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Technological hickups aside, we are just about ready to fly to Afghanistan. Most of our gear has arrived. Flights are booked. We've been gobbling up any relevant information we can find to add to our knowledge toolbox. I have been particularly interested in re-familiarizing myself with the District Stability Framework, a common development and stabilization planning framework taught to uniformed and civilian personnel in Afghanistan.

The Commander Support Program integrates closely with the military, so it is important for us understand the prevailing planning processes and terminology in order to "sing from the same song sheet".

Because the CSP is designed to integrate so closely with the military, Spirit of America remains fairly unique in the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) world: we don't mind singing from the same song sheet; we don't feel a need to artificially separate ourselves from the military's perspective in particular. We don't want to have a separate agenda.

Many NGOs in Afghanistan never quite seem to 'gel' with their military counterparts, despite receiving much funding and support from the uniformed/governmental side. There is a great amount of 'us and them'.
On the other hand, most NGOs are absolutely in the right place to execute their deliverables in a manner that suits them best: the diversity among NGOs is pretty vast and each requires a different position, different relationships with government and military stakeholders, to maximize its effectiveness.

I will soon write a follow up on how Spirit of America's position works well to fill a niche in the NGO world; a niche that to me exists pretty undeniably, but one that doesn't actually reflect badly upon our NGO counterparts working across Afghanistan and elsewhere. Everyone has a different role to play, a different need to meet, a different niche to fill.

Tomorrow, I will write about another key element that I have been focusing on during my preparations: Design, Monitoring and Evaluation (DM&E).

-Toby Bonthrone

No endorsement of Spirit of America by the US Department of Defense or its personnel is intended or implied.