The importance of interdisciplinary collaboration

This past week at the Council has been a little irregular for me because I spent Monday-Wednesday working from Antigua, Guatemala. It’s a bit hard to get around and out of the city here, so when I had the opportunity to take a trip to Antigua I took it! I had heard wonderful things about that city and it definitely did not disappoint – check out some of my pictures below!

I really like the flexibility of my placement and the fact that my bosses encourage me to explore and experience Guatemala while I’m here. The flexible work flow style works well for someone who enjoys working independently and is a self-starter like me. The office is quiet, as other employees come in and out from the field a lot, so I can be pretty productive while I’m here, but not feel like I’m under intense pressure or anything. So far I’ve really enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had to get out of the office as well and learn more about Guatemalan history and culture (see last week’s post) in order to really understand the context in which the Council operates.

Something that has been surprising to me about working here is that no one else in the office has a public health background. I know in the organization as a whole and in regional offices that are bigger than the Guatemala branch, the distribution of disciplines is different. But here, most of the implementation people have backgrounds in education, and the monitoring/evaluation/research folks, with whom I work the most closely, are anthropologists and economists with specializations in international development. While this fact is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things – at the end of the day, we’re all still working towards the same goal of empowering and educating adolescent girls – it has definitely steepened the learning curve for me a bit. I was surprised to realize how different our perspectives, methods, and terminology can be. It’s been a good exercise in learning to work with people who think and approach problems differently than I do – public health is all about interdisciplinary collaboration!

My projects and responsibilities here have also turned out a little differently than I expected. At the end of last week I was able to sit down with the rest of the research team and talk about what concrete deliverables I should plan to complete during my time here. Unfortunately, the data we have from the Abriendo Oportunidades program is not as extensive as I was expecting and I was struggling to find a research question I could explore with it. However, we have some new data coming in and I was asked to shift gears a little and work on a project related to adolescent girls’ migration. I think this new project will turn out to be a blessing, especially because I’ve helped write a manuscript on the topic of migration in the past. I’m excited to see how my skills and knowledge can contribute to the Council’s work in this new capacity!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s