by Jesslyn Mitchell, MPP ’20, and Robert Gibbons, MPP ’20
When we spoke with research analysts and development workers in Washington DC, it surprised us to hear them speak about their jobs and daily activities with such passion and resonance. We did not expect to receive such thoughtful and personal insight into the individuals behind this sometimes governmental and corporate work. Sharing their motivations and morals, as well as their personal career trajectories, allowed us to experience a holistic picture of what working with research agencies or non governmental organization might mean after graduation. As students who understand the way large international organizations have historically enacted harmful policies in the developing world, we were not certain of how we wanted to engage in international work, or policy creation and analysis in Washington.
The people we met transformed our understanding of, and addressed many of our hesitations about working in international development. It was refreshing to put a human face to large non-governmental organizations whose work we were familiar with, but whose company culture and administrative structure were less clear to us. Being able to connect with Luskin Alumni who understand our educational experience and the types of impact we hope to have on the world made for meaningful conversations that struck us as honest, straight forward, and well intentioned.
Visiting many organizations with a variety of political as well as regional interests like USAID, the World Bank, Mathematica, and Aga Khan, allowed us to understand the different capacities that these groups fill in development work. In a more practical sense, we were exposed to the different modes of engagement; policy advocacy, implementation, research, field work, and monitoring and evaluation.
OpenGov Hub, for example, is a network of organizations who are “doing development differently” by creating coalitions of NGOs working to increase government accountability and transparency and work on projects all around the world. As an organization that assists NGO’s in their administrative formation and physical meeting space, they offered a glance into a different side of the policy world, one that was less concerned with specific outcomes or goals, but focused on assisting in the more mundane and sometimes complex and confusing administrative rules and regulations that make the formation of successful NGO’s a difficult and daunting task.
In contrast, the Basic Education Coalition, as a part of InterAction, is an organization that has clearly defined education-based goals for the developing world. Their commitment to experiential education and work on childhood resilience impressed us greatly. Their dedication to providing funding and training to marginalized communities is an important mission that their employees not only take to heart, but also find innovative ways to build coalitions, leverage technology, and grow funding to achieve their goals.
We were also happy to learn a great deal of very specific technical advice; not only what type of work you can expect do with a master’s degree in public policy, social welfare, or urban planning, but more generally how to network in the DC-specific context and constructive discussions on how to stylize your CV. Each organization we visited was happy to explain their hiring process, how individuals might advance themselves in their department, and gave us an impression as to what types of people are most successful at the various analyst, research, and implementation roles. The opportunity to speak frankly with UCLA Alumni who genuinely care about our success was an inspiring experience that has helped me hone my policy interests, sharpen my conversations around policy analysis, and substantially grow my professional network.