From the Director

From the Director
TA at Work
Pohnpei Election Office
Mejit's Women's Group
Where are they now?
Pohnpei Daydreams
Counterpart Profile


Greetings! And please excuse our long absence from your mailbox. This large issue is the compilation of many stories that have been accumulating over the past 8 months, waiting for the next newsletter to be published. Due to a combination of reduced funding and increased responsibilities, the months kept slipping by without a newsletter being developed and printed. We hope you will enjoy the stories and articles for which you have been waiting!

Several things have been in the forefront of my mind over this past academic year. One of these is community sustainability: how can we assist communities everywhere to increase their levels of economic stability, environmental integrity, social equity, and cultural richness? The relentless onslaught of "western" consumerism, advertising, media images, and economics is both seductive and fraught with peril. And in some cases, it is so pervasive as to be nearly impossible to avoid. Sustainability is not an issue for developing countries alone; my own state of Oregon faces the same issues as pressures mount to grow ever bigger and more productive in the traditional economic sense. Yet common sense tells me that nothing can continue to grow unabated; there will eventually be a collapse of these systems and high prices to be paid for short-sighted decisions we are making at this point in time. I have long been fascinated with small islands in part because they are semi-closed and somewhat isolated systems, on which it is possible to see quite clearly the relationships between cause and effect. It is also the case that many island communities are not far removed from their recent status as self-sufficient and sustainable. I believe there is much we can learn from small island states which may be applicable to the larger "western" states. One of my charges to the technical assistants is to look for and learn from the traditions of the islands. What lessons can we learn from these cultures which predated the industrial revolution? How can this learning be modified to fit into the present quest for increased self-sufficiency and sustainability?

The second issue that has been central to my thinking has to do with the workplace environment in the Pacific islands. The systems introduced, and in some cases imposed by colonial nations, do not "fit" the traditional lifestyles of most islanders. This cultural disparity causes, I believe, the dissonance between what is "expected" of government and private sector workers and what is the reality. Perhaps the issue will be resolved by employment cutbacks engendered by reductions in outside funding. The trend is not encouraging, however, given decisions to reduce the work week from five to four days in order to accommodate diminished budgets. Such actions avoid the need to take more proactive steps in staff reductions, reorganization, and retraining, and seem to be leading to a scenario of two- or three-day work weeks in the future. As agencies and offices face the future, it might be worthwhile for them to re-vision the type of workplace that would more closely accommodate the cultural background of the people their organization employs and is meant to serve. What are the cultural realities that should be recognized in the workplace, and how can they be incorporated while still meeting the needs of the organization? An excellent book that addresses the many cultural variables that affect the workplace was published in 1993 by Gulf Publishing Co., entitled Transcultural Leadership: Empowering the Diverse Workforce, by George Simon, Carmen Vázquez, and Philip Harris.

Good health and best wishes to you until I write again.


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Micronesia and South Pacific Program
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