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STORY SIXTEEN Rhetorical Support Netherlands, 1998 246 The woman Ben spoke with on the phone had a Dutch accent, but because the organization she represented had an English name, he didn’t realize it too was Dutch. The name—World Initiative for Poverty Eradication, or WIPE—though awkward and more than a little unfortunate , sounded to Ben like those of many development organizations. He had never heard of it. Marie Louise identified herself as the new head of research and evaluation for WIPE. She wanted to know if Ben would be interested in leading a team of consultants to look at how her organization was positioned for the future. Ben said he might, but he had a number of questions to ask first. What was WIPE, where was it, and what did it do? He thought it odd that Marie Louise responded to the first by actually reading WIPE’s mission statement over the phone from the Hague: “WIPE exists to fight the outrage of poverty . . . to join with the poor and the pro-poor in effective action to overcome the injustice that causes poverty.”1 She explained that WIPE is based in Holland, has an annual budget of $65 million, over three thousand employees in twenty-three countries, with plans to expand in the first decade of the new millennium to Burma, Central Asia, and northern Latin America. Ben was shocked to learn that it was the second largest NGO in the Netherlands. “But why are you calling me?” Ben asked. “It seems strange you wouldn’t use a Dutch consultant for this.” Marie Louise was candid. They had lined up several Dutch consultants , but for various reasons—scheduling, other commitments—they were no longer available. Their board was now pressuring the organization to move forward with the exercise which was supposed to have been done that summer. Marie Louse had called various contacts. It was Ramesh Kirwali in India who’d given her Ben’s name. Ben now understood. As had often happened, he got work by default. The first, second, and third choices were unavailable, and so Ben got the work. And Ramesh knew that Ben was now semiretired and likely to be available. But Ramesh also knew that Ben was not easy on organizations who wanted their work evaluated. Had he told her that too? Ben asked. Marie Louise laughed. Yes, they knew about Ben’s reputation. In fact, they wanted someone who would tell it to them straight. Ben asked who the other team members were. Marie Louise explained that they had not yet been contracted, but they had in mind using three others, all from the third world: one, a former WIPE executive from Africa; the second, a consultant from South Asia; and the third, an individual from Indonesia. They would all report to him, and she would send him their curricula vitae as soon as they had an agreement. “OK,” Ben said, “I’m interested.” He then proceeded to tell Marie Louise his daily fee. “Your fee is a bit high, but I think we can do it. But can you fly to Holland next week for two days to meet our new CEO and discuss the details?” Ben flew to Holland and arrived at WIPE headquarters, located on three full floors of a large office building. He was immediately sent into a round of meetings with senior staff members. None of the men wore ties or jackets. Everyone worked in open cubicles, except the director of Rhetorical Support 247 1. This and the other passages quoted in the story are taken from actual documents of the organization on which the story is based. The name and other identifying details of the organization have been changed. policy, who had a kind of playroom, a glass-enclosed space with colorful pillows on the floor and no furniture. Ben met in succession with the human resource and organizational development director, the policy director , the fund-raising director, the finance and information technology director, and the three regional directors. By midafternoon on the first day Ben was beginning to sense some contradictions at WIPE. All the senior staff talked about decentralization and how unbureaucratic the organization was, but the number of staff positions in headquarters and the lines of authority upward to the directors in the Hague were those of a large, old-fashioned bureaucracy. By far the largest unit was the fund-raising division. Its organizational chart was a maze of functions and...


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