¡Chief of Party!

“Chief of Party”, amigos, is the position that all expat aid workers covet, at least
among those who do real development work with funding, as opposed to those underpaid dusty guerilla types who rattle around in C-130’s with flour sacks doing relief work, the work of God. Yeah, someone has to do it, but the quicker those cargo-panted pudnockers get out of the way the better. Enter the Chief of Party to get the development job done.

COP intrepidly wades in through red tape to save the natives and achieve sustainable development.

The Chief of Party (COP) is the emissary of development, leader of the mission, the all-powerful director of USAID projects with funding in the gazillions, commanding a staff
numbering anywhere from 25 to hundreds, the blessed one who is served tea first
and most frequently in the office. Never mind that the COP has the signing
authority of a dachshund. It’s the image and the allowances that count. Illusions
aside, what the COP really does is battle with the ever-meddling “home office”.
Every field commander throughout history can attest to it. Alexander the Great
and Genghis Khan were probably the last field directors in recorded times that
didn’t have to put up with a pain-in-the-arse HQ because they were the ones in charge. Whether it’s the Pentagon or your beloved development consulting firm HQ in Washington or its fabled ‘burbs, it’s no matter, they want to hold “their man or woman in the field” by the short and curlies, primarily due to concerns over “compliance”. They’ve watched in horror as the Office of the Inspector General sent a few unlucky fellow firms in the development aid industrial complex to the gallows, hooded and swinging slowly
in the wind, simply due to non-compliance, the evil of all evils within
the bureaucratic realm. By Gawd, it won’t happen to them, not on their watch! The unschooled younger expat aid worker (EAW) or bushy tailed project assistant at HQ who aspires to the field may see the storied COP as the master planner and director of all “technical” activities, the diffuser of innovation. The stark reality is the poor wanker spends most of

As HQ wants it…

his or her time “dotting the ‘I’s’ and “crossing the ‘T’s’” in contract “documentation”,
going through interminable rounds of combat with HQ to reach compliant nirvana and to get a bloody VP to sign on the bottom line of a paltry value contract to
get a few development thingies done. Best not to complain though, just salute
the snapping corporate flag, and continue to comply, as the illustration at right depicts…

To be sure, it’s a great title, Chief of Party. Who wouldn’t want that one? Anyhow, the home office thinks the COP is busy stirring pink gin and tonics just about
all the time, living high off the hog with all those tasty but taxable
allowances. You might as well comply with the image, folks. Where’s dinner
tonight? Be sure to serve the toddies with ice please, shaken, or stirred…it
really doesn’t matter, because life is hell in the tropics, sniffs the
ruddy-faced COP, dreaming of retirement in a villa in Phuket, with daily
massage scheduled at noon (not a minute before). Now that’s compliance…

Chief of Party, the toast of the aid world!