Sunday, July 27, 2008

Offwego to ATHGO

My daddy is President.
What does your daddy do?
I live in a big, white house
On Pennsylvania Avenue.
I always hide behind the desk in Daddy's den
When I play hide'n'seek with Secret Service men....

So there I was on Pennsylvania Avenue with Little Jo's adorable song running through my head on my way to the World Bank, July 8-11. ATHGO (which used to stand for something, but they changed their focus and didn't want to change their name, so now it's just plain old ATHGO) was holding a conference on governance, young people (18-35), and ICT (information and communication technology). Given my focus on governance in both my dissertation and the book chapter I'm working on right now, I was fairly interested in going, and Per paid the way.

I stayed at the Hotel Lombardy, which ostentatiously gives its address as being on PA Ave, but really there's a teeny park there where a hobo was stretched out. So as the GPS said "You have reached your destination," I thought, yeah, it's a warm enough night..... (PA Ave runs diagonally across DC, so it intersects and leaves some little triangles for parks.) The hotel behind the park features a single elevator, and it's run by a fellow who shuttles people pretty fast and gets your ice. I was supposed to be sharing a room with someone, but he never showed up, so I got the room to myself... for the little time I spent sleeping.

...My Daddy is President.
We had a busy day.
I'm learning the alphabet:
No matter what I do it makes a news event
Cwause my taddy is the P'esident.....

I have a very mixed review of the ATHGO conference. They billed it as being on Governance, but really it was about corruption. We had a wide mix of speakers, but many of them overlapped introductory material. And it's not just me being a PhD student - even one of the 22 year olds in my group said that she was disappointed at the lack of new material. We had a lot of people from the World Bank speaking to us, but more than three of the panels had someone focusing on employment opportunities at the WB and how impossible it is to get in (20,000 applications for 30 jobs). And for a conference about the wonders of ICT, there was a shocking lack of power outlets to plug a computer into. This is a picture of my view from the back of the auditorium where I could find an outlet. (Actually, oddly enough, the sound system was better in the back than the front, so I heard the conference better from the back than I had the first day when I was on the second row.) If I had known what was being covered before the conference, I likely wouldn't have gone. But now that I have been there, I'm glad I did.

The real value added for me was working in a group of about 14 people on creating two groups proposals: one a policy memo and the other a business model. In less than 36 hours we had to organize the group, decide on our proposals, write them up, and prepare a presentation on both of them because they didn't tell us which one we would present until an hour before we did it.

We had a good group of people, very accommodating, knowledgeable, and friendly. Some groups broke out into fights! For most of our jobs (group leader, policy strategist and writer, business strategist and writer, etc) people said, "I'm willing to do this if no one else wants to," and quickly bowed to someone else. I'm afraid I've never been so good at that and volunteered straight up to be our spokesperson ("I'll do it!"), which was the first job we discussed so I didn't have any of their good examples to follow. Two other people said they would do it if no one else wanted. They asked my qualifications and I listed off (in the best possible light) the history of public speaking training that my parents - the speech festival organizers - and the Church gives, and some recent experiences presenting my work material. When I declared I had 17 years of experience (which was a bit lower than actual, but no sense debating the issue), the other contenders gave way, though the gal who became our group leader was not impressed and interviewed me as to my worthiness. One of the other people who wanted to be presenter became my adviser who would whisper answers to me on the stage. But I accomplished my goal and became spokesman.

This was probably a mistake.

...At Daddy's first press conference I made news
Wearing Mommy's high-heeled shoes.
And every time I'm able,
I'm under the conference table....

Y'see, pulling together two presentations meant I got about 3 hours of sleep each night I was there. Fortunately, the policy idea was the one I brought to the table, so I was well familiar with it and could prepare the PowerPoint during the second day of meetings. It involved using cell phones in Kenya (where they're a lot more prevalent than you might think) to improve citizen participation in government. This picture is one of them I used in the presentation. In the end, though, it was our business model that was selected (randomly) for presentation, so I'm glad I spent the night before working on that one. I'm pleased with how I did in presentation and on the Q&A - our group gave us high-5's - but it kinda wiped me out.

Joy had been staying during this time with my good friends Marc and Marcy, who I met, hung out with, and adopted at BYU. I spent the evenings at their place and returned to the hotel around midnight to work until 3 (so I wasn't quite the martyr it might at first sound like). We had hoped Joy would get to spend some time at DC while they were at work, but Joy took the opportunity to catch up on her sleep without the pressures of taking care of house and home.

The plan was that Joy and I would drive home right when I was done Friday so that I could leave again early Saturday morning for the CES training meeting in Syracuse. But I was dead tired. I hadn't slept even half of what I needed the entire week and promptly fell asleep at their place for 3+ hours. So we stayed another night and left Saturday for our long drive home, arriving around 11pm. I was very glad Joy could come, and it was great to see my expectant 'sister'. I was sufficiently wiped out that I couldn't make it to church on Sunday, though, so I spent a lot of the next week recovering from the trip.

... My daddy is president.
We make a happy pair.
I go for my pony ride.
He rides in his rocking chair.
I don't play house, I play the game of government
Cwause my taddy is the P'esident.

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