Sunday, April 8, 2012

Letter from Jessica to Colleagues on Leaving World Bank Employment

March 27, 2012 
Dear colleagues who know me (with apologies to others for cluttering your inbox),

On March 30, 2012, I leave Bank employment, 34 years after I first worked in Bank operations and 32 years since joining as a long-term staff member. I hope to see some of you either this week or, since I am remaining in the DC area, in the months to come. My Bank email (which I’ve had since the inception of email!) will cease to function after my departure.

Departing staff frequently share reminiscences – and given my years at the Bank, I have a lot of them!

I shall always treasure the people with whom I have worked – Bank staff and consultants, donor and civil society partners, government counterparts, and beneficiaries. The combinations of people from a range of professional disciplines, countries, ages, and life experiences help make Bank work special. Early on I had on-the-job mentors with extensive operational experience both inside and outside the Bank, (some which dated to colonial administrations!) who shared their insights and lessons. Subsequently, as a task team leader, I have felt like a conductor of an orchestra, with everyone contributing to the performance.

I am also grateful for the opportunities to pioneer new types of analysis and to contribute to the achievements of a range of operations (especially investment projects). Highlights include:

During my early years:

  • In 1978, as a summer intern, undertaking cost benefit analysis including nutritional benefits of a Rwanda project to increase agricultural production in household plots;
  • During my first Bank mission 1979, in the absence of recent census data, determining that about one third of the population of Surinam had migrated (associated with independence in 1975) by taking into account the difference between airline departures and arrivals for several years;
  • As a Young Professional in 1980, inserting an affirmative action covenant in the legal agreement for the Sri Lanka Construction Industry Training Project so that women would be included in the apprenticeship program for masons and carpenters in the same proportion as their representation among unskilled construction workers; and
  • In 1981, helping in the design and implementation support of a range of integrated rural development projects in Brazil. 

In the mid-1980s.
  • Articulating the benefits, instigating the impact evaluation research, and then leading the implementation support for the Thailand Land Titling Project, the Bank’s first stand-alone land administration project; and
  • Leading implementation support for a sustainable land management project involving hill tribe and other upland agriculture as well as forestry in northern Thailand, including collaboration with incubating methodological innovations in participatory rural development. 

From the late 1980s through 2002:

  • Contributing to the development of the first set of detailed Bank guidelines in environmental assessment;
  • Leading design and implementation support for four separate, pilot-phase Global Environment Facility biodiversity projects in Indonesia, India, and Bhutan. Perhaps the most intensive of these efforts was the India Ecodevelopment Project, a people and protected areas project which, inter alia, established precedents and procedures for a process-oriented (as opposed to blueprint) project design, a comprehensive social assessment, and extensive civil society dialogue with both tiger and tribal advocacy groups; and
  • Leading design and implementation support for a range of participatory forest management projects in India that provided local inhabitants with resource rights and responsibilities and transformed relationships between tribal people and forestry officials. 

During the last nine years, continuing to work as a task team leader for:

  • A forest management technical assistance project in Bosnia and Herzegovina that, inter alia, set precedents for good governance training and procedures, and completed the first country-wide forest inventory in over forty years;
  • Sequential immovable property registration projects in Kyrgyz Republic with notable accomplishments in good governance, efficiency, and client service;
  • A farmland restructuring project and the land agenda of Policy Development Program Operations that have accelerated the provision of land use rights to rural families; and
  • A sustainable land management project in Tajikistan that introduced livelihood-oriented participatory natural resource management approaches, rebuilt the assets of a significant portion of the country’s upland farmers, and fostered self-reliance of people who had been dependent on post-conflict humanitarian aid. 

Since the late 1970s, the Bank has gone through dramatic changes.

  • Office technology has evolved from typewriters and main frame computers to laptops and videoconferences; and from no electronic contact with headquarters during missions and evenings at home to 24-hour connectivity.
  • The Bank’s institutional structure and interactions have evolved from a dominance of hierarchies and European/American-centric male economists and other professionals who mostly graduated from just a few universities; to transaction-intensive matrix management, increased influence of other disciplines (including other types of social scientists) and academic backgrounds, and more cultural and gender diversity.
  • Investment patterns and guidelines have also varied in influence and repute over the years, sometimes cyclically -- e.g., policy reforms and conditionality versus field level investments; private sector versus public sector; rigorous (but sometimes expensive or otherwise infeasible) impact evaluation versus other forms of analysis, monitoring, and communication that influence decisions and implementation performance; credit versus grant financing, high risk and reward versus low risk, short-term versus inter-generational time horizons, focus on the poorest versus commercially-oriented economic growth.
  • The Bank’s reputation among civil society, government, and academia has also fluctuated. Some of these changes have involved trade-offs and synergies while others have been a manifestation of the ongoing tension within Bank operational work between the theoretically perfect or “first best option” and feasible “good practice” and second best solutions. 

Work/life balance at the Bank is a challenge for everyone, including me. Since my husband worked as a development professional at a foundation and traveled internationally, I tried out almost all alternatives: taking our daughter on mission 5 times before she was 3 years old; working part-time; taking leave without pay after our son was born; and then coming back to work for a few years in a non-travel position. Counteracting the Bank’s workaholic culture wasn’t easy, but it was well worthwhile in terms of family relationships.

Lately, however, I’ve lost my work/life balance. I’ve been so busy with work during the last few years that I haven’t had the time or energy to consider options for what I want to do post-Bank. Even before the Bank’s “cooling off” policy of 12 months of no Bank consultancy was announced, I decided I would take a sabbatical of about one year to devote some attention to the “life” side of the work/life balance, and to “figure out what I want to do when I grow up”. My immediate aspirations are to get physically fit, spend more time with my 91 year old mother and 90 year old mother-in-law, start to tame the mounds of paper clutter that have accumulated at home, and try out some pastimes that I haven’t done for a long time. Only then I will decide how to proceed, “as way opens”, to use a Quaker phrase, to get involved in activities that are intellectually rewarding and where I feel I can make meaningful contributions over the longer term. I’m looking forward to the exploration.

In closing, I wish the very best for all of you in the years to come, and do keep in touch!

Warm regards,


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Moberg Family Blog -- 2011 Update

January 2012
Hello friends:

Keith, Jessica, Kate, and Alex
This past year 2011—particularly during the late spring and summer months--was active and at times stressful, full of transitions, health challenges, and other pressures.

Daughter Kate obtained her Master’s in Library Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May.  In August she took a short-term contract as a reference and instruction librarian at the George Washington University in D.C. Earlier this month, she began a new, permanent position as the College and Career Reference Librarian at the Arlington County Public Library
.  Next month she plans to move into her own apartment less than a mile away from us. 

Jessica, Alex, Carla, Kate and Keith
hiking in the Presidential Mountains
Son Alex continues as a research associate at an environmental consulting firm in Cambridge MA.  He works on GIS and other analysis of topics such as the Gulf oil spill, whale migration, and endangered species.  Although he has stayed in the same general location, in late August, we helped him move from an apartment in Medford to a small shared house in Somerville, closer to girlfriend Carla, who that same month began a PhD program in American Studies at Harvard.

Over the summer, we moved Jessica’s 90-year-old mother Kay, from her apartment into an assisted living arrangement, staying within her continuing care community south of Philadelphia.  This involved sorting out family heirlooms and also helping deal with Jessica’s sister Margy’s things, since Margy had been living with Kay part-time, helping her cope in spite of growing disabilities.  Kay, barely mobile even with a walker, is relieved to be in her new quarters.

Jean and all her grandchildren
Before completing the move of one mother, Keith’s mother Jean fell ill, with multiple hospitalizations from diverse causes.  Notwithstanding more than a month cumulatively in the hospital over the course of the summer, Jean attended (and even danced at) two family weddings on Keith’s side – one here in DC late June, of cousin Brooke , where we served as host for out-of-town relatives,  and the other on the Maine coast in late July, of nephew John.   By September, Jean was recovered and able to celebrate her 90th birthday back at in her apartment.

At Glenn Falls in near Pinkham
Notch, New Hampshire
Somewhere in this mix, we dealt with a flooded basement (February), temporarily moving all furniture upstairs and general rehab including gutting of our basement (July), and then re-flooding (with sewage blockage) just an hour before we departed for the Maine wedding and summer vacation in NH.   Fortunately, by phone, we were able to arrange for trustworthy local firms to enter the house, diagnose the problem, and then “snake” the main sewer line drain to the street, enabling us to return home to working plumbing.

Thanksgiving dinner with Kay, 
Jessica's sisters Margy and 
Bethany, and Bethany's family
Our busy work lives have also continued to evolve.  Jessica faced a stressful spring at work when she had to completely redesign a project operation under huge time pressure.  In August, while in the midst of all the family moves, she had to move her office to a different World Bank building, after sorting through more than eight years of accumulated papers.   She’s also had to deal with Bank requirements to regularly rotate from one region to another.  With 32 years, she has the dubious distinction of being the longest-tenured staff person in the rural development sector of the Bank (and this does not count her summer intern positions in 1976, 1978, and 1979).  So although she will be only 58, she is taking a buyout as of March 30, 2012.  (Please note that her work email will not function after that date – please contact us directly if you want to request her new contact information.)  Leaving the Bank would enable her to regain some balance and have the time to devote to personal matters, especially Kay and Jean.   She has already handed her work on the Krygyz land and real estate registration project during a fall trip to Central Asia.   Until March 2012, however, Jessica’s work responsibilities in Tajikistan will continue to take up almost all her time.  These involve land tenure and sustainable upland management projects as well as a Rural Vulnerability and Resilience Study, and include a final trip next month.

Keith, who turned 60 this year, is also thinking about the future.  After six years under the umbrella of another non-profit organization, Bikes for the World
incorporated separately and established its own board of directors (February), took over payroll (April 1), received its IRS non-profit letter (April 29), and took on all the joys and risks of an independent existence.  Despite these institutional changes and increased expenses, the organization--with three dedicated staff members and many hundreds of volunteers—continued to operate in the black, and maintain the flow of donated bicycles to programs overseas.   Although production has remained constant during the last four years, Keith believes that it is poised for expansion in 2012.

Our health is always a concern.  In early November, taking advantage of a large gap between international trips, Jessica squeezed in foot surgery to deal with chronic arthritis in her big toe, and has found the recovery process frustratingly slow.  Keith, meanwhile, is keeping better control of his blood sugar levels with a continuous glucose monitor – providing family members with peace of mind.   With an inch-long transmitter/sensor inserted above his waist, he jokingly refers to himself as “the bionic man”.

We cannot end this note without noting some of the drama in the world—some negative, such as the continued unemployment and debt burdens of people both in the U.S. and abroad, and the demagogic focus of some politicians on issues that ignore injustice, divide the nation, and actually forestall economic growth and environmental sustainability; and some positive, such as wider political participation in some Arab countries, greater public recognition of the perversity of concentrated wealth, and stronger prospects for cuts in military expenditure.  May we work toward greater justice and prosperity in 2012.

Warm wishes,

Jessica and Keith

P.S.  In case you want to see our blog from past years, here is the link.  

Moberg Family Blog

Dear Friends and Family,  

We are going to use this blog address to post our annual family letters and other periodic news, and then distribute the link via email.  

Warm regards, 

Keith, Jessica, Kate and Alex