When I talk about my job, people usually get bored pretty quickly—what could be so exciting about a training session on combating poliovirus for journalists in Islamabad, for instance? Well, nothing much unless you coordinate it from Ukraine during a full-scale war against Russia, have participants from Afghanistan whose Taliban regime does not make life any easier and need to keep in mind that Pakistan is widely considered a state sponsor of terrorism.
Hell of a quest, huh?
Luckily for our clients, our team never shies from a challenge and specializes in creative solutions, especially when we believe in an ultimate good. Since 2017, CFC Big Ideas has partnered with the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) to achieve their goal of training media professionals. By coordinating and executing international media training sessions and conferences for USAGM affiliates, CFC helps support freedom of expression and independent media worldwide. For example, after U.S. troops withdrew from Afghanistan, it was deemed especially important to prepare Afghan reporters for work in their new political environment, build local journalists’ capacity to report on poliovirus and related health issues in order to enhance health media campaigns.
We have met such success that in May 2022, our team was contracted to organize Voice of America’s Training on Combating Poliovirus: Countering Disinformation and Building on Success. Spoiler alert: the three-day event turned out to be a real hit among 40+ happy trainees and highly satisfied stakeholders!
It started with some routine tasks like budget planning, applying for visas, searching for a suitable venue, designing and printing materials—down-to-earth logistics, you know. Only later did I realize that getting 16 high-ranking speakers from Voice of America, UNICEF, WHO and Rotary International to generate a coherent agenda was comparatively a piece of cake. As the project evolved, we employed creative problem solving for some pretty unique challenges, like searching for a mahram* for female Afghan participants to walk through Kabul Airport, finding a way to deal with the Pakistani financial system affected by sanctions, and answering messages in Pashto on WhatsApp.
A cherry on top was my conversation with Romanian border control. You are probably asking yourself what on earth Romania has to do with the story. As it turns out, it is much cheaper to produce training materials in Kyiv and pay for DHL delivery a long way to Islamabad than use Pakistani printing houses. That’s exactly how I ended up persuading the Romanian officials that:
1. Yes, I’m that lady with a full trunk of handouts for a Pakistani conference
2. No, DHL does not function in Ukraine during the war
3. Sure, you can take a picture of my passport and track my movement around the country since you do not really buy my story
Of course, there are moments when I can feel stuck in the face of unfamiliar challenges. But when I see the motivation journalists around the globe show to get to USAGM projects and how inspired they are post training, it really pushes me to think outside the box and do my best to make these events meet and exceed their expectations. Enjoying new experiences and the diversity of the modern world, our team always finds our way around — that’s how CFC Big Ideas earned its name.
Project Manager at CFC Big Ideas
*In Islam, a mahram is a member of one’s family with whom marriage would be considered haram (unacceptable practice in Islam)