A few months ago, I received an email from a professor saying that she, a colleague and a few students wanted to interview me and do some volunteer work at TNKR. Of course, I immediately killed the idea of volunteer work, and of course expanded the interview beyond myself. What started as a 90 minute meeting became three extended Q&A discussions.
Meeting 1, at the start of their trip: A 3 1/2 hour discussion with me. The only reason we stopped was because some refugees had arrived, ready for the initial interviews with us.
Meeting 2, a week into their trip: Almost 2 hours with Senior Fellow Tony Docan-Morgan, plus other time with me and a refugee studying in TNKR.
Meeting 3, the final full day of their trip: Almost 2 hours with Academic Coordinator Janice Kim, about an hour total with two different refugees studying in TNKR, 30 minutes with TNKR co-founder Eunkoo Lee, more than 90 minutes with Youngmin Kwon, project manager of the Bring My Father Home project.
I did my best not to answer every question. It was interesting to talk with them because they know TNKR! They read articles about us, watched videos, and had a good understanding of what we are doing, but they couldn’t always get the reasoning.
Very often, when I have interviews with researchers or reporters, they will know only basic information about TNKR. The conversation starts and can get to a deeper level, with sharper questions. The good thing is that I know everything about TNKR’s history and evolution so I can answer every question. When Eunkoo and I were developing, I insisted that we should not benchmark other programs, we were going to make our own way. One reason I didn’t want to benchmark from the beginning is that other organizations sometimes have trouble explaining why they do what they do. Sometimes they do things a certain way because they got funding. Or someone with money had a dream. In some cases, they might not want to explain their secret sauce to you, a potential competitor. So as I argued more than five years ago, let’s just make our own way so we can explain everything we do, and why. Talking with our new friends from Roanoke, we were able to explain everything we do, and why.