Discovering the Culture of International Development Organizations

by Candice Richardson, MPP ’20

Over Spring Break, I had the opportunity to go to DC over the spring break and meet with individuals at many different international organizations, including NGO’s, think tanks, non-profits, and government agencies. Most of the organizations we met with were primarily focused on international development; although some were also domestically focused. While the majority of the organizations were focused on international development, the organizations were all very different in terms of their role in the development community. I had the opportunity to meet with people who worked at several organizations such as USAID, the World Bank, the Basic Education Coalition, Interaction, and Creative Associates. I really enjoyed the wide variety of the organizations that we met with as I was able to observe what it is like to work in development from all angles.


Every meeting that I attended was unique in terms of the conversations we had and the insights I learned. It was great to hear from different individuals with a wide range of backgrounds and interests. Of the individuals that were younger, it was great to learn what skills they learned during school that they found extremely valuable for the work they do daily and what has been beneficial for their career in general. Listening to the more senior individuals it was interesting to gain their insights on their views of the industry as a whole and what has been the most rewarding work for throughout their career. All of the individuals we met with gave us great advice in terms of how to stand out when looking for jobs and what skills are crucial for one to have in order to be successful in policy and the international development world.


As a student looking to learn more about international development organizations, this trip was extremely valuable as I learned more about what each specific organization does and it helped me gain a better idea of what type of organization I want to work for upon graduating. One of the main takeaways for me from these meetings is that I am confident I want to work for a research-oriented organization. Having come from a different professional background, it was incredibly useful to understand how each organization worked with one another and how each player functions in the industry. One of my favorite meetings was with Mathematica as it solidified my view on the type of organization I want to work for and the people I want to work with. They had a great working environment and company culture that I believe is a crucial factor when one is looking for a job after graduate school. Every person that we met with was more than willing to share advice on the job search process and share their experiences, both positive and negative. I would recommend this trip to anyone who is looking to have honest and open discussions with different individuals about what it is like to work in international development and get their advice on how best to approach our search as we look for internships and jobs in development.