Ten Tips For Success In International Development

July 16, 2007

So I had the opportunity today to meet with the Private Sector Liason to the World Bank here in Manitoba to discuss funding for my project.  I learned some valuable lessons from this meeting and now realize, dealing with a huge bureaucracy such as the World Bank will be a very, very slow process.  I did know that before, however I didn’t realize how unreceptive they were to ideas from those without a long list of connections.  So here is a list of tips for those looking to move into the area of international development:

1.  If you believe that you have a purpose in life, make sure international development is your purpose before diving into it.  Apparently, an average amount a time it takes to make enough connections and gain enough small experiences to even be considered for a tender for a development agency (never mind try to get funding for your own ideas) is about 5 years.

2.  Network, network, network.  I believe this word was used more times than “the” in the course of our meeting.

3.  You have to do things the way the large developmental bodies such as World Bank and International Monetary Fund want you to do them for years before you get to do what you want to do.  This reminds me of Habit 5 from the classic, “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People”: seek first to understand, then to be understood.

4.  Look for opportunities to gain small experiences.  For instance, church mission trips or if a student, base your studies on your particular area of interest.  For example, I’m going to look to partner with the educational institution I’m attending in order to gain a little clout as I develop a business plan for a tender from a developmental institution.  It may be passed over, yet it is experience and a way to connect with people in the field.

5.  Learn to speak a second language.  Preferably if English is your first language, learn to speak French or Spanish.  Apparently, fluent Spanish pretty much guarantees you employment with developmental agencies working on projects in Latin America.

6.  Expect an uphill battle, basically straight up, in dealing with powerful international institutions and corrupt governments.

7.  Be adaptable to any situation or work environment.  If a student, it’s not so much the type of degree you earn, but your ability to creatively apply it in any situation.

8.  If you want to condense tips 2,4, and 7 into a single generalized tip, this would be it: no matter how well-educated, well-travelled, creative and brilliant you are, if you want to initiate a development project in, for example, Kenya, you need CONNECTIONS in Kenya.

9.  Learn everything you can about not only international development from an economic standpoint, but a cultural and political standpoint as well.  It is the ultimate example, I’m coming to realize, of design or integrative thinking in action.

10.  Never give up.  Devoting your life to such a cause will require persistence and dedication beyond what you could even imagine having within your capabilities.

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One Response to “Ten Tips For Success In International Development”

  1. Wasim Says:

    I can’t tell whether I feel enouraged or discouraged but your info is definately real & to the point. thanks for the info !


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