For most of the last five years, I have been doing my work with the oversight of a committee of four advisors with significant experience and wisdom. This guidance was useful in the many instances where I faced complex situations for the first time. PhD programs are designed with advisory committees for this exact reason: the thesis process is supposed to destabilize the student create a powerful learning experience. An advisory committee allows a student to lose their balance, but watches closely to prevent them from falling down.
Since my PhD is finished, so is the role of my advisory committee. Although I am relieved to be free of the many constraints that come with universities, I do miss the comfort of having a formal support structure that is sanctioned by a major institution.
This phase of my work is bringing more complex situations; to whom do I turn for advice, and how do I know whether to trust that advice?
The two groups with which I am working – former research participants, now collaborators in improving their communities – share some common characteristics, but also have some unique features.
One of the groups has a delicate relationship with government officials that is peppered with mistrust and apathy. The other group is navigating a situation of contested leadership in the wider civil society community.
Both groups have difficulties engaging members to get things going, but have been flooded by newcomers when they have made things happen. The leaders of both groups claim with certainty that they will be resource-generating and self-sustaining as soon as they “get a little something to get going.” These confident prophesies are the exact opposite of what I have heard has happened in local experiences of microfinance and small business support for disabled persons’ organizations.
As you can see, the list above makes for some interesting decisions. So, without the guidance of my advisors these days, how should I decide what to do?
These next few weeks will be interesting.