Sunday, July 23, 2017

Future Generations University teams up with AmeriCorps West Virginia!

Volunteer in an Appalachian community while earning a Master’s degree... That's the vision that Future Generations University has been pursuing for the past 2 years and is now excited to finally begin this fall with a small pilot class. Working in partnership with AmeriCorps West Virginia and its associated organizations (Volunteer West Virginia, High Rocks, and the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area), Future Generations University will craft a unique learning experience focused on Appalachia while building upon our proven and tested pedagogy and curriculum... 

Volunteerism can be a gateway to higher education. In exchange for two years of community service with West Virginia's AmeriCorps, volunteers are now eligible to receive a Master's Degree in Applied Community Change.

“We’re so excited to share the news that Future Generations University will leverage AmeriCorps service and the Eli Segal Education Awards to attract and keep young talent in West Virginia,” said Heather Foster, Executive Director of Volunteer West Virginia. “As we look to the future, AmeriCorps provides an important opportunity to continue engaging people of all ages in solving problems through service and volunteerism.”

In exchange for a year of service, AmeriCorps volunteers receive an education award of $5800 per year, living-allowance of approximately $12,000, and work experience. Future Generations University will match the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award dollar for dollar. With a $23,200 scholarship possible, AmeriCorps volunteers could complete the program for as little as $1,800. 

West Virginia ranks third in the Nation for producing AmeriCorps volunteers. Each year over 1,000 individuals serve as AmeriCorps members in the state. Many AmeriCorps volunteers serve in their hometowns, while others come from across the country to make West Virginia their home for the year. AmeriCorps members change lives through mentoring, respond to disasters -like the June 2016 flooding, increase access to healthy and local food, preserve historic properties, and many conservation activities working with state agencies and non-profit entities alike.  

“With 25 years of experience building community capacity and preparing change agents worldwide, Future Generations University is very excited to extend a one of a kind opportunity to our home state of West Virginia! Through this innovative partnership with AmeriCorps West Virginia, we are working with the most dedicated organizations and individuals to offer an unparalleled education to communities in the greatest need,” said Luke Taylor-Ide, Regional Academic Director for Future Generations University.

Read on for an overview of the program!

Curriculum Overview
Introduction to Social ChangeIntroduction to various schools of thought regarding community change and development, with a focus on methodologies for local,
sustainable social change. 

Volunteer ManagementSkills-based course on effective recruitment, training, and management of volunteers for project and field managers working in non-profit organizations.

Community LeadershipExploration of leadership styles and strategies for application in groups, organizations, and communities, with an emphasis on leadership development.

Communications for Community ChangeApplied course that surveys various communications platforms and practices and asks students to cultivate skills for effective and persuasive communication.

Financial Administration & Non-Profit ManagementOrganizational management skills and strategies for making effective plans & partnerships as well as basic financial project and program management.

Healthy People, Healthy CommunitiesExamine the intersections between poverty, primary healthcare, and community change, with a focus on finding people-based solutions using available resources.

Community-based Natural Resource ManagementCouples natural resource management & conservation methodologies with approaches to promoting sustainable livelihoods & local ownership.

Advanced Seminar on Applied Community ChangeExamine the challenges and processes of scaling up positive impact to larger regions and/or populations.

Project-based Research in Community
In order to maximize the amount of credits associated with each member’s experiences learning by doing while participating in AmeriCorps service, students enrollment in the MA program will complete continuous Project-based Research (PRC) in their host communities with direct mentorship from faculty culminating in a capstone product that documents their individual learning in an Appalachian community.
· Students complete independently designed projects and research in community with faculty mentorship
· Each term’s Project-based Research is showcased in an online ePortfolio demonstrating formative learning process
· Upon completion of the program, students have a comprehensive portfolio documenting their summative learning journey for their graduate studies

Term 1: Graduate Study Foundations—Establishes the conceptual principles and skills
upon which the curriculum is built. Students discover what it means to be a self-directed learner and master Learning Management and ePortfolio software—tools for critical thinking, analytical inquiry, and reflective practice.  

Term 2: Social Research Methods—Demonstrate through project-based research an understanding of and apply concepts and approaches to both quantitative and qualitative community-based data collection and analysis.

Term 3: Monitoring & Evaluation—Conceptual framework and practical skills for monitoring and evaluating community-based projects, reflecting with peers on circumstances and parameters related to the assessment of different social and development projects.

Term 4: Synthesis & Integration—Analyze results of Project-based Research in community from both summative and formative perspectives within ePortfolio. Students are challenged to incorporate lessons learned during their MA studies with experiential-based reflection on AmeriCorps service.


About Volunteer West Virginia
An agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, Volunteer West Virginia is the state’s Commission for National and Community Service. The agency challenges West Virginians to strengthen their communities through service and volunteerism by identifying and mobilizing resources, promoting an ethic of service, and empowering communities to solve problems and improve the quality of life for individuals and families. To learn more about AmeriCorps in West Virginia visit


Visit to learn more about this exciting and innovative program. Sound like a good fit for you? Enrollment is still open! Applications are being accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis through August 21st.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Bridging the Gap: Peace Development Between the Leprosy-Affected Community and Surrounding Community in Addis Ababa

In 2017, Fisseha Getahun was one of 120 people awarded a Davis Projects for Peace Prize in order to implement a project to help those affected with leprosy in his community in the capital of Ethiopia, entitled: Peace Development between Leprosy Affected and Surrounding Communities. He saw his project as an answer to Kathryn Davis' call to find ways to "prepare for peace" and to help those most in need where he lives. This made him the tenth student from Future Generations University to receive this award in the past seven years. In this week's blog post, he shares some background on his project with us.

Fisseha with community representatives from the leprosy-affected
community and non-leprosy-affected surrounding community

The concept of the project came about from my work with those with leprosy in affected communities. In many countries, people affected by leprosy face a number of social and economic problems, such as discrimination and stigma. These issues are even worse for individuals who experience disability due to leprosy. They are more vulnerable to the endless stigma and discrimination than any other form of disability in our society.

Even after someone with leprosy has been cured, they're unable to lead an ordinary life due to the consequences of lingering complications. Some of the most difficult complications experienced are they forced to live as a colony in specific area and they did not get access for education. As a result of the wide misconceptions that exist about leprosy, many of those affected are forced to leave their birth places and live in segregated groups, known as leprosy colonies. In the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, individuals who have been affected by leprosy are deliberately pushed out of the city and made to settle in a solid waste dumping site with no infrastructure and poor social services.

The leprosy-affected community of Addis Ababa is called the "Zenebework Community." The majority of early settlers in the area were leprosy victims who largely migrated here from various other parts of the country-- mainly Amhara, Tigray, Oromia, and SNNP regions. Their goal was to receive medical treatment for their leprosy at ALERT (All African Leprosy Rehabilitation and Training Centre) Hospital, formerly known as Zenebework Hospital.

After treatment, the leprosy victims were supposed to go back to their place of origin, as direct by the government, but the majority of them refused, preferring to remain in this area where they'd received treatment. This resulting settlement was named after the Zenebework Hospital, which had been established in 1932 and named after Princess Zenebework, daughter to Emperor Haileselassie. In 1949, the Abune Aregawi/Gebre Kristos Church was established in the same area, resulting in this name also being used for the locality. When construction began on the hospital in its present form as ALERT in 1967 and was later inaugurated in 1971, many other institutions, such as schools, followed. This provided a basic infrastructure that the leprosy victims had previously been completely without.

The Zenebework community was unique from its inception as it was a place predominantly inhabited by people afflicted with leprosy. Although family members of ex-leprosy victims are still migrating to this place, the trend has altered, and now people with disabilities have also started inhabiting this location. The community was a highly stigmatized one for many years, often discriminated against by the surrounding areas. Those living here were prohibited to have any contact with other communities of foreign visitors. Members of the Zenebework community were even denied the right to rear cattle or conduct other small businesses for their livelihood, as transmission of the disease to other healthy communities was feared. Nursus and other medical professionals, even the clergy and priests, refused to provide professional and spiritual services there. The establishment of the Koshe garbage dumping site in 1954 in this area further added to the poor image of the Zenebework community.

However, this has changed somewhat recently, and there is less stigma in modern days than existed previously. Although the trend is working on reversing, all of those living in the leprosy colony are still often perceived as less than human and there is still much work to be done. Their livelihood depends on begging and collecting food from the waste dumping site, and they are severely marginalized and banned from entering adjacent non-leprosy affected communities.      

Although I came from a non-leprosy-affected family and grew up hearing the negative stereotypes, I had worked as a professional in a leprosy-affected community for four years. During this time, I was initially discriminate against by friends, family, other relatives, and neighbors as the only non-leprosy affected member of the leprosy community. Gradually, however, I changed their attitudes about leprosy and the leprosy affected-community for the better.

My purpose with the Davis Peace Prize has been to continue bridging the gap between the leprosy-affected community, which has been traditionally marginalized in the very worst of ways, and the larger surrounding community. To contribute to the peace and understanding between the leprosy-affected community and the surrounding communities, I incorporated plans geared towards inclusiveness and holistic development. Through this, the local mindset and correction of misconceptions would follow.

Below is an outline of the expected outcomes and major activities set in place to bring about this objective:

Expected Outcomes

Surrounding communities experience behavioral change in their attitudes and practices toward leprosy affected individuals such that community integration is improved

Increase common institutional memberships among leprosy and non leprosy communities

Improved social relations among leprosy and non leprosy communities
Utilization of services at common points is increased

Major Activities

Training of Trainers: Training on conflict management and resolution will be conducted for 20 community members including 10 leprosy affected, 10 non-leprosy affected community members. The participants will be influential male and female community and religious leaders who have the capacity to cascade the knowledge for their followers.

 Experience sharing: In addition, experience sharing for 10 community leaders will be facilitated. They will adopt and scale up the initial successes within their community to broader community contexts.

Prepare radio program:  Online national radio program is perhaps the best instrument to disseminate information and awareness among the general public. It helps to understand the truth of leprosy National radio program air time will be organized for the purpose of information dissemination and awareness creation. 

Organizing football match events: Football team will be organized the mix from both communities to integrate them and foot ball matches will be prepared by blending families of the community.

Panel discussions: A one day panel discussion with community members and professionals will be conducted to respond to community questions and to understand the truth about leprosy.

For more on Fisseha's project, be sure to visit:


Fisseha is an Ethiopian who has more than 15 years of proven and practical work experience in different organizations. He's worked in agricultural research institutes and both international and local NGOs, while holding different positions such as Research Technical Assistant, Development Facilitator, Project Officer, Program Coordinator, and Executive Director. He currently runs an NGO called Child of Present a Man of Tomorrow (CPMT) in Ethiopia, which works to promote the wellbeing of women and children. He is also presently studying a Master’s degree in Applied Community Change in Conservation concentration at Future Generations University to complement his backgrounds in agriculture, development and leadership.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Musings of a Naturalist III: QUETZALS AND COSTA RICA

This week, Dr. Robert Fleming transports us to the sight of an impressive ecotourism venture in Costa Rica...

The grounds of the Paraiso Quetzal Lodge. Each bungalow features a bedroom and an attached bathroom with solar-heated water. At 9,0000 feet altitude, nights can be cold (down to 5 degrees C or below) so hot water and extra quilts are much appreciated. The property is landscaped with plants that attract a variety of mountain birds including the Black-and-yellow Silky Flycatcher.

As we sipped hot morning coffee at the Paraiso Quetzal Lodge on the Cerro del Muerte uplift in central Costa Rica, a cloud oozed over the ridge and pushed down the western slope enveloping us in fog. But even through the mist we could make out forms of hummingbirds buzzing by and see the outlines of nearby oaks, their nearly horizontal branches seemingly decorated by a master gardener. Only oaks and similar trees with strong branch attachments can survive these conditions as the weight of the bromeliads, ferns, lichens, orchids and mosses, among others, combined with the moisture from mist and rain would spell disaster for trees with weaker joints. This was a classical cloud forest, a habitat type found at moderate elevations on many mountain slopes and ridge tops around the world...

We had traveled to Costa Rica to learn about the country’s remarkable conservation efforts and to delve into their rich natural history.  And at every turn, whether in a garden or cloud forest, birds vied for attention. Not surprising as the country lists some 900 species ranging from huge-beaked Toucans to the diminutive Green Thorntail, which weighs just 3 grams, 1/10th of an ounce.  Besides birds, Costa Rica hosts mammals, reptiles, frogs and many varieties of butterflies. And in the plant world, Costa Rica is home to well over a thousand species of orchids, including the national flower Guaria Morada (Cattleya skinneri).

One of the grandest of all Costa Rican species is surely the Resplendent Quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), a bird in the Trogon family. Other species also attract, but this quetzal with its iridescent green upper body and bright red underparts is unmatched. And the males in full plumage sport two elongated tail feathers that shimmer an iridescent green when waving back and forth in breezes of the forest.  

The Resplendent Quetzal  (Pharomachrus mocinno) is the largest member of the Trogons, a family of forest birds featuring some thirty species in the tropical Americas, a dozen in tropical Asia, and three in Africa.  Large trogons, such as this Resplendent Quetzal, feed primarily on fruit while the smaller ones, including the Scarlet-rumped in Southeast Asia, consume mostly insects, including caterpillars and other larva. Trogons are indicator species as they are very sensitive to deforestation, and their presence speaks of good forest conditions as they are cavity nesters, excavating their own nest holes mostly in suitably decaying tree trunks, and thus require trees of a suitable size age and size.

Conservation efforts often center around habitat protection, places where species can feed, find shelter, and locate suitable nesting or denning sites.  And one of the many instruments within the conservation toolbox is the use of a charismatic species to help rally financial and emotional support. The Resplendent Quetzal of Central America, the Mountain Gorilla in Uganda, or the tiger in India fit into this category. But whether or not a charismatic species is present in a region, the key operative is habitat preservation, an effort that benefits all species within that designated territory.  

Costa Rica is one of the world’s leaders in the total area of the country under conservation surveillance with a figure that normally appears to be between 26% to 28% in a patchwork of government sponsored national parks, preserves and wildlife refuges along with a network of private preserve, some quite extensive that often border on government parks. Of the lowland tropical forest, some 80% is now under protection. In addition, there are on-going discussions regarding adding more corridors between protected areas to enhance wildlife travel. While all these areas look good on paper, some have encroachment problems. However, one needs to start somewhere and designating an area as protected is a good way to begin.

It was not always this way.  Between 1950 and 1990, Costa Rica lost 65% of its forest cover due to clearing for commercial crops (mostly coffee and bananas), cattle ranching, and forest exploitation. Conservation endeavors began in the 1950, but much of the groundwork for today’s system was laid after 1960.  Then, in the 1980s, the protecting of Costa Rica’s natural heritage accompanied by publicity fueled an ecotourism boom.   Today programs have become so successful that in some places the flora and fauna that attracts visitors in the first place teeters on the edge of being overwhelmed (for more information see The Green Republic: A Conservation History of Costa Rica, by Stirling Evan; Duke University Press.).
Our visit to Costa Rica included time on the Cerro del Muerte uplift southeast of San Jose, where we stopped at Paraiso Quetzal, a lodge with fourteen bungalows located at an altitude of 2100m (9,000ft). Here we met Jorge Serrano Salazar and learned of his family’s splendid ecotourism effort, a program that involves members of the community living along the Pan American Highway in the Tres de Junio area.  

 Jorge Serrano Salazar (pictured right) is the visionary behind
Paraiso Quetzal Lodge. He is also the general manager and
stands with this cousin, Jairo Serrano, behind the reception desk. 
This is a family run operation with various members assisting as needed.  
Jorge, a member of the extensive Serrano family, grew up in quetzal country and while studying rural tourism at his local high school, realized that showing quetzals to visitors could be a key income generating opportunity for the family - if only they could work out a system.  

Quetzal tours’ were already in vogue in other quetzal hot spots such as Savegre Valley and Monteverde.  Eager to see one of these birds, we visited the Savegre Valley where we engaged Marino Chacon as our driver/guide.  Early one February morning he drove us slowly up the main road from the Savegre Lodge until he heard a bird and then quickly spotted a fine male sitting on a moss-covered branch in the cloud forest. There, in front of us, was an experience we will long remember:  the classical image of a stunning quetzal.

When one party locates a quetzal along the Savegre Valley road, other hopefuls gather. And this morning, with two males spotted in this sector, I noted that forty-seven other participants had assembled, all straining for glimpses of an iridescent green back or a red belly in the openings between oak leaves.  The folks at the front of the crowd were all smiles while those in the back were likely not as lucky until they moved forward.

Thinking about the competition from these semi-zoos, Jorge needed a plan. First, he needed quetzals - which he had. Then he needed an infrastructure – which he did not have.  And finally he needed viewers.

What better way to attract visitors to a special habitat than to build a place right on the spot?  Pooling money, the family opened a small restaurant in 2005. This was so successful that in 2007 they expanded the main building and added three bungalows, enabling visitors to stay longer.  And while constructing a restaurant and three bungalows was all well and good, this was not enough - quetzals do not feed in the dinning room. Jorge needed to develop a system to show quetzals to guests.

And then inspiration hit.

Quetzals live in mountain oak forests but fortunately are quite flexible, as a good portion of the original forest around Esperanza, a small town near the Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, has been cleared for agriculture or animal husbandry. Small holders now privately own this land, often a farming family working from 2 to 10 hectares.  As the altitude around Esperanza is too high and damp for coffee, the farmers raise raspberries, potatoes, and other cold weather cash crops; most farmers also own two or three milking cows.

In a cloud forest, both rain and moisture from clouds is needed for the survival of epiphytic bromeliads such as these found on horizontal surfaces of oaks and other tree branches, usually sharing the surface with, lichens, ferns, mosses, orchids, and other plants. Curiously, bromeliads can occasionally take hold on power lines, a behavior rarely seen in other plant groups. Trees in these mountain forests need to have sturdy branch attachments in order to withstand the weight of the bromeliads, ferns, and orchids  all soaked with heavy rain.  The tree pictured here grew just northwest of the lodge dinning room.

In 2009 Jorge started his scheme by coaxing local farmers to search their property each morning, looking for quetzals, and should they find a bird, report to the lodge on their cell phones.  Quetzals feed on wild fruit – especially wild avocados - as well as on frogs and lizards (during the rainy season) and once breakfast is ingested they usually sit quietly on a branch for extended periods. Thus guests at the lodge who are interested - and have paid a substantial fee - climb aboard a vehicle for a ride of fifteen or so minutes to the selected farm. Once you know where a bird is resting, the chances of arriving guests seeing a quetzal is high.  Another seasonal method of locating quetzals, and one popular along main roads, is to find a nest with chicks and then watch the adult birds coming and going. The nesting season on the Pacific side of the Cerro del Muerte uplift normally begins early in March and lasts into May.

The lodge's mission statement speaks to the importance
of taking pride in caring for Mother Nature for future generations.
Jorge’s program, started with only two farmers, but now has become so successful that his list of reporting individuals has grown to twenty-two with two more waiting in the wings.  In the high season, the lodge runs three ‘quetzal tours’ a day, each with a limit of ~6 people per group.  It is mportant to limit the number of visitors to any one site, Jorge says, so as not to overly disturb the birds. Evidence of the success of this program is that some farmers are now planting wild avocados and other fruit-bearing trees on their properties.

Most effective ecotourism efforts involve a number of steps and players. And Jorge’s program, while not replicable everywhere, certainly exhibits some components of a successful ecotourism project.  First, a species or an area of special interest (such as a sacred mountain) is identified.  Then a project needs a visionary person to propose a plan and who is willing to devote resources and time to the effort. In addition, there is the infrastructure. Visitors need to be able to reach the site and, where possible, have a place to stay. In addition, personable guides trained in natural history are a must. Also an enticing website is a distinct plus as this is a most useful tool for drawing attention to the site.

Costa Rica is located reasonably near the large North American market. This is fortunate, but an ecotourism program that depends on international guests is not totally reliable as world affairs influences travel.  Thus it is best to cater to a steady stream of local citizens and, as available, add foreigners to the mix. The Serrano family benefits from being only three hours drive from the capital San Jose, and within a six-hour drive of close to half of Costa Rica’s population.

And the family also profits not only from the quetzal but also from the quiet and peaceful nature of its oak forest location, one that overlooks a fine view towards the Pacific. Thus staying here makes for splendid interlude from the hustle and bustle of San Jose, Cartago, and other cities.  Moreover in addition to the quetzal,  hosts of hummingbirds buzz around the grounds and these, along with other mountain species, make Pariso Quetzal an ideal stopover for birders, international or otherwise.

       This Firey-throated Hummingbird (Panterpe insignis), one of 54 Costa Rican hummingbird species, was photographed at the Paraiso Quetzal Lodge. This is a montane resident usually found above 2000m (6,600’) altitude in central and southern Costa Rica and into extreme western Panama.  The Firey-throated is a nectar feeder, sometimes probing for food at the bases of a bromeliad flowers by utiizing holes originally made by bees. Hummingbirds also consume insects and spiders as a source of protein and are so agile that they have no trouble darting into the air to catch a flying morsel

Above all, sustainable ecotourism projects revolve around enhancing the participation of local communities. If the local residents see financial benefits, they are ones who are most likely to best safeguard the resource. And we see in the Tres de Junio area where, thanks to the Serrano initiative, farmers are now aware of the advantage of maintaining their environment and augmenting their quetzal habitat.

Jorge and the Serrano family are to be congratulated on their on-going conservation success.

Dr. Fleming with naturalist/guide Alanzo (pictured right), Quetzal showing
farmer William (left) and Serrano family member (far left); photo
taken by James Regali, Bob's companion on the Quetzal search.
This week's blog piece and photos make up the third installment in our Musings of a Naturalist series, courtesy of our own Dr. Robert (Bob) Fleming: Professor Equity and Empowerment/ Natural History. Having grown up in the foothills of the Himalayas in India, Bob has long been interested in the beauty of nature. This progressed into a fascination with natural history and cultural diversity, leading him to obtain his Ph.D. in zoology. He has  explored many of the planet's special biological regions, ranging from the Namib Desert in Africa to the Tropical Rainforest of the Amazon, and the Mountain Tundra biome of the Himalayas. He has worked for the Smithsonian's Office of Ecology and the Royal Nepal Academy and, along with his father and Royal Nepal Academy Director-Lain Singh Bangdel, he wrote and illustrated "Birds of Nepal," the first modern field guide to the birds of the region. In addition to his work with Future Generations, Bob is the director of Nature Himalayas, a sole proprietorship that he began in 1970. Through this company, Bob has led some 250 outings. He currently lives in the temperate rainforest of western Oregon in the USA's Pacific Northwest.

Many thanks to Dr. Fleming for another great contribution!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day from Future Generations!

When thinking how we could give a shout out to fathers on the blog today, my mind immediately went to the Taylors. Daniel Taylor, his father Carl Taylor, and son Luke Taylor-Ide, all worked together to bring the vision for Future Generations to life. Three generations of fathers and sons working together has made this already special relationship even more dynamic. The Taylor family has long worked to promote community-based education, and each has brought their own unique approach to the field.


Carl Taylor founded the academic discipline of international health and dedicated his life to the marginalized people of the world. He was also the founding chair of the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Up until a week before his death, he continued sharing his near century-long perspective with his students while working as the Country Director for Future Generations in Afghanistan.

Daniel Taylor founded Future Generations, as well as twelve other nonprofit organizations. He's been engaged in social change and conservation for more than four decades with a focus on building international cooperation to achieve ambitious projects, and has received widespread recognition and award for his efforts.  He is one of the synthesizers of the SEED-SCALE method, and since 1995 has continued to lead global field trials of SEED-SCALE and educate the world on this method through the sharing his research and books.

Luke Taylor-Ide has worked to combine academic interest in applied education with a parallel field-oriented approach to social change, having had extended, multi-year assignments in Afghanistan, India, and rural America. His findings affected national health policy in Afghanistan in regards to enabling women, and addressed the impacts of modernization on sustainable living in India. He currently focuses on the intersection of local agriculture economies, community-based preventive healthcare, and entrepreneurship in West Virginia.


I reached out to Luke to help me create todays' post, while keeping true to the purpose of the blog, and he kindly agreed to help. We hope you enjoy the following post in tribute to fathers everywhere.

Is there a project in particular that you all worked on that really sticks out to you?

Probably the most memorable project that I worked on with my father and grandfather was the "Pregnancy History Project” in Afghanistan and India. Several points are noteworthy about this project, most importantly it was the closest professional collaboration I got to share with my grandfather—it ended up being his last major research and action project. During this time, Bapu (Carl) and I traveled to Afghanistan and India to first launch a research effort to assess the impact of the Pregnancy History Method implemented 2 years earlier in Afghanistan and then also launch a parallel implementation approach in Arunachal Pradesh, India. We were closing our time in Kabul, Afghanistan when Dad (Dan’l) arrived to complete programatic work and we all overlapped for two nights in the guest house of the International Assistance Mission. One night we got into a debate about the appropriate placement and role for the concept of establishing a Shared Vision for change in community within SEED-SCALE. Each of us had a strong opinion and they were all different; we debated that point for hours in the living room until the other guests united and asked us to go to bed—we had no idea how late or opinionated we each had become. I am still not sure that any of us went to bed that night at all convinced of the other’s views—but I expect each of us thought our point had come out on top. 

What's the greatest benefit to working with your father?

We get to spend a lot of time together! As a result of interacting on a virtually daily basis, usually regarding work, we have learned to adapt our relationship from one of typical father-son to being colleagues and friends. We gain insight into one another’s daily life in a way that most father-son relationships cannot do. While this can be a delicate balance, having an enduring relationship that has evolved throughout the years has allowed us to know one another professionally as well as personally, which for better or for worse has brought us closer together. 

What's the hardest thing about working with your father?

At times the line between our professional and personal relationship can get blurred which adds significant strain on both. It is often difficult for us to “turn off” work when we are together. While this can have its perks such as working through a complex issue over dinner, it can also easily turn a relaxing evening into a night of work and debate. Unlike many working relationships, we are unable to cut ties completely if we have a disagreement so we generally work out our different views and are both better for it—but getting to common ground is not always the most fun. 

What's been your most memorable interaction while working with family?

In March of 2008 I got a phone call from my grandfather asking me to come and assist him on the Pregnancy History Project that summer. On the call he stated that he had discussed this idea thoroughly with Dad who had authorized and approved of the idea—“everything has been arranged as long as you are willing to do it," he said. Obviously when your 92 year old grandfather asks for your help, you say yes, so I did. The next day I spoke to Dad who said that he had just gotten off the phone with my grandfather who reported that I had requested to be involved with the Pregnancy History Project and that I had made a compelling case. By the time Dad and I both spoke to one another to discover that we each had agreed to part of an elaborate plan orchestrated by the family patriarch all we could do was laugh and go along with it. I still chuckle about the fact that my first official employment with Future Generations was the result of orchestration from my grandfather. 


Many thanks to Luke for his contribution to today's blog, and Happy Father's Day from all of us here at Future Generations!