Quality workshops are my islands of hope, which often keep me from burning out

Ivana Čorbová is a big fan of global topics. She first encountered the issues of poverty, climate change and the education of young people more than a decade ago during her volunteer work in Africa and India. She has worked for the Integra Foundation for six years. In the fall of 2021, she attended the NGO Leadership Workshop.

In this interview, you will learn:

– what Ivana does to contribute to solving global issues;

– how she keeps motivated and what she does to prevent burnout;

– and how the NGO Leadership Workshop has helped her advance her goals. 

Photo: Archive of Ivana Čorbová (Integra Foundation)

Ivana, you have been working for the Integra Foundation for almost six years. What do you do?

Honestly, I don’t consider it a job. Integra is a big part of me. It is my hobby, love and mission.

What is written in your employment contract? An enthusiast or a fan?

(Laughter)

I work as a project manager. I am in charge of the foundation’s humanitarian and climate projects in South Sudan, Syria, Ethiopia, Kenya and here in Slovakia.

What does a project manager actually do?

In the non-governmental sector? Everything that needs to be done. (laughter)

I spend most of the year at the computer in the office, with Excel spreadsheets and budgets, goals, as well as narrative project descriptions.

My task is to control, manage and communicate with the project team in Slovakia and abroad.

However, there are only 10 and a half of us in the team, so we often wear different hats according to current needs — whether it is marketing on social networks or lecturing in schools.

Simply, I do what needs to be done. 

Several organizations in Slovakia and many more in the world focus on the so-called global issues. What makes your work special?

At Integra, we take a holistic approach. That means we try to leave a mark and have an impact on several levels at once. We do not focus on children only or farmers only. On the contrary. We educate children in schools and then, when they are older, we connect them to our other activities, whether it is the companies we work with or other specific projects.

Do you ever feel like you’re “fighting windmills”?

Yes, of course. Sometimes I am full of enthusiasm and faith in our impact. At other times, however, I get frustrated and feel that it is completely useless.

It is important to remember that our work is like a tree that grows quietly and persistently. We don’t see this movement every day, but once we look back, we see a large stately trunk, roots, branches, leaves and flowers. That view is worth it!

Maybe we won’t change the world. But we can help the individual people, families and communities we focus on. And this belief helps me move forward.

Why do you think it is important to address global issues?

Naturally, people are mainly interested in how much a banana or avocado costs in the store, and where they can get it a few cents cheaper. However, they do not realize under what conditions, where and by whom the product was grown.

I really think that if we, as a society, pay more attention to issues such as poverty, climate change and education, and make decisions based on this knowledge, the world could look different — better.

I perceive you as a very experienced and educated person. Why did you attend the NGO Leadership Workshop? Don’t you know enough?

On the contrary.

I believe that everyone who is in a leadership position (but also who is not) should learn constantly and strive to be a better leader.

What specifically attracted you to this workshop?

I remember that I was interested in the topics of the workshop, as they matched my current needs and questions. At Integra, we were going through some changes at the time, so, for example, I couldn’t wait to attend the advertised session on change management and various theories of change.

Besides, I suspected that it would not be just a „motivational chatter“ kind of course, as it is organized in collaboration with the University of Michigan.

I also liked that it was actually a fairly intensive course — five days for three hours each day.

Have your expectations been met? What did you learn? 

The content of this program was excellent. Even a few weeks after its completion, I discussed with friends or colleagues the individual theories, ideas and tips that I learned.

I feel that I got to know myself more thanks to this workshop. Importantly, I also accepted myself, as both a leader and a person.

It provided a sense of validation and a certain kind of confirmation for me of who I am, what type of personality I have, and how to work to improve my weaknesses and, conversely, develop my strengths.

I learned how to identify and work with different personalities on my team and what to look out for.

We also talked a lot about personal branding and the importance of its consistency. I immediately looked at what happens if someone googles my name (laughs).

In addition, I got to know a lot of people from various NGOs that I had only followed on social media. Their sincerity, with which they described their experience in leading teams, implementing changes or coping with challenges also inspired me a lot.

You are talking about inspiration. What did you get inspired by?

I feel that people in the NGO sector are always close to some kind of burnout.

Personally, I feel this way several times a year, when I feel really exhausted. It is because there are still only a few people on the teams, because we have to change different chairs and hats, or because we want to see a change that happens slowly. There are many reasons.

I consider training, such as NGO Leadership Workshop, an island of hope that often helps me get out of the state of fatigue and apathy, to re-energise.

Because I see that I am not alone in this. Because I hear that people from the same field, those whom I may even admire, go through similar things and feelings. This is very valuable to me.

That’s why participating in programs like the NGO Leadership Workshop always motivates me to continue to fight for my mission.

Author: Simona Lučkaničová