The (even more) confused (international) aid worker: the elusive quest for impact…

On my way, over the last couple of years, I have stepped out of my country and into the ‘international development’ sector. First, through a year of classrooms, field and desk research in the UK and now in Ghana over the last eight months. In making the move – lots of familiar questions sprang up –

  • Is it going to be more challenging? Any more different from moving to the north-east in India from Kerala? I doubt it. Even moving to Bihar or central India might be a lot more challenging. Although, it has to be said that Ghana has been a particularly easy move. Can’t say the same about many other parts of the world…
  • Will the experience be immediately transferable to India? Probably not. Ghana is a small country – smaller than many Indian states. There are of course similarities in regional diversity; the nature and scope of challenges that face the two countries; in how public policy is formulated and implemented. 
  • So is this a great career move? initial steps in building an international profile? Well probably, Yes. Since my experience in India (as an Indian) doesn’t count as international development experience (but Ghana will, although Ghana has just about a fraction of the diversity in India) for potential recruiters; though I probably will still be required to prove my skills in managing a ‘desk’ through a stint somewhere in the ‘west’.

Most of the above questions are probably motivated by this – Isn’t there enough development work left in India? Why then am I hopping off to another country; to another continent? Having grown up in India, these were pertinent questions I ought to have answers to. It would make sense if I was moving to another developing country with a for-profit concern. It would also make perfect sense if I was moving to a desk-job in one of the industrialised countries. However, if I wanted to work closely with people and experience change at the grassroots, investing many more years in a certain part of my own country might be the best option.

So then, in the end, this is really about me – the rational development professional; and not so much about the people in either India or Ghana. Much of the thinking behind this is about what I think I would learn from the development community at large. Most of the motivation comes from a desire to experience the difference of working outside my natural comfort zone; the inquisitiveness of engaging with a new country, a different context and new systems.

Will all of this make me more effective? Obviously, the first question is – effective in what sense?

    • Is it my ability to make an impact in a foreign land, compared to that back home?
    • Is it how effective I could be in the long-term in development back in my country as a result of this international development experience?
    • Is it about how effective I could be in the long run, not necessarily in my country, but as a professional in the field of international development? 

Lots of questions as usual. Few answers; but worth the thought, and the time…

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