Week Five: My Place at the Roundtable

      Time continues to fly; I just completed my fifth week of work with International IDEA. It was a very interesting week as I was able to sit in on the Constitution Building Program's planning meeting for the year 2017. The meeting lasted for the entire workday on Wednesday, starting with an introduction by Sumit, the head of the mission. The meeting then consisted of a long discussion of what my coworkers hope to accomplish in the next year. The planning meeting is an important annual event because each person who works for IDEA must come up with project proposals for approval by the umbrella organization in Sweden. After these projects are approved, the various groups are awarded funding, which varies greatly depending on the scope of the projects proposed and the resources needed to complete them. I found it interesting to get a glimpse of the amount of planning it takes just to get one of the primers off the ground, for example. I also found myself surprised to learn about the importance of designing projects that will not only serve the organization's mission (regarding constitution building) but will also consider the concerns of the member states. Since IDEA is funded by its member states, it has an obligation to respect the concerns of those states (of which there are 29) in designing these projects. Although it makes sense to consider your donors in your work, I hadn't considered the scope of that task before now. 

     Another thing I was surprised to notice was the lack of hierarchy in the room. Although Sumit led the meeting, the opinions of each person in the room, including my own, were valued and considered. Moreover, no one seemed afraid to push back against another person's idea, leading to a worthwhile discussion of the merits and possible setbacks of each project. I found it fascinating to watch the back and forth tussle of ideas. If I ever have the opportunity to lead a similar meeting, I hope that I can help to create such a cogenial atmosphere.

     Of course, my coworkers value the projects they do, but they also recognize the importance of taking breaks. To break up the meeting, we went out to lunch in the middle of the day and spent some time getting to know each other better. One of the nice things about working with only 6 other people is how easy it is to fit us all around a table. During lunch, I enjoyed listening to my coworkers talk about their lives in their home countries. Probably my favorite thing about my internship so far is that I get to work with such a diverse set of people, who each bring different ideas and experiences to the table.

     I also spent more time this week working on the constitutional responses to oligarchic democracy project. I read through a few more constitutions and spent some time preparing to write about the work that I have done so far. Elliot and I also talked with Sumit about the progress on the project so far. Sumit gave us good ideas for how to incorporate new information or how to restructure the project to consider aspects of constitutions that we had not considered so far.

     This past Saturday, I traveled to Utrecht, stopping to see the Kasteel de Haar on the way. It is one of the oldest and largest castles in the Netherlands and a truly impressive sight. Since the ever-consistent Dutch rain reared its ugly head, I spent some time exploring the inside of the castle before I continued my journey. In Utrecht, I took a short walking tour and then just explored the city. I enjoy wandering through a town to see if I can find my way back to where I need to go without having to pull out a map. In the Netherlands, that's not hard to do since almost every major street corner has signs pointing you in the direction of the major attractions or common destinations, such as the train station.

The Kasteel de Haar

The Kasteel de Haar

The Rose Garden

A picture from the rose garden at the Kasteel.

The Dom

The Dom in Utrecht.