Development Cooperation Handbook/The video resources linked to this handbook/The Documentary Story/Project approved!
“The project has been approved. Congratulation! Please come to Rome as soon as possible to finalize the contractual agreements.”
That was a very short e-mail. But explosive!
It was 10 months before I had written my project proposal and I had almost forgotten about it. And I did not follow the normal procedures of preparing projects, that is writing what you think evaluators will like to read. And I had not chosen a powerful and well renown organization for presenting my project. In fact I was tired of working for the "big" organizations and I was very sick of conforming to the expected conformities of the politically correct language. Armadilla was a small organization, in a quite bad financial situation, struggling to survive in a politically hostile environment (it was Berlusconi times in Italy, and Armadilla was with Berlusconi's enemies). Armadilla did not have the money to hire a project designer. So they did not have money, nor even for asking for the money they needed. I had offered them to write a project for them for free, with the clause that, if the project was approved, I would have managed it. They had all the interest to say "yes, yes". And I had the freedom to propose what I would have liked to do. The agreed: "let’s give a try!". So I did not receive any payment for the preparation of the project, and they did not interfere with what I wrote. I think they sent the dossier without even really reading trough it! The boss just singed it and send it. If it is no good they will reject. If they finance it, it mean it's good. So Armadilla bosses must have been really surprised when they received from the European Commission a letter saying that a 400.000 EUR project was approved! No wander now they wan me urgently in Rome and try to understand from me what is exactly the whole project about! And decide how to go for implementing it!
I had not been "diplomatic" in the project. I did not try to please the ego of anyone; not I tried to conform to the politically correct style; I just wrote what I thought it was really useful to do. I had been bold, but not really courageous. I do not deserve that honor. It is just that I was bored! I was not able to write it in the way I was thinking that a project like that should have been presented in order to get more chances to get approved. That was too complicated; and too boring. A story was not coming out of that conformity to projected expectations. …. So I had no way out. I could only write what I felt would have been a good project to do. So I enjoyed writing it. I wrote for myself! Then I sent it to Armadilla. They had no time and no resources to revise it. They forwarded it to the EU Commission. And then we all forgot about it. Armadilla was a to small an organization and was competing with the big EU players!
So what a surprise to receive that e-mail! The project approved ! Waw ! Really ! Waw !
In a sense the good news was that the money was available. For the next two years I would have had a job! And a job I really wanted to do! (Well , unless unsolvable problems arise! And problems will arise!).
But in another sense the good news was another. It was the good news that it is possible to approach a public institution with an idea; and get the resources for the idea, without political support. So it was the good news that somehow the public institutions somewhere are working with honesty and sincerity! That usual mistrust in institutions is not fully justified. That was a good news that was giving a new sense of hope!
And the good news what that by non conforming to the projected expectations of the judges it had been possible to win a competitive game! That was really a good news because it had so many implications for my life. It was an injection of courage. It was a defeat for the justifications for depression and mistrust. I think that one of the main reasons for depression is when people start thinking that in order to survive they have to live a life they do not like and follow a morality they do not believe in. So they get depressed, because they built up in their mind a dichotomy between what they are and what they think they have to do to be accepted. But that dichotomy is only in their fears, and is just a justification for not taking the trouble of being themselves. In reality the more you are in line with what you are, the more you are welcome by the world. With difficulties, yes. But that's fun when yo face them with friends. So the real good news was that the world welcomes authenticity; and if that is even true for EU bureaucracy ... then we are really on board of enjoying life as we are!
It was the spring of 2009. When I received the e-mail from Armadilla I was trying to make a bit of philosophy about it. Is then writing a project something like courting a woman? That you get better results if you do not try to please her, but just present your honest side, and let her say if that suite her or not? Should writing a project be considered more as writing a poem then writing an application?
I thought that some more philosophizing about project design would have been necessary if I wanted now to prepare an implementation strategy in line with the original project spirit. But at that time I could not do much theoretical thinking. The organizational and logistic implication of that mail were just too big. When I received the mail I was in in Sierra Leone, East Africa. I had just found a nice small house on the quite beach of the ocean, only 1 hour drive from the capital Freetown. I had just paid it in advance 2 years of rent. A lovely place for reading, writing, swimming and learn about the good side of African life. I had just find new friends after long time of not finding new friends (and of leaving the old ones). And I was finally staying with my wife Vrinda, who had finally got a job in a place where I could also stay (and not in war turned Afghanistan or in the heat and noise spinning Varanasi). Yes, in fact , I was also a little bored over there. (Apparently no big challenge … expect reading and do physical work out …. and the usual challenge of loving your loved one). But is was not bad at all! I was complaining to Vrinda that she was busy with her glamorous job .... while I was left at home ... with nothing much to do. But after all she was with me in the night. And when I wanted to be alone I had my refuge on the vast beautiful lonely beach. So it was good life. I will now have to return to Rome? My flat is rented. Where will I stay?
“Dear Vincenzo, indeed that’s a great news! Congratulation also to you and the whole team that make the presentation of this project possible. I will come to Rome next week. Our new journey has started. Let’s hope for the best.“
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