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Behind the Book: Choosing a Career in International Development

April 7, 2014 | By | 5 Replies More
In this post Donovan Russell, strong of decades of development experience around the world, talks about the reasons for writing his recent book Choosing a Career in International Development.

Why I Decided to Write This Book

Child WritingAfter several years of teaching and managing programs and institutions in Canada and the US, I worked for many years in various capacities on development initiatives across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It became obvious to me over that part of my career that most people, in the so called developed world, know very little about international development and humanitarian assistance. This is unfortunate because it means that most young people do not aspire to the important and fascinating careers available in these critical fields. More importantly, it means that those who do aspire to such careers, are not likely to have a very good understanding of the work that is done, how organizations and nations undertake that work, or how professionals in the field approach the challenges of development work.

It seems to me that this applies to a broad array of people who have a need to understand much more than they do, e.g. students who are considering fields of study, others who are already studying international development, those who are at the point of exploring careers, people who have started working in one of the fields of international development, advisors and teachers of students, and even those who design and manage development projects and programs. It also applies of course, to citizens who have an interest in global development and humanitarian assistance but who have no intent to work in it. Further, it means that those who do aspire to a career in humanitarian assistance and international development are not likely to know how to break into the field.

 

Broad Conclusions

  1. It is difficult for people to break into the field of International Development because:
    1. Information on development tends to be unorganized, underdeveloped and scattered.
    2. International development is often not considered a distinct category by libraries and institutions.
    3. Unlike traditional professions, international development covers many fields.
    4. There is a general lack of understanding on humanitarian assistance and international development, by the general populace of developed countries.
  2. Most people are not very well informed about needs, organization and professions in international development – that is, they don’t know very much about : 
    1. Its goals, the fields of work or what development projects and practitioners do
    2. How it is organized, how it is funded and why, and how it is managed
    3. The organizations that are involved and how
    4. Skills, knowledge and sensitivities important to this kind of career
    5. Kinds of development programs and projects and why they are used
    6. The range of positions in development endeavors
    7. The relationship of development specialists or advisors to local institutions, counterparts, host governments, employment organizations and funding organizations
    8. How one may best prepare for development assignments
    9. What it is like to live and work in another culture
    10. How development initiatives get started and projects are formulated
    11. How local communities, institutions, cultures, and politics impact on development
    12. The real challenges of life for many people in developing countries

Therefore it is understandable that young people are less likely to aspire to careers in humanitarian assistance or international development. And it is understandable that students and others are confused about preparing for such careers and about how to seek out employment opportunities in them.

And so I thought I would call on my experiences in the field, to write a practical down to earth book that would help people better understand development and humanitarian assistance, explore careers and more systematically pursue opportunities in one of the career fields.

 

 

Reflecting on What Should be Addressed and How

Considering that the audience in most need of such information, consists of students and others who are facing career choices, and professionals who teach or advise students, I would want to provide down to earth information and advice. I would want to draw an intriguing look at the field from top to bottom. It would be necessary in my view, to explain understandings and approaches related to needs, issues, models, policies, and practices. And I would want to speak to issues of culture, sensitivity, host country characteristics and institutions.

Further, it would be important to explore job search strategies and discuss what development personnel do in various positions and fields. As a practical matter, I would want to list funding organizations and implementing agencies. Thinking about my own experiences upon beginning development work, I feel it important that people preparing to enter the field be exposed to information and discussions about development management, types of approach, culture to culture relations, useful skills, and opportunities.

In addition, I would want to use a presentation style that makes use of factual information, true stories, cross cultural dialogues, and task exercises. I would discuss real life conditions and challenges and share the views of host peoples. Finally, I would wish to provide information on selected specialties in development work through chapters on various sectors.

 

 

The Book Has Now Been Written

Let Me Share a Summary.

Foreword – summary of topics, issues, emphasis; description of the book.

Introduction – human vs institutional development; identification with humanity.

Personal Statement – state of the world; reasons for people’s situations.

 

Chapters

  1. Discussion of Development – kinds of, concepts and considerations e.g. integration, equality, participation, rights, sustainability; capacity building
  2. Complex and Worthy Profession-approaches, understandings; host relations
  3. Motives for Participation – organizational values and approach; projects vs programs.
  4. Choosing a Career- research, reflection; step by step exercises
  5. Road to Development – assessment, needs, priorities; etc.
  6. Education – a reform project, 18 interventions, scopes, host insights and local situations; cultural influences on practice
  7. Volunteer Organizations – stories and dialogues on cultures, work, relationships and rewards
  8. Health – types of approach, samples of work; national health
  9. The Justice/Development Relationship – examples of work; a nation’s situation
  10. Technology – management tool for development, relation to national aspirations, support of technical initiatives e.g. on climate, health, agriculture, education, natural resources – also technology as human management technique
  11. Development Management- participants in, steps to projects/programs, tools of, approaches, relationships, scopes, RFP’s, agreements; implementation
  12. Dev Work of Mission Organizations- types of assistance, notable work e.g. Dr. Schweitzer, Mother Teressa and others – development and disaster contributions by all religions
  13. Natural Resources and Human Security – initiatives e.g. climate, water, soils – relationship to mental and physical health, nutrition, hygiene, sanitation and sustainable life. Conflicts over, stewardship of, common security
  14. Discussion and Dialogues on Beliefs, Values, Convictions and Understandings, Related to Practice – Is this career for me?

 

f you might want to view endorsements, the table of contents, foreword, introduction, personal statement, and sample chapters, please go to Amazon page Choosing a Career in International Development.

 

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Category: Blog, Working in International Developmnet