It might be a bit late, since January is almost over, but it is worth looking back and seeing what I have been part of and helped develop in the past year in CIM.
I returned to Sanski Most to help CIM build more capacity for the organisation. It’s been almost 4 years since I first started working here, both in Bosnia and from abroad. The directors of the organisation have given me many job titles, but everything I do, I hope builds the centre’s capacity and helps the organisation grow and develop.
I returned to CIM mainly to manage the GlobalGiving storytelling project. This was an ambitious initiative, not without challenges, and hard to complete. We have however managed to complete it in October 2014. The result: 100 stories, one community needs assessment, and a lot of learning. All the stories were added to a massive database that GlobalGiving is compiling which can be found here. I think I can safely say this community research project ended up being a success.
At the beginning of May, someone sent me a message and said: you really need to do something about CIM’s twitter account. They have 3 followers: you, me, and one more person. I thought, well, I don’t really do twitter. However, I looked into it. What started as, let’s get CIM networking a bit on twitter to get more followers to keep up with the automatic updates we send from facebook to there, ended up being a lot more. I started to post more tweets, and quickly saw good results. After countless articles and tutorials on how to use twitter for non-profits, and many webinars on how to succeed at it, CIM now has an active twitter presence. In numbers: 827 followers, 837 tweets, 2 live twitter feeds from week-long projects, and many mentions. The best part about twitter for us, is the visibility we get. Being a small organisation from a small town in a small European country means not many know of us. Twitter helps us post updates about work we do on the ground, and share our results with a much wider public. We are keen to network, find us @CIMPeace
In Bosnia most people use facebook for information sharing and online communications, and the benefits of using it as a non-profit are many, though CIM’s website was slightly ignored for a while. From abroad, I found it hard to keep it updated, as I did not take part projects done in Sanski Most, and due to our directors being overworked it means the information I was getting was very basic. The website was not updated from October to May. You have to wonder, when someone looks for information about your organisation, where do they go? The first place to look is your website. Many people write and enquire about volunteering opportunities, and say they looked at our website. So I made it a priority to update the website with fresh information as much as possible, and catch up. The latest post is focusing on our storytelling collection analysis, if you are interested in finding out what Sanski Most is dealing with, check it out on our website.
Another task in CIM for me has been to assist the directors in processing volunteering applications. Dealing with the European Voluntary Service logistics is not an easy task. It is time consuming and it requires completing many forms and signing all sorts of agreements. Then the volunteers will need an induction training, and slowly more training with everything they need to know to support the organisation. Over the summer we recruited 2 new EVS volunteers from Germany and France. More visibility and networking has also helped us get more people interested in volunteering in CIM. Only this autumn, we received 17 applications.
Organisation is key to CIM, and in order to ensure a better handover for new volunteers, access to information needs to be easy. CIM uses dropbox to file all the information staff would need to work with. Past and current projects, grant applications, reports, social media guides, organisational information, and more live in our dropbox account. When you’ve got hundreds of files, what is the best way to organise it all? We looked at the way we worked with dropbox and asked ourselves: if i were a new person coming to CIM, what would make more sense to research CIM’s work and have access to documents? We created a system, a map, and posted a reminder to update the folder with new documents very often so we can keep a good better common record of our work.
I have always gotten very excited about monitoring and evaluation. In Corrymeela I had to design and deliver training in evaluation. I was so much looking forward to training day. I even made a poster with evaluation humour to get the volunteers interested and involved. I wanted to challenge the idea that evaluation is ‘the boring part’. For me, evaluating programmes is rewarding when you see the results of your work, and a great learning experience on how projects can be improved. It is a way to see what changes took place in the short term and further inform your practice. I was responsible for managing the monitoring and evaluation of Peace Camp and Peace Week. For Peace Camp, the evaluation methods were more traditional. We had pre and post training questionnaires which were later on analysed and the information gathered helped us reflect on the results and share it through reports with our funders and supporters. Evaluating Peace Week was more informal. I wanted to do it, but the directors said they didn’t get many responses in the past. I decided that if traditional methods won’t work, then it was time to experiment. Because a lot of participants were going to be young people, I designed colourful and eye-catching feedback forms with adjectives to describe the activities from positive to negative. It did pay off, as most people filled them out. At the beginning people wondered what those forms were, by the end it became a routine. After I gave a presentation on storytelling to about 20 youth, I was happy to go and get some fresh air when one of the young volunteers said: ‘are we not evaluating your presentation?’. I guess when people ask for evaluation forms, you can say the experiment worked. Another interesting part about evaluating Peace Week was keeping up with modern technology and trying a new website. Inspired by our storytelling project, we decided to use Storify to do a social media centred evaluation report, especially since we kept a twitter live feed during the programme. Figuring it out was not super easy, but I managed in one day, and I added another skill to my non-traditional evaluation tools. The storify report can be found here.
One thing I missed when I was working for CIM from Northern Ireland was writing grant proposals. It’s probably safe to say I really like to write, but applying for funding within CIM can be frustrating. Bosnia is not really a funding priority for most funding bodies, though I always like a challenge. Proposals are also a chance to undertake community research and learn so much more about peacebuilding developments from other initiatives whether undertaken by state institutions or other civil society organisations. Or the lack of. Out of 5 applications, 3 got funded, 2 are pending. There is so much to learn from doing this though. The best outcomes on a professional level are the confidence you get, and the flexibility and opportunity to think outside of the box when things get very challenging. For one particular application for example, I wanted to use some learning I have gotten from working with GlobalGiving in the past two years: write a story of success from the perspective of a beneficiary, in first person. Getting hold of people in the summer, when most are on holiday, was hard though. In the end I did write the story in first person, and used my theoretical knowledge on developing local ownership to explain how CIM has managed to gain the trust and respect of the local population by using international best practice with local cultural approaches.The most difficult proposal I had to write was a new programme we want to develop. At its core is raising awareness of conflict preventions methods. It is a large scale programme where sustainability is key. Training, new skills where they are most needed, workshops and radio shows are all ways to reach out to people and give an account of how communal memory and subjective views filtered by trauma can negatively impact on Bosnia’s future development. In order to formulate the need for this, data on the local community had to be gathered. The fact is this data does not really exist. Census figures are dated, from 1991. We don’t really know the local demographics. With a lot of team work, and input from local teachers we managed to put together a good analysis, and the proposal is currently under assessment.
Apart from assisting to organise various community events, I organised the opening of an international art exhibition in Sanski Most. Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going? The exhibition sought to engage people in a reflection on their history, present and future. How can we build a more peaceful and sustainable future? What are we dealing with? How can we make a difference?
I left my favourite part to the end of the post. Since 2012 I have been managing CIM’s online fundrasing efforts on GlobalGiving. In the process I attended many training webinars and read hundreds of pages with tips and ways to succeed at this. Often there was little capacity to use globalgiving more than in a basic way. 2 years later, we have raised close to $20 000, we have submitted over 20 progress reports, written 268 personalised thank you emails, and we are close to reaching the rank of superstar organisation on the website. For the year end campaign I had in mind a goal of raising $2000 for our Peace Embassy project. We managed to raise over $8000 instead. Not a bad outcome I would say. It can get much better though, so in the next year, CIM will put more time and effort into GlobalGiving. The next goal is to fundraise $5000 until July, so we can become a superstar organisation and qualify for a 50% matching on the partner rewards bonus day.
So to sum up:
-social media development (active twitter presence, more posts and followers on facebook) ✓
-increased visibility ✓
-help CIM become an award winning peacebuilding organisation ✓
-data collection, research, and analysis ✓
-new evaluation tools ✓
-achieved my fundraising goals ✓✓✓✓
-secured funding from grants for 3 programmes ✓
and much more :)
Things I’m looking forward to in 2015? Taking our fundraising to the next level, securing funding for our Conflict Prevention programme, designing more projects, developing more promotional materials such as factsheets, inforgraphics and videos, and more progress towards turning CIM into a fully-functioning social enterprise. And more hiking trips. Check out our tourism initiative here.