Welcome to the Organization

I woke up this morning to find my Inbox full of very gracious welcome messages. Earlier, John Anner, the Executive Director of East Meets West, had sent an email to staff introducing me as the new Development Director for Vietnam and welcoming me as the newest member of the EMW team. Immediately, I had 10 new welcome messages from other staff. Next week I’ll get to meet the people in the Oakland headquarters face to face.

On Monday I had a long telephone conversation with Bob Greenwood of The Greenwood Company. Bob is the CEO of a consulting firm in San Francisco and the author of a recently concluded study of EMW’s fundraising history, strategy, and plans. I read the study last week, but it was interesting to talk to the author directly. Like most non-profits EMW has done some things well, very well in some cases, but there is always room for improvement. The incredible expansion and growth over the last 6 years has left the organization understaffed and with little time to develop a plan that comprehensively addresses current and future needs. Hiring me is a first step in addressing those needs.
Since most of the organization’s work takes place in Vietnam (Cambodia, Laos, and East Timor are part of an expansion strategy) it makes sense to have boots on the ground in the country where the work takes place. My job will be to find financial support for EMW projects in Vietnam, mostly from local and international companies doing business there. There has been limited success there in the past few years, but it needs to be ramped up. There is a large ex-patriot community in Ho Chi Minh City, and they will be my primary target group.
One of the most interesting things that Mr. Greenwood told me was a story about meeting with a senior US Consulate diplomat in HCMC. The official told him about young staffers coming to work in Vietnam and their ignorance and indifference to the cultural protocols. Respect and courtesy are baseline behaviors in any culture, but they may be more important in some. When I was there on my first trip I was always surprised when a stranger asked my age. At first I didn’t know how to respond. The question would be considered rude in America. But in Vietnam it’s important because there are different forms of address and respect dictated by a person’s age. The same is true in business or government. A higher ranking business associate or government official expects a higher degree of respect and deference. The diplomat related a story about some young staffers who failed to rise when a senior VN official entered the room for a meeting. It offended the official and derailed the meeting. Greenwood stressed the importance of being especially polite, courteous, and respectful in any encounter with Vietnamese counterparts. It doesn’t seem like an onerous task, does it.

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