Jeff Marshall is a recent graduate of the Public Diplomacy Program, where he earned a Master of Arts in International Relations and a Master of Science in Public Relations. He also received a prestigious Boren Fellowship, which he used to study Urdu in Lucknow, India.
This spring, I had the opportunity to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) at its Washington Public Affairs and Communications Center. The OECD is an international economic and social policy forum comprising thirty-five of the world’s leading market democracies, and the Washington Center serves as a support and outreach center for the organization’s headquarters, which are located in Paris.
Joining an international organization at the beginning of a new presidency was a fascinating experience. While communicators generally focus their efforts on external engagement, listening, monitoring, and evaluating are equally important aspects of a communicator’s role. As such, much of my initial work at the Washington Center was focused on keeping up with developments in the White House, noting potential sensitivities, and reporting to the Secretary-General’s office in Paris. Given the wide range of policy areas (from chemical testing guidelines to taxation) the OECD produces data and research on, these tasks served as crash courses on a variety of issues and debates.
In addition to monitoring and reporting, I was also tasked with identifying potential areas of cooperation between the public affairs and sales and marketing staff at the center. This entailed examining content released leading up to a major OECD publication, developing processes for sharing content, identifying shared audiences, and, ultimately, producing a series of recommendations for the center. The project provided me with unique insights into how international organizations market their research, conduct outreach, and generate interest in policy issues. The project also afforded me the opportunity to reflect and share my observations and suggestions for improvement.
The exciting conclusion to my internship was a visit from the OECD’s Secretary-General, Ángel Gurría, for the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings. In preparation, the entire office went into overdrive. We were in a constant process of confirming meetings, arranging (and re-arranging) schedules, and tirelessly reviewing the run of show, or as we referred to it, the “tick tock” to ensure that the Secretary-General’s visit would run smoothly. The entire process was an excellent exercise in team-building, and while I wouldn’t want to be planning such visits every day, it was a phenomenal learning experience.
My time at the OECD Washington Center was undoubtedly time well-spent. Given that it is a small office, I was truly able to immerse myself in most of the Center’s activities, which provided for a highly stimulating and enriching professional experience.
I spent my semester off-campus participating in the Maxwell-in-Washington program based in Washington, DC. During this time, I regularly attended two classes and worked full-time at a private government contractor, Tetra Tech International Development Services. Tetra Tech is a large firm that offers many services domestically, but due to my interest in foreign affairs, I was placed in their International Development Services sector. The specific Tetra Tech International Development Services office in which I worked was located in Arlington, VA so I had the opportunity to experience both work and life in DC and in Arlington, which I’ve come to learn are very different.
The two classes in which I was enrolled were a public diplomacy seminar and a cohort-specific class focusing on our research consultancies. The seminar took place every Wednesday night after work, and the research consultancy meetings took place every other Tuesday night. It was interesting to have students from other schools in the class, as well as students who had no background in public diplomacy whatsoever; it required guest speakers to truly back their presentations up with specialized knowledge. Such a busy schedule was a great way to break out of the graduate school routine and prepare myself for the business to come after finishing this internship and beginning a new job.
Overall, this program off-campus has been a positive experience. I was able to use my visual and written communications skills to produce collateral and publications for clients and individuals interested in Tetra Tech, Tetra Tech International Development Services, or the sector as a whole. My graphic design and public relations writing skills have come in very helpful on a daily basis—this position truly requires a particular type of education. I am glad to have been able to partake in this experience.
This fall I have been fortunate enough to spend the semester interning with Social Impact, Inc., a development and management consulting firm headquartered in Arlington, VA. In addition, like most other students, I have also been taking night classes at Maxwell’s home base in DC, the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Social Impact has three major pillars or departments: impact evaluation, performance evaluation, and strategy, performance, and capacity building. I work for the latter division, SPCB. My duties as intern cover a wide range of assignments, from overhauling and revamping the SPCB team’s knowledge management platform, SharePoint, to attending meetings with clients such as USAID for projects like developing strategic and change management plans.
As someone who is relatively new to the consulting world, my internship has been an eye-opening experience. Though I was familiar with USAID in an academic context, working with the agency as a consulting client has given me an entirely different perspective on the organization. I’ve had the chance to learn about USAID’s project cycle, the types of work they fund, and how their projects are monitored and evaluated (M&E is actually a specialty of Social Impact’s).
One of my ongoing projects has involved coding qualitative data (focus group discussions and key informant interviews) for a performance evaluation of WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) initiatives implemented by USAID and its partners in Madagascar. Through this coding assignment and other projects I’ve been able to help out with, I get to see up close and in person how the different types of research designs we often discussed in my Introduction to International Relations Research and Quantitative Analysis classes are actually implemented on the ground, which is fascinating. It’s exciting to realize that the research designs you studied in class are used so often in the implementation of development projects.
Though most of my fellow Maxwellians are interning at think tanks and research and policy organizations, interning at a for-profit consulting firm has been an interesting experience. Some aspects of the consulting sector, like business development and proposal writing, are fairly similar to the work I did as a fundraiser for an environmental non-profit before I came back to graduate school. Other aspects, though, like the contract approvals process and sourcing ad-hoc consultants for new projects, are completely different. Ultimately, I’m thankful to have the opportunity with this internship to learn more about the industry I hope to enter upon graduation.
Vahid Khatami is a recent graduate of the joint MPA/MAIR program. He is going on to work in an international financial institution in New York City.
Lack of access to financial services is still an economic barrier for many households and small businesses around the world. Based on the global Findex database in 2014, only 34% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to a financial account and less than 16% use formal savings and borrowings. Similar data for other developing regions has emerged leading to the use of microfinance tools to expand financial inclusion globally. But, promoting the best financial tools for low-income households is very complicated, since one must consider the variety of outflow and inflow categories in their financial diaries. It raises the demand for in-depth research on these micro economies.
Microfinance opportunities (MFO) is a research organization, based in Washington, D.C., committed to understanding the financial realities of low-income households. They work with other organizations in the microfinance industry to conduct research on behavioral economics of beneficiaries.
During my internship in MFO, I worked on three major projects. First, I was doing statistical analysis on household survey responses in four African countries including Zambia, Senegal, Uganda, and Burkina Faso. I did statistical analysis and data visualization on poverty likelihood scores by controlling demographic characteristics and types of packages provided for beneficiaries. For my second project, I designed an Android application for on-line uploading of financial diaries. The idea was raised after talking with the executive manager where I let him know about my skills in computer programming. The final product, which is going to prepare for alpha testing, makes beneficiaries enable to insert their daily financial diaries without interventions of any third party or interviewer. That data is stored in a cloud-based storage for further auto-analysis. For my third internship project, I helped MFO’s team to provide a comprehensive report on all transactions data in previous and current projects, including more than one million transaction records. Reformatting all data to a uniform structure and applying statistical measurements such as clustering methods was the focal point in that project.
Over all those assignments, I was in almost daily communication with the executive manager to present my progress in work and get guidance on the next steps. I had realized that there were no straightforward answers for problems, which motivated me to do research and ask about possible solutions regularly. I also got a valuable insight into the microfinance industry and its technical aspects, which will help me to take the next steps in my career track with more confidence.
Oleksiy Anokhin is a student in Maxwell’s Executive MPA and MAIR programs. These programs are aimed at mid-career professionals with significant management experience.
I spent summer 2016 in Atlanta, GA, as an intern at The Carter Center (TCC). I chose this organization as my internship opportunity intentionally for several reasons. First of all, my previous work experience in Ukraine was primarily related to public service, elections, and law. I regularly communicated with representatives of US NGOs, which observed several electoral campaigns in Ukraine. As a result, I became interested in their activities and wanted to learn more about their internal management process.
The Carter Center, which is still actively managed by the former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, has an excellent reputation in international development. The Center observed more than 100 elections during last 25 years across the world, is actively engaged in conflict resolution and human rights advocacy projects, and manages various health programs. For instance, TCC fights several diseases in developing countries. Due to efforts of TCC and their partners, one such disease, the Guinea worm disease, which infected approximately 3.5 million people in 1986 in 21 countries in Africa and Asia, has almost been eradicated. In 2015, only 22 cases were observed. One more example of their impactful activity is TCC’s Syria Conflict Mapping Project, which analyzes information about a complicated military conflict in this country.
I was an intern in the Democracy Program, which is primarily focused on elections and improving TCC legal knowledge about European electoral standards. This work gave me a chance to learn more about the real-life work of an exceptional US NGO, build connections with excellent experts, and gave me several ideas about crucial skills necessary for working in international development such as data analysis and budgeting. As a result, I picked my fall 2016 courses based on my experience in TCC and have been very pleased so far.
The second reason for me was a chance to be involved in amazing humanitarian work, which is conducted by Jimmy Carter. He still remains extremely proactive, participating in various TCC events and making decisions in the Center. Jimmy Carter became a moral leader for millions of people across the world, and especially effective in the humanitarian field. TCC makes for a great job, organizing different social events for their interns with the former President and the First Lady and inspiring the younger generation to follow their life path.
Finally, TCC and Atlanta became an interesting cultural experience for me as a foreigner. After one year in Upstate New York, I was interested to see the South and compare it with the North.
In general, internships in TCC are unpaid, but partial funding is possible (and I got it). However, right now I understand the benefits of internships in the US professional culture more. In my case, having almost 10 years of legal and government experience, I was more interested in TCC activity as a professional, not as an intern. I tried to note their effective and ineffective managerial processes, and understand how to cooperate with such organizations and their experts in future as a Ukrainian public servant.
I strongly encourage those Maxwell students who are interested in conflict resolution, human rights, elections, and health management to consider TCC as a possible internship and future job opportunity. I was impressed that people in this organization are so focused on values promoted by TCC and work hard to make the world a better place. Jimmy Carter still remains their fierce chief and a moral leader for many others. TCC is an excellent place for those who are driven by Maxwell’s Athenian Oath ‘to transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us’.
Sam Connors is a MAIR student on track to graduate this semester. His interests are in Africa, migration, aid, and development, which is why he took part in the Survey of Current Issues In African Migration program during the summer of 2016.
Considering this was my first time traveling out of the United States, my summer spent in Ghana was unlike anything I have previously experienced. Interning with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was not only an opportunity for me to test my professional ability in a new environment, but a chance to explore the dynamics of migration – the focus of my studies.
The IOM program in Ghana was an ideal fit for me due to my interest in migration but also considering my desire to gain field work experience with an IO. I was able to gain a comprehensive understanding of working as an expat in both the field and capital city of another country, splitting my time with a month in the field and a month in the IOM office in Accra. Another Maxwell student, Emily Hoerner, has captured our experience in Accra well in a previous PAIA blog entry, and I suggest learning of that portion from her entry.
My time spent in the field was working with IOM’s counter trafficking department in the Ho West district, 3 hours north of Accra. This time was without a doubt the most interesting and impacting facet of the program for me. Not only was I able to participate with the IOM on one of their projects, I was also given a stipend along with my fellow Syracuse students to design a small aid project of our own in the region.
The IOM counter trafficking project was targeted at preventing the selling and trafficking of children in the Volta region of Ghana. This effort took the five of us to five different rural communities in the surrounding area – though we resided in one community (Dodome Tsikor) for the month. Along with local government officials, we would introduce a program designed to educate these communities concerning the rights of a child and perils of trafficking. This introduction was ceremoniously celebrated with a painting by the whole community – the tree of life – as a symbol of the community’s commitment to protect their children.
It is not possible to fit the sheer volume of information and lessons I gathered during my time in Ghana in one blog post. It is not possible for me to quantify the personal and professional growth I experienced working for an IO in a foreign country. The most important professional lesson I gathered is the simple yet oft underappreciated lesson of – communicate, communicate, communicate. The most lasting personal lesson I found reinforced in Ghana is of similar characteristics – live with love and understanding will follow.
Vahid Khatami is a joint MPA/MAIR student who spent his Summer Semester taking part in the Maxwell-in-Washington program where he interned at IRD during the day while taking Maxwell courses at night. Vahid is currently still in Washington, DC interning at IRD and at Microfinance Opportunities.
Based on the Global Humanitarian Assistance report, at least 42% of people with extreme poverty – around 677 million people – are estimated to live in countries that are politically fragile. Many international organizations have been established to address such conflict and post-conflict environments, including International Relief and Development (IRD). With their headquarters in Arlington, Virginia and 18 years of experience, IRD currently operates in more than 15 counties across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East. The international programs address relief, stabilization, and development needs in the areas of health, agriculture, infrastructure, emergency response, and governance.
As an intern in the applied learning unit of IRD, I reviewed mostly current performance reports of the projects to pull out the critical lessons learned and build a database to improve the quality of data-driven policies in the organization. To improve the accuracy of the contents, I did several interviews with program managers to reflect their viewpoints on the most important lessons learned from the programs. Such interviews helped me to improve my work relations with other staff.
I have also performed more technical jobs such as building a database of all the consultants’ historical records who have worked with IRD. For this purpose, I wrote several text-mining codes to extract the relevant information from a mass of documents which resulted in more than a thousand records. Writing the codes to automatically extract data, made a huge difference in my work rather than doing the same job manually. In the end, I suggested developing a managerial dashboard for databases including the lessons learned and consultants and indicators. This was all implemented by the M&E interns’ team and accepted by the office director.
As my career track is focused on international economics and development, I found my internship a good step to leverage my knowledge in the field. I better understand some of the development challenges in the real world and the culture of a non-profit organizations working in international development. I expanded my communication skills through the tasks and applied my technical skills in a professional environment. I hope to find my next professional position in the same career track based on this experience to improve my portfolio.
Camila Urbina is a joint MPA/MAIR student who secured her internship at WFP by writing directly to country offices and looking outside well known locations. For her Fall 2016 Semester, she plans to study at Sciences Po in Paris through one of SU’s World Partner Programs.
Amongst the amazing opportunities the Maxwell School has provided me during my joint degree, this summer was certainly the most life-changing. I could have never imagined the incredible professional and personal experiences and growth that awaited me while working for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste is one of the newest countries in the world, the proud and resilient Timorese gained their independence from Indonesia after a terrifying war only 16 years ago. With one million inhabitants and a young government, Timor is navigating post-conflict, much like my native Colombia, with the help of the UN.
The country has the world’s worst stunting in the world and some of the worst malnutrition numbers in Asia; this is why the World Food Programme is supporting the Timorese Ministry of Heath to conduct a mother and child nutrition programme. The programme provides nutrition screenings, education and supplementary foods for pregnant and lactating mothers and malnourished children under two years old in 6 of the most critically malnourish municipalities in the island nation. WFP is also providing technical assistance and capacity building to the Timorese so that they may eventually take full control of the program.
My three months were divided into working in the main office in the capital Dili, supporting the monitoring and evaluation department, and working in the field, providing food and nutrition education for the country’s most remote and malnourished communities in the mountains of enclave province of Oecusse.
The WFP country office in Timor is aiming at creating a social accountability mechanism to include in their nutrition program. During my time in Dili, I was tasked with creating a benchmark of the mechanisms and strategies used by those other UN agencies and NGOs in Timor to get feedback from communities and help put together a proposal to create the country office’s own social accountability system. Furthermore I was in charge of creating a gender action plan for the office, based on the guidelines provided by WFP headquarters in Rome, in order to help materialize WFP’s commitment to women empowerment and gender balance in all aspect of their work. I also supported various communication needs, writing stories, interviews and particularly covering the work in the field during international Breastfeeding week.
It was a profoundly enriching experience to be a part of the country’s learning process in matters of nutrition and social resilience and to experience not only the challenge of working with government in a different culture but more importantly the joy of serving in the remote and beautiful villages. This summer was an incredible experience, serving the resilient and loving Timorese and living amongst the wild and the unbridled beauty of their island-home has provided me with new perspectives on humanitarian work and given me the opportunity to practice all the theory provided by the Maxwell School to the benefit of the most vulnerable.
Suhyeon Lee (MAIR candidate) interviewed Director of the Transnational NGO Initiative in the Moynihan Institute, Tosca Bruno-van Vijfeijken. Tosca continually brings a wealth of international resources to the PAIA Department and has assisted innumerable students.
Nice to meet you, Ms. Tosca Bruno-van Vijfeijken. Could you introduce yourself?
I am the director of the Transnational NGO (TNGO) Initiative. I engage both in academic work and do a lot of works with NGO practitioners. I have worked on international development and civil society issues for over 25 years. Some people call people like me a ‘pracademic’ and I call myself sometimes jokingly an ‘accidental pracademic’, which means a practitioner who accidently ended up in academia. I didn’t plan to end up in academia, but it happened by chance, and I started enjoying playing a bridge building role between the theory and research around transnational NGOs and the practice of the NGO practitioners who lead and manage these organizations.
Could you explain what you teach at Maxwell School?
I teach Global Governance and Civil Society and in addition to that, I advise a couple of MPA Workshop projects each year. Sometimes, I am an advisor for independent study projects. We also offer opportunities for students to volunteer in our research and practitioner work through the TNGO Initiative.
Can you tell me more about the Global Governance and Civil Society course?
Global Governance and Civil Society is a survey course on the role of civil society in how the world is governed. It is neither a theoretical course nor a management course; it is somewhere in between. We focus on what civil society organizations do and what civil society as a concept stands for. And then we unpack a couple of different sectors: human rights, environment, and conflict resolution, and look at the functions NGOs play. We also look at a number of challenges facing organizations (governance, effectiveness, leadership, coordination, accountability, evaluation and assessment, capacity building issues, etc.).
How did you start your career?
These things, as I sometimes say to students here, are often a mixture of planning, pure coincidence, luck, and unplanned events. I started out working for a year in a small management consulting company in the Netherlands. It was internationally-oriented and focused on small business promotion in developing countries. I was not happy with it, so I moved to a think-tank called the European Center for Development Policies Management (ECDPM). I worked there for four years as a program officer. We focused on governance issues in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. And then I wanted to get more field experience which is typically what most young international development practitioners need. I found an opportunity as a UN Volunteer for the UN peacekeeping operations under United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). I was in charge of the preparation for and holding of free and fair elections in one remote district. I also worked for the headquarters of the World Bank for two and a half years, and for four years I was at the World Bank in Hanoi, Vietnam. Those were my sixteen years of international development experience.
As you said, field experience is what most international development young practitioners really need. I also want to have field experience before graduating from Maxwell. Did you have memorable experiences while working in the field in Cambodia?
I think the most memorable experience was that during the year of preparing for the elections, both the Khmer Rouge and bandits engaged in attacks on some foreigners who were in Cambodia as part of the peace keeping operation. Within our large contingent of district electoral supervisors, one person was murdered and four were kidnapped in the last couple of months before elections when political tensions were high. A significant number of Cambodians also died during this tense period. During the elections, when I changed my role from preparation for elections in my district to independent monitoring of polling stations, I found myself for the first time needing a bodyguard because of these political tensions and violence. This was a very new experience for me and it will stay with me since I came from a country (The Netherlands) where governance is not a matter of the power of the gun.
What is the role of NGOs in the development sector in the 21st century?
There will likely always remain a role for TNGOs in humanitarian relief, although government, the private sector and national NGOs are stepping up their roles. And there will continue to be a contingent of small TNGOs that have a classical charity model. Generally speaking, most mid to large size TNGOs still play some roles in direct delivery of services, though this is generally declining, and nowadays often complemented by advocacy and capacity building. Some are evolving their role to that of being a broker and convener between government, the private sector and national NGOs; sometimes, their role evolves to that of knowledge provider. Western TNGOs increasingly work on strengthening their domestic legitimacy as well as playing a stronger role in domestic policy advocacy as well as service delivery work in the countries where they were founded. Because many NGOs by now have been set up by citizens in the countries where formerly primarily western NGOs used to work, these NGOs in the ‘Global South are now able to play the roles that Western or ‘Northern NGOs’ used to, with considerably lower cost models. There is thus more and more pressure on the northern NGOs to get out of the business of delivering services except for humanitarian relief which as I said will always be needed. Therefore, most analysts are foreseeing a big role change in the 21st century.
I’ve seen that you are on the board of InterAction. What is this organization?
InterAction is a membership organization of US international development and relief NGOs and thus plays the role of national platform here in the US. We, as the TNGO initiative, are an associate member, and I am on the board of InterAction as an independent ‘person of stature’. The board position gives me a bird’s eye view of the sector, which is interesting from a research as well as a networking perspective.
What advice you want to give Maxwell students?
I think it is increasingly difficult to find a job in the international NGO sector. In terms of ‘Northern’ NGOs, it’s increasingly hard for American and other western students to find a job because there are more people with a high level of education in the international development sector than there are NGO jobs. In addition, donor levels in certain countries in the ‘North’ are decreasing while there is an increasing supply of students from ‘Global South and East’ countries who also come from good universities. To some extent it is therefore an increasingly crowded and very competitive market for finding a job. You should therefore definitely not put all your eggs in one or two baskets in terms of finding a job. Also, some students tend to come to Maxwell thinking that they want a job at the World Bank, where I used to work, or the UN, and I actually try to make them less single minded about that. Big organizations are not only extremely competitive to get into but also very bureaucratic. If you enter as a junior person, you may find the organization to be very internally oriented – a lot of navel gazing. You also may experience a lot of ‘paper pushing’. It’s not necessarily that interesting to work in such a large, bureaucratic organization at a junior level. If you can work in a small or medium sized organization like an NGO, think rank, social enterprise or impact investor company, I would argue that this will offer you a better job experience with more hands-on work. Later on, you can then be considered for a mid-level job at one of these large organizations. Also, having field experience at the country level continues to be indispensable –without it you will not compete very well in the job market — but at the same time it is increasingly hard to come by.
Overall, something that I want to encourage you to do is to intern in development organizations or complete field work or volunteer experience. And then, do research about a sector you want to work in, look at what organizations and why you want to work for them, and then reach out to them for informational interviews. This will show that you really understand that organization well.
One more thing, keep your eyes on job opportunities in other cities other than Washington, DC and New York because the competition is harsh in these cities and not as many people would apply to jobs in other cities. Power is so distributed in the world that NYC and DC should not be the only choice. Also, don’t just look at NGOs, government, and think tanks. Look at social enterprises, which are corporations that are set up to make profits but invest that profit into social goods, impact investments, and digitally operating campaigns. There are various types of agencies in international development. Look at them in terms of looking for internships and looking for a job.
A previous version of this article stated that Tosca was a “Professor of Practice”, which is inaccurate. This was an oversight on the part of the Editor.
Emily Fredenberg is a dual-degree MPA & MAIR student. She interned with the United Nations Development Programme, within their Health and Development Unit in Geneva, Switzerland during the summer. She came back to Syracuse to continue her studies after finishing her internship with the United Nations Network for Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Secretariat.
This autumn, I had the opportunity to intern with the United Nations Network for Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Secretariat, hosted by the headquarters of the UN World Food Programme in Rome, Italy. As an intern, my function was to support the global-level work of the UN Network for SUN Secretariat, in its coordination and facilitation functions amongst the main UN agencies principally working on nutrition.
Overview of the Roles of the SUN Movement, the UN Network for SUN, & REACH within the Global Nutrition Landscape:The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement is a global initiative, aiming to spur political action and investment among both national government leaders as well as development partners, to improve maternal and child nutrition. SUN focuses on investing targeted action for the first 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday. Poor nutrition during this period can result in irreversible consequences for a child, such as stunted growth or impaired cognitive development. Therefore this short window of time can have life-changing impacts on a child’s health throughout the entire life-cycle as well as their ability to break the cycle of poverty for their families and communities.
SUN is a country-led movement (currently present in 55 participating countries), bringing various stakeholders together, across the different SUN Networks which include government, civil society, UN, and the private sector, to support national efforts to scale up nutrition. This multi-stakeholder approach fosters greater coordination and access to technical and financial resources which are necessary to galvanize nutrition action. The SUN Movement focuses on encouraging the implementation of key nutrition-interventions (such as the promotion of breast-feeding), as well as the integration of nutrition into the broader policy efforts of relevant government sectors such as health, agriculture, education, social protection, sanitation, and women’s empowerment.
At the national level, there is frequently a lack of coordination and capacity to develop a multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder approach. Hence, nutrition activities can remain fragmented and uncoordinated, and result in duplicative efforts with limited impact. In order to facilitate coordination, the work of the SUN Movement is synchronized amongst the various SUN Networks, including the work of the UN Network for SUN. The UN Network was endorsed in June 2013 by five UN Agencies principally working in nutrition related issues (FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO). The Network serves to: harmonize and coordinate UN activities in support of country nutrition efforts, and to align UN nutrition efforts with those of national governments, other SUN Networks and nutrition stakeholders at global and country levels.
Renewed Efforts Against Child Hunger and Undernutrition (REACH) is an essential component of the UN Network for SUN, and provides participating governments with impartial coordinateon and analytical support to simplify administrative mechanisms. It further allows UN Network agencies to focus their efforts on the technical aspects of nutrition. REACH’s neutral facilitation takes the shape of a national and international nutrition facilitator, which work directly with the national government to foster greater country-led stakeholder engagement, with the aim of progressing the level of national commitment for nutrition efforts. Currently, REACH facilitation is present within 17 SUN countries.
UN Network for SUN/REACH Secretariat Internship Roles: As the UN Network for SUN Secretariat works to coordinate the efforts amongst the participating UN agencies, the Secretariat also facilitated an interagency workshop on the UN’s approach to Capacity Development Assessments the first week of November. Currently, most UN Network agencies conduct their own assessments, and this workshop was designed to harmonize these assessments as a collaborative UN Network for SUN approach to capacity building efforts.
As my principal internship project, I worked to facilitate a colleague from FAO to firstly conduct a pre-workshop analysis, by 1) mapping the existing UN assessment tools, 2) drafting a capacity development framework based upon the various UN assessment methodologies, and 3) conducting a country case study analysis of previous assessments conducted to get a better sense of how these assessments could be improved to better leverage country level capacity. Through workshop discussions, we were able to finalize the draft framework, and also agreed to create a harmonized guidance package for countries interested in conducting assessments. I additionally assisted in this development process, though the final guidance package will not be complete until this coming spring 2016.
Overall, my internship with the UN Network for SUN Secretariat certainly allowed me to get a fuller understanding of the intricacies of the UN system, particularly with regards to inter-UN agency collaboration efforts specific to nutrition. It also helped to further develop my research, writing, and strategic planning skills. All in all, I had an amazing semester with the Secretariat in Rome. Rome truly is a great city, and I’m quite grateful for the experience I was able to have there.