different than the care we have for something seen and experienced ourselves. No picture, video or report prepared me to experience instances of bycatch with my own eyes. My field experience in Baja California Sur was not designed to showcase instances of bycatch, however it did just that. The idea was for me learn about Grupo Tortuguero’s work in the community of Lopez Mateos (more on that later).

Sure, I already knew that:

 Worldwide, experts believe that fisheries bycatch is in the range of 27,000,000 metric tons.

24,000,0000 to 45,000,000 red snapper are caught as bycatch in Gulf of Mexico shrimp fisheries each year.

Researchers believe that between 1990 and 2008, 2.8 million sea turtles were trapped in nets as bycatch. (Six out of the seven species of sea turtles worldwide listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.)

It’s a shame to smell wasted tuna from the cannery. Another bycatch experience happened a few days ago. We were out on a turtle rodeo (definitely more on that later!) when we came across a ghost net. Ghost nets are simply lost or deserted nets that continue to capture and kill marine species. Our boat was tasked with pulling the net out of the ocean. Yards and yards of abandoned net were pulled out of the water with dozens of fish in various stages of decomposition caught in it. Large tuna, barracuda and snapper were pulled out of the net and tossed overboard along with lots of small fish and crabs I could not identify. The smell of the decomposing fish made even our experienced fisherman captain ill. A net left alone in the ocean always runs the risk of becoming untied from an anchor and being lost to unnecessarily capture marine animals.

Nets don’t have to be lost to cause harm. Yesterday I went out with a couple of fishermen to bring in three nets they’d left overnight. On the way out of the harbor I inquired about the type of fish we planned to fish. Flounder, they told me. Thirty minutes into constantly pulling a net into the boat, we encountered our first flounder. Until that point, they had been yanking dead rays, juvenile tuna, crabs and other fish out of the net. Over four hours with just three huge nets, I would guess that 80% of the animals were thrown to the very well-fed group of pelicans that hung out by our boat. 80% bycatch! Other fish were kept on board for consumption by the fishermen or to sell for a price much less than they get for flounder

While the fishermen were approaching the end of the second net I heard one of them say, “there’s something big here… what is it?” Then I saw “it” emerge out of the water: a juvenile green turtle—deeply tangled in the deadly net. Its eyes were closed, neck limp. It had died. In the net. That they left out last night. Nothing could have prepared me for that moment. I choked back a couple of tears, closed my eyes and looked away from the turtle for a while. Then I snapped a picture because to do the work that I do, I don’t ever want to forget that moment. Later that day I recounted the story and my emotional response to Juan, one of Grupo Tortuguero’s biologists. Juan replied kindly and simply: “that’s why I do what I do.” Me too, Juan.

This community, along with thousands of others in the world depends on fishing for their livelihood. The fishermen are good people that are doing a job they’ve done for decades. It’s time to help them do it better. An 80% fish bycatch plus dead turtles for a few pounds of flounder is not acceptable. We need to help fishermen find better ways to fish. In the meantime, we can support sustainably caught fish and organizations like Grupo Tortuguero and EDF that work on small-scale fisheries. 

Beyond the Classroom: Virtual, Glocal & Digital from the U.S. East – NYC/Boston

Working Remotely, Globally & Captain America!

In this economic downturn, I had to make a couple big decisions this summer. One was to turn down several internship and job offers that were unpaid. I also had to turn down a couple lower paying opportunities that were not in Monterey where my apartment is, nor Boston where I could potentially live with my family. Instead, I offered up my global communications/marketing and project management skills to organizations I had worked for in the past (one which I did a school project on last semester), to friends, old colleagues and other professional networks to put together several jobs that could make up a decent wage for the summer. After 6-8 hours of class for DPMI and a couple more everyday for networking, I’d go home every night and send out proposals, notes, job applications and follow-ups to contacts and friends seeking opportunities. I was determined to make something work that was paid, exhibited a “next level” transition from my managerial experience, and also offered the opportunity to gain work experience in various sectors if possible to help me decide where I truly want to be working next year.

After securing four opportunities at the end of June, I then moved back to Boston to live with my family. Consulting for a social enterprise, a non-profit and a for profit start-up infrastructure and technology development investment and services company – also connected to the UN’s South to South Network—I had the incredible experience of not only working remotely, but digitally and “glocally.” It was not easy. The challenge of consulting on my own and working with offices in Budapest, Bucharest, Capetown, Buenos Aires, NYC and San Francisco were taxing while working across so many different time zones and with different cultures.  However, what else did I learn? I learned that I could do it, and it was fun and fulfilling! Often balancing many different deadlines, conference calls and time zones, I reinforced my time management skills, my cross-cultural communications abilities and became creative and more efficient as my projects were based on a set amount of hours. With this, I taped into academic skills learned from school, professionally reinforced some goals and assumptions I had, and folded in some personal passion too (as working in international settings has been something I’ve been crazy about since I took my first international trip).

My work day was not traditional and with the vast amount of time difference for any number of clients, my day tended to start early in the morning, and end late the night. I’ve learned a lot this summer from independent consulting, and it’s put a lot of pressure on, but I’ve been able to show tangible results like global strategic online communications plans, setting up a project management financial planning infrastructure online through QuickBooks, or producing a brand-driven institutional marketing video — one that also informs people about the social enterprise sector in general.  I worked hard and a lot, but the flexibility gave way for personal time.

Picture 1 – Working by the lake remotely – view after my 11am phone call with Capetown and before my 12pm with Buenos Aires.

The nice thing about this is I could manage my own schedule. Since my work day was long, I was able to take breaks to explore historical Boston Area by foot or by Kayak. I was able to work in NYC and Philadelphia while visiting family and friends. I was also able to pitch in and meet with a number of different prospective MIIS students and catch up with my nephews.

Another great thing I could was work on some philanthropy that I have missed out on back home, was working with an organization that some of my good friends from home started a non-profit and fund called “Birdies for Bardsley” for our dear friend that passed away too young because of an accident about ten years ago.

Picture 2 – Matthew Owen Bardsley’s memorial scholarship and annual tournament and Website here.

We raise money to go toward a scholarship for a graduating senior at our high school and toward the T-ball league we started for young children in our town. Every year we hold a memorial golf tournament to fundraise (where I usually am made to dig up my deep-rooted sales techniques and have the very important job of “selling the raffle tickets”). We also hold a memorial party the night before and it’s a wonderful weekend filled with loved ones, the sports Bardsley loved best, and the people he loved best too, with many more extras to boot. This year we raised $3000 for the raffle only (phew I made my sales quota from my tough bosses!), and much more from the tournament. It was a huge success.

Picture 3 – The annual tournament pre-gala with memorial slideshow of Matt Bardsley where we gather together and with his family to pay tribute. “Captain America,” my old friend Chris Evans, laughs at old photos and memories in the back middle among friends.

In addition to great pictures and memories that come out of it– knowing we can pass on this positive energy to support youth sports and development means a lot. It adds even more that a graduating senior going onto college to pursue a career in the public sector (like Matthew Bardsley) will have an opportunity because of the generosity shared in his name. A final surprise that makes it special if our friend, Chris Evans, the famous actor, who always makes it back. Chris is otherwise known as “Captain America” today, finding him plastered across buildings across the U.S., on Dunkin Donuts cups or your facebook feed. He is the guy next door, my buddy– just a down to earth guy and a great friend who always makes it back to give us hugs, share stories and laughs.

It’s funny how even “Captain America” can be a warm reminder of how far I’ve come globally, and with work and graduate school. His visit, not digitally to my Web browser or my local theater, his presence can also serve as the farthest reach or goal we can hit, but also as a reminder of what is local, and the community I call “home.”


Mars Mira and the Potocari Memorial

Last weekend was one I will never forget. Even a week later I’m not sure that I am fully recovered. I was exhausted to the point of collapse and it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I had been pushed to my limit both physically and emotionally.

Sunday, July 10, I joined former BOSFAM peace fellow Alison Sluiter and a group of international students on the last day of the Mars Mira (March of Peace) through the Bosnian countryside. The march is the same route that the Bosnian Muslims took when they escaped Srebrenica and tried to make it to the free territory of Tuzla. Thousands were killed along the way. Each year thousands of people hike from Nezuk to Potocari to remember the people who died. I did not participate in the full three days, but even after one day on this strenuous hike, my respect for those who traversed it 16 years ago swelled.

Me and the other BOSFAM peace fellow, Julia, on the march

Me and the other BOSFAM peace fellow, Julia, on the march

Over 6,000 participants

Over 6,000 participants

We hiked in 100º F weather for over 17 miles (some are saying it is closer to 20 miles). While most of the time I struggled to put one foot in front of the other, I surprised myself. I was not the last one to complete the march. I arrived almost unable to walk and with blisters covering the soles of my feet. Only today am I able to walk without a bit of a limp.

However, I was able to see a side of Bosnia that is invisible to many. I met great people and spent a night with strangers who were not only willing but also honored that so many international people had decided to remember the genocide in such an active and exhausting way. Even though I may never participate in Mars Mira again, I am so happy that I did it this year.

Remembering Srebrenica

Remembering Srebrenica

July 11, 1995 has been inescapable since I arrived in Tuzla. I knew that it would be difficult to empathize but to also understand the trauma of so many without attending the memorial in Potocari. This year, 60,000 people crowded around over 5,000 graves as 613 new coffins were interred. I had never before seen so many emotions in one place. Sadness, anger, and grief poured out from absolutely everyone. As four men carried a coffin to its final resting place, several women came toward me. One was about to faint from the stress and the heat. In that moment, I was truly able to see the pain that still exists 16 years later.

Carrying a loved one to his final resting place

Carrying a loved one to his final resting place

Even with learning and reading about the Bosnian war, I was unable to receive such a provoking and emotional understanding of the grief and trauma of this state. Seeing thousands of families burying their loved ones together paints a faint picture of the suffering Bosnia has gone through since the war started. As I sit here trying to write this blog, I feel as if my words cannot give this country, this weekend, and my emotions the weight and respect that they need. I am still trying to sort out my feelings and how it affected me.

Blue Carbon Policy Workshop

Last week the big event that I’ve been helping my boss prepare for finally  arrived: the first workshop of the Blue Carbon Policy Working Group.  Leading up to this workshop, I had been busy preparing some background documents on the current state of international climate change negotiations with respect to blue carbon, compiling the participant bios, and other odd jobs.

Blue carbon policy is an emerging field that stems from the idea that effective management of coastal ‘blue carbon’ systems such as mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass,  requires development and implementation of strategic policy and financing mechanisms that create  incentives  for coastal conservation and restoration activities and disincentives to drain or damage these systems.  The Blue Carbon Policy Working Group was formed to support development and implementation of blue carbon policy in the international arena.   This group, along with the Blue Carbon Science Working Group, are part of the Blue Carbon Initiative, a consortium led by IUCN, Conservation International, and the International Oceanic Commission-UNESCO, working with partners from national governments, research institutions, NGOs, coastal communities, intergovernmental and international bodies and other relevant stakeholders.

This 3-day workshop, held at the CI headquarters, involved top wetland and mangrove scientists, directors of marine and climate change programs at a variety of multilateral
institutions and NGOs, and experts in wetland carbon accounting who work closely with the IPCC and UNFCCC.  I had the rare opportunity to observe this group as they worked to form a strategy to include blue carbon in international climate change policy, and outlined an agenda of activities to work on in the next six months, including involvement in the upcoming COP 17 in Durban.  This was an amazing networking opportunity as well, as I had the chance to talk with many of the participants in between sessions and over dinner.

Being grateful for what we don’t have

On Thursday morning, the health and wellness team, the ag team, and the newest addition to AASD, the photography team, set out at 5:30am for Pampacorral. The road to the rural Lares region of Peru is under construction, and therefore only open for two hours a day, at 6:00am and 6:00pm. Although this doesn’t compare to the 405 shutdown, it does cause for some inconvenience to Team Peru and the many people, trucks, and tourists that utilize the road each day.

Having bought out tickets the night before, Natalie and I had the honor of sitting in the very front of the truck. This little detail was important for two reasons. One, neither of us got car sick, which is a feat in and of itself. Two, we had the best view of the whole bus. Over the past couple of days we have watched a beautiful full moon rise over the mountains, but watching the sun come up from behind the morning fog and glisten off the snow at the top of the pass was something completely different and awe inspiring.

Just prior to arriving in Pampacorral, the bus picked up a few of the numerous children who were walking to school, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I was amazed to see such small children walking so far, but even more startled when I later found out that most walk upwards of two hours to school everyday.

Pampacorral, one of the first communities that built a greenhouse, is a beautiful, quiet community nestled between the Andes Mountains next to the beautiful river. The streets are lined with indigenous women threading yarn, chickens, cows, laughing children, adobe houses, various rocks left over from a recent land slide.

While waiting for some veggies to be picked from the greenhouse for the nutritional class, the photography team and I made friends with a small group of rosy-cheeked seven year olds. They informed us their teacher was out of town and since the director was running around with ag team, they were left unattended. Without even thinking, we walked straight into the classroom with the kids and asked them to show us what they learning. For the next thirty minutes, we read their workbooks, practiced writing our names, drew on the whiteboard, and practiced adding. Then the director came to retrieve the photo team to teach their class, and I was left alone with a class of first graders.

I passed out some blank paper and asked them each to draw their houses. We did the exercise together, the kids drawing on the papers, while I drew the various objects on the white board. To practice writing and spelling, we also labeled everything in the picture. As I walked around the classroom, asking questions, learning Quechua, and complimenting drawings, I began to realize that many of the pictures looked the same. Sure, there were small differences in the size of the mountains, but the sun was always just peaking the range. Some of the fish were
smiling and the cats were in the choclo fields (a local type of corn), but the river always split the page in half. I thought perhaps the children were influenced by my drawing and didn’t question it.

After we had finished drawing and coloring, we sang a few songs in Spanish and Quechua, and the directorreturned. I told him about the fun drawing that we had collectively decided should be gifts to their parents. He responded by saying, “of course, they can take them home as soon as we grade them.” My original intention had been to constructively occupy their time, but I left having taught my first ever classroom lesson.

I returned to the photo team and was surprised to find that the eighth graders had been drawing as well. With a slightly different prompt, they had each drawn a smiling sun peaking out behind the mountains with a river cutting the page in half. I can only assume they are taught from a very early age “how” to draw their community and surroundings. Seeing that many of the children don’t know anything else for much of their lives, it seems fitting that the school would make sure they had a clear understanding of what’s around them.

My final interaction with the kids was purposefully playful and what I now consider to be my signature gift to the kids: bubbles. The primary school children and I blew and popped bubbles for thirty minutes of uninhibited, purely joyful fun. I’ll never get tired of hearing the laughter and seeing little hands bob up and down as they attempt to pop the vary highest bubbles being carried up by the wind.

When the jar of bubbles was gone and the children had returned to class, a few of us decided to take a beautiful hike down to the town of Lares to catch our bus. That final hour and a half in extremely rural Peru was a wonderful reminder to all of us the importance of being grateful for what we have, enjoying nature, and perhaps to be grateful for what we don’t have. ~Danielle