Maria-Luisa (Lucha) Sotomayor , U-Report Coordination Associate, Chile.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I’m Chilean. I studied literature & language, and then mastered in Latin American literature. When I was in University I was very active in participation and community engagement: Chile is a country with big inequity issues and there was always some project I ended up involved in. Little did I know that what I thought was a hobby on a separate track from my studies, would end up being my career. When I graduated I coordinated a program for encouraging young graduates to work in poor rural municipalities in Chile. Then I worked in communications and marketing in the private sector, and after reengaging with old friends from college I worked for five years in a Chilean NGO called “Ciudadano Inteligente”, which looks to empower citizens in Chile and Latin America for monitoring authorities and having better access to information. While I was there I got to relate to a large audience of citizen driven technology organizations, manage a network of close to 30 Chilean NGOs and really work around campaigning and engagement. Late 2014 I joined UNICEF to pilot U-Report Chile and I also became a board member of “Todo Mejora”, a Chilean NGO which prevents adolescent suicide from homophobic bullying.
What do you do?
A little bit of everything, but it can all be summarized into “helping to achieve all 3 U-Report goals: scale, engage and achieve change”. In other words, I support countries with dedicated U-Report programs, I help new countries to incorporate U-Report into their country programs, I poll and manage @UReportGlobal, I help coordinate the U-Report community, I have a LOT of Skype calls, I write funding proposals, I document, I answer questions about U-Report to anyone who has them, I support strategies for engaging U-Report, I work with our partners, and I eat and breath U-Report.
What’s your working day like?
Usually my day begins with 7am chats with James (U-Report Global Strategist & Coordinator) who is wrapping up his day on the other end of the world… between 8 and 11am I usually have calls with country offices. After that, the side of the world I’m at starts to wake up and answer to my e-mails. Calls with program areas, our awesome innovation team, other projects and movement related issues. Around noon I focus on e-mails. Then I have lunch with my two wonderful kids who come home from school. From 2pm onwards I usually read and write proposals, documents, polls, strategies, projects, new ideas, etc. Always one or two Skype calls in between, specially improvised ones with the NY team.
How would you describe your job to a 5-year-old?
I make people listen to kids like yourself so they get what they want, and get to help their friends too.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
A witch (a good one). And I really wanted to fly on my broom.
How/when did you join UNICEF?
Piloting U-Report Chile, late 2014. I had heard about U-Report when I worked at my previous job, and I found it perfect.
What are the most satisfying parts of your job?
When I see that U-Report has achieved change at a local level, and when I see country offices get really creative with no budget. I love it when I see that our project is driven by passion.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
Reaching and engaging young people everywhere, while trying to help improve their lives. On a personal level the fact that my entire team is spread out around the world and I rarely have a meeting with actual humans! My work life is in my laptop.
What’s your best UNICEF experience/memory?
Minutes before launching U-Report Chile in social networks I was having coffee with my close friend Julio (U-Report Brazil Program Manager) and I was so so nervous and anxious. Nothing compares to the thrill of launching something from scratch, and knowing that you’ll be reaching unknown people and helping make the world slightly better at the same time.
What’s one of the biggest risks you’ve ever taken in your life?
Being a mom. I had no idea what was coming. It’s risky and amazingly wonderful.
What are your passions?
My 2 kids with whom I’m madly in love with, activism and speaking out (on anything you’re passionate about), going to the theater, my friends. I’m also generally passionate about creativity and writing. I smile when someone found the perfect words to say something.
What advice would you give others who are seeking a similar job as yours?
Build your own path from your own experiences. You can always add value to things. Don’t be afraid of not being satisfied.
Who do you look towards for inspiration?
My two grandmas. One had an amazing warm heart, was always there for me and for every one of her grandkids, and always volunteered to help the most vulnerable. The other was a brave young woman in a difficult period for our gender. She went to university, worked as a social worker, drove a car, and lived alone when it was un-thought of for women.
My colleagues don’t know that…
I would love to spend more time with them ;)