Balancing on borders

image

Source: Mihail 

Over the past two months I have felt
like a visitor of an adventure park. When I entered, I was overwhelmed by a completely
new sight, new sounds. It took me a while to find my way around, to know what I
could find where, to be able to fully understand the language on the signs for
the different attractions. I liked it from the start, the atmosphere was good
and there was a lot to discover. There were roller coaster rides, Ferris wheels
and picnics in the sun. However, the tightrope walk is the one attraction I
keep coming back to. It’s about balancing, which is a big challenge. But it’s
one I like taking on and aim to learn to get better at. Achieving a balance is
at the core of my internship and the common denominator of the short stories I
would like to share with you.

Social
& natural sciences

Introduction
days: a workshop on intersectionality. It is the first time I hear this term and
it very quickly becomes clear that I am the only one who is not familiar with
it. I am a natural scientist surrounded by social scientists, which gives great
food for discussion. ‘Within natural sciences people are often rather convinced
about the value of the found truth,
trivialize uncertainties, do not make use of research paradigms and may even
claim to be objective’. ‘Many social science studies state so explicitly that
everything is a social construct, hence uncertain and the conclusions are worth
little taking into account the influence of the researcher’.

Exaggerated? Yes.

Worlds
apart? Quite.

image

Source: SansScience

Our
conclusion: we have a lot to learn from each other, natural scientists should
become more aware and comfortable with their subjectivity & uncertainty, social
scientists may (without losing their critical view) shout a little louder about
their results and what we can learn from them. Of course this conclusion should
be taken with a grain of salt, n=3 has limited reliability.

Experts
of content or process?

An
observation I made is that many people I have come across at Oxfam Novib seem
to come from a (study) background which is not directly related to the work
they do now. Employees switch positions within or between organisation(s).
Being a master student, I have for years been in an environment which has
content at its core. I realise experience of processes plays a big role here
and yet I cannot help but think subject knowledge has added value. I am very
curious how different employees experience this for themselves and see this in
the organisation!

Informed
decisions

So, I am working
on the proposal for my research in Nigeria. I handed in my first draft and got
feedback. That in itself is great, but I got loads of it, in all different
directions. I love how everyone is eager to hear what you are doing and is
willing to think along. However, this leaves me with tough decisions to make.
How should I  balance incorporating
advice from stakeholders and keeping enough ownership of my own research? Very
illustrative for this challenge is the response I get when I mention my  struggle with it: ‘Everyone will give you all
sorts of recommendations, do not let it influence you too much, you are the one
who has to decide. But you know, you really really should go and talk to person
X before you start’. Finding balance; between theory and practice, my
university and Oxfam, between critical thinking and practical implementation,
work and play, between learning and performing. I am excited to continue the journey!

Dieteke Tamminga

Dieteke is currently interning at Oxfam Novib with the Youth
& Active Citizenship Team on abortion and SRHR.  As a bio-medical sciences student from Radboud
Unviersity, she certainly stands out within Oxfam Novib, which is concentrated
with connoisseurs of the ‘isms’.  Her
quirky attitude, creativity and excellent metaphors (once she physically
brought an egg to illustrate her point!) make her a dynamic person to
brainstorm with.  

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