Developing into Development
March 5, 2008 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Inspired somewhat by threads here and here, I'm winding down a career in corporate training and development and want to wind up my work life in international development, without going back to school (I already have a masters). How can I start a network in this area?

I have some transferable skills in a number of areas, my thought is by getting my name out there through attending conferences, volunteering, and maybe internships, I can score an entry level position somewhere. Salary is not a major consideration but eventually I need to have one. I'm torn between being involved in direct service and working on a more global level to address some of the issues raised about NGO's in the linked threads.

What is the most effective way to begin this adventure? Are there any conferences that anyone can recommend attending? I have a tie to a small NGO in India that will let me put their name on a nametag for credibility purposes. Would this be an advantage?
posted by Xurando to Work & Money (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In Vermont, you should try dropping into the American Friends Service Committee.
posted by parmanparman at 8:13 AM on March 5, 2008

If you are in Vermont, there is at least one international development consulting firm based in the area...they had a table at a DC-based grad school career fair I attended last fall, which I specifically remember since their vestigial DC office wasn't hiring. Apologies for not remembering the firm's name, but there should be some way of looking it up--they'd probably have good contacts.
posted by kittyprecious at 9:00 AM on March 5, 2008

The firm is ARD.
Also look at Project Harmony, Population Media, and SIT in Brattleboro.
Sorry for lack of links. On phone.
posted by k8t at 10:52 AM on March 5, 2008

I'm torn between being involved in direct service and working on a more global level to address some of the issues raised about NGO's in the linked threads.

Tell me about it.

I have 5 years experience in retail merchandising / management (I was a buyer for Macy's before leaving retail for the consulting industry). The majority of my 3 years since in consulting has been supply chain management-focused work, which conveniently translates nicely into a lot of the work that many relief/development orgs do in 3rd world environs. I was very blessed indeed to land a role with the very small non-profit consulting practice my company does with such orgs, so while I'm on half-salary as part of this project, I have the safety net of my job waiting for me when I finish this.

But 6 months in the field has plunged me into hopeless love with this kind of work and I know beyond doubt that the corporate world will never placate me again. The only problem is striking the balance between direct service and working on a more global level.

I'm sitting in a boardroom in Lusaka, Zambia, at the moment and its not at all glamorous, we're far from the field ops, but we are creating management strategies that will provide synergies across the organization, consolidating purchasing power from diverse bases, and institute best practices for supply chain management that aren't currently being adhered to.

I don't get to be the guy who's scooping out food at the distribution centers in the far-flung communities affected by famine or flood, but the kind of work I'm doing will ensure that more beneficiaries can be reached by more field workers because of the savings realized across the organization due to change we're implementing behind the scenes.

For me, personally, its become a matter of balancing my personal desires to get my hands dirty, as it were, with my knowledge and ability to help as much as I possibly can. I've had to accept the fact that I might be most effective in an air-conned office behind a computer, but hopefully with periodic field visits to see the fruits of my work. It was a mature decision to come to - there are people out there who can manage the warehouses in the field, but I'd have a little too much time on my hands in a position like that.

That said, my dream is to be working with / writing about child soldier rescue / rehab work, and I'm hoping to get to northern Uganda for a week near the end of this month (I'm also hoping to throw up a brief link or two on MeTa about what I'll be doing, stay tuned). Suffice to say I'm still struggling with striking that balance.

As far as specific direction on beginning your endeavor, I have to say that, unfortunately, as far as I've seen, the intl dev field is extremely diverse and not very well synchronized whatsoever. I know of no specific industry conferences or anything like that, but I'll ask around here at the org I'm working with and get back to you if I come up with anything. I think in the meantime your best bet is to start looking at the open roles that orgs that you're a fan of have posted on their websites.

For your first position, I'd definitely aim for in-field work, even if you decide that it isn't where you belong long-term. Its been strange / cool how often you run into other people in the field doing the same kind of work, and its very easy to make great connections once you're actually out there. Its kind of a neat camaraderie type thing - while these orgs might not be working together as well as they can, the people in them are generally pretty cognizant of the fact that we're all working towards the same ends.

You have at least one contact in your network for this venture - my email is in my profile.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:18 PM on March 5, 2008

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