Working with Local Counterparts

Working with Local Counterparts

In this video, Paulo Costa, an experienced Police advisor, shares his insights on the importance of developing a good rapport with a foreign colleague.  Taking time to develop a personal relationship before getting down to business, may make your task much easier.


I am Paulo Costa, I am the head of the police program within the South Eastern Europe division, within DCAF. I have a substantial experience, more than 11 years working in police reform in South Eastern Europe, in all countries in the region.

Part of an agreement that was done between the OSCE and the host countries, in this case was Serbia and Montenegro-- at the time they were still the federation. My team was tasked to provide support to a local established team, so we worked in partnership with another local team to design, to develop, to implement and then evaluate comprehensive train and development program that was based on adult learning principles.

At that time, the war was over [but] then there was conflict. There were still some suspicions between the local partners and international partners. So we had to be extremely careful while attempting to present the ideas. And one of the things, the good lesson learned, is that the good path we took was to first establish a personal relationship. It is very important to respect always, the local counterparts. They always have something interesting to say and before we attempt to say something we should first listen and this proved to be very successful. Once they felt confident with us, then the second part which is as important as the first, is actually to prove that you are actually competent.

By being competent you need to prove that your knowledge and your skills and your abilities are appropriate for the partners that you want to assist. In this context it was a good example and we could feel that after an initial resistance from the partners in accepting, slowly we moved on into permanent debates about what to do. Because the program was supposed to be developed together, we had to integrate also their ideas and along the way, try to make constructive process and dialogue so that the final product also included their own ideas.

[On working with the director of a police high school which was being transformed into a police training center in Serbia.]

So it took me quite a while and other channels of contact in order to at least get a meeting just to introduce myself. I did not put any other requirement in the agenda, just to introduce myself, which eventually he accepted. I recall that in this first meeting, we just basically talked about ourselves and it lasted only 30 minutes. Two weeks after, we ended up having lunch and again in the same format; I just wanted to know him as a person. I realised that he was very knowledgeable. He was very proud of the school. So I listened to him and at that lunch, I also did not bring any issue about whatever we had to discuss in terms of transformation.

I felt that at the end of that lunch he actually felt not threatened anymore by the fact that I was trying to come and just close the school. So he actually invited me for a meeting, an official meeting then in the school. Only at the third meeting we actually ended up in, he asked me, 'So what do you think about what we should do?' I remember this moment, that is when I said, 'Okay, if you are ready for us to talk, I would like to share some ideas,' and from that moment forward, we could actually start to talk about what was the task in hand, which came to be what is now a very successful story of transformation of an institution. It was only possible after this specific person had the chance to talk about himself, to talk about the school, to talk about his expectations, and then slowly breaking this fear, this resistance for the change and then we moved on into comprehensive transformation plan.

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