Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Sherick (a PYPP fellow within our office), Jennah, Her Excellency, me, and Dan
Last Wednesday, our office had the privilege of meeting with Her Excellency. Originally, our meeting was set in order to discuss the future of the Philanthropy Secretariat (the office's 3-year pilot period ends next year). The discussion however quickly turned into the value of philanthropy in Liberia.
I'm not sure what I expected from the President, but a few things surprised me: 1. she came in by herself - not one aide with her 2. she had read our report entirely and was very clear about what she agreed and disagreed with 3. Along the same lines of the first two surprises, she had no notes with her. I was pleasantly surprised at all this, because I know there are many initiatives under the President's office, and she has a lot of engagements inside and outside the country. The President's main message to us was that she wanted to see foundations align their investments more with Liberia's Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS). She also wanted to see more harmonization among the various philanthropic initiatives in Liberia, so programs could be scaled up for greater impact.
My first impression of the President was that she was indeed the iron lady that everyone describes her as. She had a very stern look on her face as Minister Davis spoke about the things that the Philanthropy Secretariat has been doing. The meeting lasted about 45 minutes, and it was only after about 30 minutes that she started getting softer around the edges. After giving us some constructive criticism, she praised the work that we were doing. I had the opportunity to speak towards the end of the meeting; after telling her Excellency some of the things that I was working on this summer, she asked me if I was being stretched to my capacity. I told her yes :)
FYI: The President's Young Professionals Program (PYPP) is a program which funds recent University of Liberia grads to work in government for two years. The program is very competitive, and this year there were less than 10 recipients.