Humanitarian Relief – a talk by RedR March 9, 2012Posted by Jeff Riley in : emergency relief, international development , add a comment
A few years ago, when I first started to research the development and humanitarian relief sector, one of the first organisations I approached was RedR, who train and support relief workers around the world. They were very helpful and generous with their time but because I was knew so little I didn’t really know the right questions to ask. However, since then I have been able to stay in touch and they have worked with us in many different ways. Most recently I was really delighted that Martin McCann, their Chief Executive, took time out of his schedule to talk to some students at UCL – one of the colleges I work in. I took some notes from his talk.
- He got everyone’s attention by saying it was his intention to put 80% of the audience off the idea of a career in humanitarian relief. The only organisation I have known previously to do this is the armed forces. Let’s face it it’s they both deal with some awful things.
- RedR is a ‘second tier’ organisation which is why most people haven’t heard of it. Yet higher profile organisations such as MSF and Oxfam use RedR to recruit and train their staff.
- There is an increasing professionalism in the sector. Much of it underpinned by adherence to the Sphere Project global standards and principles and code of conduct developed by a group of humanitarian organisations and based in Genevea. Martin McCann, our speaker, is a member of the board. I kind of knew he was a big noise but this made me realise just how big. I hope our audience realised.
- Humanitarian relief is a dangerous sector. In fact it’s the 4th most dangerous just behind things like deep sea fishing and logging. There is 1 death every 3 days and there is a risk of kidnapping. Interestingly Martin pointed out that not all kidnappings are the same with places like Haiti being a much better place to get kidnapped in than the middle east. The sector also has real issues with things like alcoholism and a high divorce rate.
- Why then is it such an attractive profession? Martin pointed out that for many people there is a real buzz in saving lives – thousands of them. There is, though, no single correct answer around motivation and he also underlined that there is nothing wrong with altruism. On the other hand though as an organisation involved in recruitment they are always concerned to know what applicants are trying to escape from as well attracted to.
- Martin distinguished for the audience the differences between development and disaster relief. Organisations with an emphasis on long term development and those dealing with immediate needs after a disaster. He also pointed out how these two situations can be intertwined. For example how complex emergencies can keep organisations involved for a long time dealing with rehabilitation. Organisations have to be careful in what they do. Ensuring that they don’t inadvertently have negative impacts. Martin used the example of emergency wheat supplies potentially undermining the local market.
- Recruitment – The increasing professionalism of the sector and the emphasis on using local staff and building capacity means that it is tougher to get started in the sector. Nevertheless there are still openings for people. Especially experienced people who can help with training and supervision. Certain niches such as HIV Aids and logistics professionals are also in great demand
- Finally some tips for those looking to get started
- Volunteer in head offices – there are heaps in London
- Get overseas experience
- Help fundraise. Organisations love hearing from people who have done some fundraising activities for them. It gets their attention
- RedR offer a range of courses including some entry level courses such as ‘So You Think You Want To Be A Relief Worker?’. You can read more about RedR on our blog here http://bit.ly/wE1pGh Or visit RedR directly at www.redr.org.uk/
Entry level emergency relief work with Medair August 3, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : NGO, Uncategorized, emergency relief, international development, working abroad , 1 comment so far
*** Update March 2013. Medair still recruit relief workers without a huge amount of previous experience. Attend one of their open evenings and register to get their newsletter for updates. ***
Back in March, 2011, Katherine Tubb of 2Way Development put me in touch with this emergency relief organisation. They came along to our ‘Getting Into International Development’ and went down very well with our audience. Partly because Medair offer entry level opportunities in emergency relief. But also because their speaker, Ben Paine, was adept at reading our audience and delivered a serious message with a light, informal, touch.
Now I’ve come along to one of their regular open evenings where people can find out about their work and opportunities. It’s 18.30 hours and we are having an open air session in the courtyard of their Balham premises. This is emergency relief in itself after a day in the broiler of my office in central London.
The only problem is that I haven’t eaten and though they have thoughtfully provided snacks I think I’m a few hundred calories down on the day. This thanks to the lunchtime college menu which featured some fragrant Thai fish dish with rice. Nice but it that ain’t steak pie and chips.
18.50. I’ve clearly misread the schedule which I’m now guessing said 18.30 arrival for a 19.00 start. This happens occasionally and I end up turning up really early for events. It has the bonus of making me look keen and efficient but cuts right into time I normally like to waste.
19.02 We’re off. It’s the affable Ben Paine again. He does a quick survey of the audience about who they are and what they have come for. Event managers, politics students, statisticians, sales professionals all here and most considering a career change. Ben is very encouraging picking up on the key skills and experience Medair may need in this initial exchange. IT skills, languages, numeracy all get nods of approval and even some wildly encouraging “let me grab you after”s. The Medair team of around seven staff then introduce themselves – water and sanitation engineers with years in the field, fundraisers, and HQ administrators. This so we know who to buttonhole later.
19.25 Ben gave a talk outlining how Medair select their zones of operation. He started with an anecdote about how they established themselves in Afghanistan ten years ago after a baseline survey which indicated that one specific region was recording the highest recorded maternal death rate ever recorded – at any time in any place in the history of the world. The kind of anecdote that gets your attention. This, Ben said, is the kind of area that Medair’s will work in their mission is to work with the most vulnerable people
Choosing areas of operation is done in a rigorous manner. Combining ‘where the need is’ with a ‘where is help already going’ analysis resulting in a target list of countries. ‘Where the need is’ is provided, in part, by the EU’s global needs assessment reports. The second element by a ‘Forgotten crisis assessment’ that provides a number of indices. The resulting calculation defines target countries but the nature of the contribution is defined by needs on the ground and affected by what other NGOs may be providing. Consequently the majority of Medair projects are in Africa but there are also projects in Afghanistan and Haitifor example. Medair are clear that while countries such as Madagascar have a less urgent need than say Somalia, it is a strategic decision Medair have taken to have some projects in less difficult and intense areas of the world. Bluntly, Ben said, it keeps the organisation sane.
The sector as a whole rests on four main areas
- International Development
Medair are focused on the first two of these. Providing a raft of services ranging from water and sanitation (‘WASH’ in the latest jargon), construction, health and housing.
Ben pointed out that those considering a career in the sector might consider emergency relief especially as there is a relatively decreasing need for international staff in development as local people, quite rightly can provide the necessary skills. In emergency relief though there a continuing case for international staff. This no longer means just British or northern hemisphere staff but people from the developing world working on an international basis with a team of local recruited staff. Even in emergency relief a key aim is to coach and mentor to create local expertise.
Innovative work. Ben stressed the innovative nature of much of Medair’s work. For example in Kashmir following floods they focused on the most vulnerable by targeting the most vulnerable family in a particular village and eschewing the use of tents in favour of a A-frame wooden structure with an insulation of locally available material. These transitional structures were built with local people and used as a model that could be replicated much more cheaply than tents that have to be sourced from outside the area.
20.00 Ben is doing a masterly job. Not knocking other agencies but positioning Medair as an organisation that works in unfashionable areas – well away from the easy publicity of refugee camps near airports that are handy for the media. Also being straight about the significant amount of money Medair spend on management – 14% of their budget. He thinks this is because Medair is a Swiss organisation and they love spreadsheets as well as being very scrupulous about making projects and staff accountable for where money is spent. Even if some of it, Ben says, is unavoidably spent from rolls of dollars kept in socks.
Ben is also great at dealing with questions from the audience – repeating them back so everyone hears and then answering them succinctly and interestingly. For example someone asked about staff security. He quickly sketched out different ways of providing security
- Defensive – providing a secure perimeter
- Offensive – with a military escort
- Acceptance – Medair’s preferred way. Gaining sufficient acceptance in the local community to have them help protect your staff. He quoted an example from Uganda where even though Medair were well established some local, and generally friendly, some local people enjoyed taking pot shots with guns at 4WD vehicles. More target practice than malice. Eventually, through a local chief, they came up with a way of having Medair’s staff protected. Nevertheless, Ben said, they do lose staff. More through accidents as much as being caught in cross fire in a conflict zone but has happened
Unfashionable – Another theme was emerging in the talk of how Medair and the work of emergency relief yields nothing to fashion. They work in remote places – one location Ben visited took 10 days to get there from London including two days spent on the back of a horse. They also deal with some basic issues. For example informing local tribespeople about the importance of washing hands between making firebricks from animal dung and preparing food. Skillfully woven into these anecdotes were inspiring stories about the difference that can be made. Though admittedly, he pointed out, it’s hard to make exciting publicity out of preventing cholera by creating a town’s water system.
Medair Values – first Medair is Christian, faith based organisation. All of its international staff are practicing Christians. It is not a proselytising organisation however and help is strictly given on a needs basis according to the Red Cross Principles to which it is signed up. There are other values such as integrity and all applicants need to feel there is a correlation with their own values.
20.20 – Working for Medair. I’m tiring fast. What will you need to get an emergency relief worker role with Medair. The following
- Values including Christian commitment
- One year professional experience in a relevant field at least but ideally more.
- Reflecting vision and values of Medair in your interactions.
- Three months in an overseas intercultural experience
- No dependent children
- Flexible team player who can live and work in difficult and remote conditions
Apply via www.medair.org for a place on an 8 day relief and rehabilitation orientation course (ROC) in Switzerland – at which candidates are trained and selected. This novel recruitment exercise is a field simulation and has been designed by people with 20 years of field experience to replicate in 8 days some of the pressures and responses field work brings. It does cost €500 plus transport to Switzerland but if you get accepted on to a ROC course more likely than not you will get accepted. Not everyone goes on to work for Medair. Some are accepted but feel it doesn’t work for them and occasionally some participants aren’t accepted.
Terms and Conditions. New relief workers earn $100 a month in year one while benefiting from a significant training component and $1200 in year two after training is completed. Ben then outlined what felt like a very decent benefits package that includes food, transport, health and more. Good benefits package – flights, food transport annual leave
Getting into development – Chris Blattman’s tips July 13, 2010Posted by Jeff Riley in : emergency relief, international development , 3comments
Chris Blattman is an academic at Yale with a range of interests. These include making sure his students are aware of some very practical issues when looking to make a start in development. I’m summarising some tips from his blog. To read the whole thing you can start by clicking on Chris’ blog on the blogroll
An MSF staff member said
“get a technical skill needed in developing countries. I specialized in tropical medicine and then took courses in refugee and IDP specific health situations.”
…agreed to go wherever (MSF) sent me. Going wherever you are assigned is the key in the beginning..
Advice from an MSF administrator
“For non-medical volunteers, there are two main areas of entry-level work: logistics and finance/HR management. To build experience, you could help coordinate an international supply chain or organize safaris for travelers. You could work with a diverse HR pool or manage a big office. Idealism, adventure travel and volunteer stints are important because they indicate that your heart is the in the right place and that you’re not going to quit because the toilets don’t flush. But to start out you also need a set of transferable skills.”
In one of his entries Chris excerpts a blog from
Alanna Shaikh where she wrote about five tips for getting a job in international development: Chris included some of his own so the list reads
- Get an office job ..….most development work is office work. You need to prove you can handle an office every day.
- Study something useful at university. For example, technical subjects like nursing and IT are useful. Epidemiology is useful. A master’s degree is more useful than an undergrad degree.
- Study a second language. You don’t have to get all that good at it, but making the effort demonstrates you are willing to commit yourself to international and intercultural work. If you are already bilingual, you don’t have to learn a third language. People will assume you are good at intercultural navigation.
- Have a goal for what you want to do, that’s specific but not too specific. “I am interested in food security and emergency relief” has a good level of specificity. “I want to work for UNDP” is too specific. “I am interested in women’s empowerment, reproductive health, and community development” is too vague. There is kind of an art to this; basically you want to give people a sense of who you are and what you want. Too broad and they don’t have any sense of you. To narrow and you’ve ruled out too many jobs. If you’re having trouble with this, it’s a good thing to talk over with a mentor.
- It’s a numbers game. Sit down every day and aim to write just 5 people. After three weeks, that’s 50 e-mails. Forty-five will go unanswered, three will say “thanks, but no vacancy”, two will say “let’s talk”, and one will turn into a job.
- Be willing to go to uncomfortable places. No worthwhile NGO should send you to a danger zone or challenging emergency on your first go, but many will need staff in secure but less desirable destinations. Express a willingness to work under difficult conditions and it may open up extra doors. So long as you mean it. Travel experience in difficult countries will help.
Working for the UN May 6, 2010Posted by Jeff Riley in : Government, Intelligence and security, UN, Uncategorized, emergency relief, international development, internships, skills , 2comments
http://careers.un.org/ A new web site finally starts to make sense of the complex of organisations that makes up the United Nations. Clear sections cover Why Work at UN? including a list of the family of organisations such as UNESCO that comprise it. A map under ‘Where we are’ lists the main offices and sub offices but this doesn’t include the subsidiary organisations. So, for example the fact that The World Food Programme and the UNHCR have offices on the Strand is not obvious
A section on What can I do at the UN? includes a comprehensive list of the core competencies they look for together with some detailed examples of how they might be evidenced. A job networks section groups together all the different jobs under broad umbrellas such as economic and social development, safety and security or political, peace and security. Some inspiring career paths showcase one woman for example who started out as a clerical assistant in Antigua who is now heading up the HR section in Beirut – and it only took her 35 years! Lots of case studies here to demonstrate the ways people have developed their careers together with associated vacancies in those categories and the site also explains the various categories so you can see whether you are eligible. For example some jobs are designated P2 level which means you have to have at least two years practical, relevant experience to apply. However you can now also see that without this experience you may be able to take part in the National Competitive Recruitment Examination and a link takes you directly to the relevant site. As I read all this I was thinking – at last I won’t have to try and understand it ever again!
The site also explains about the UN volunteer programme – which is for experienced personnel and the internship programme which is more appropriate for Masters and Phd level students. One good test for the site is that the internship section does point you towards the UNICEF internship programme as well as the HQ internships in New York and Geneva for example. Following the UNICEF links quickly got me to the UNICEF internship programme in India which I knew existed. So full marks for the site so far.
The role of the Private sector in humanitarian efforts December 3, 2009Posted by Jeff Riley in : emergency relief , add a comment
A conference organised by RedR and King’s humanitarian futures programme
9.30 am a difficult start – balancing tea a croissant and a delegate pack. The list of delegates is revelatory itself a Head of sustainable development at consultants Scott Wilson; a head of private sector engagement at CARE International and PWCs sustainability and climate change manager. My response to all of these – ‘well who’d have guessed that?’
10 am Sir John Holmes the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator gave a very clear keynote speech. Outlined the rising need for humanitarian aid and the struggle to expand the donations base. One source should be the BRICS countries. ‘Donations’ in one simple online way the UN is making it easier to for private companies to donate. However, more significantly they do make donations also in time and expertise. Often though this is ad hoc in respond to single disasters and doesn’t sufficiently tap the creativity of the private sector. For example the creation of transitional shelters using local materials rather than expensive and inadequate tents. Or with water solutions – a recent example of straws with built-in filters. Or solar cookers that obviate the need for women to travel distances for firewood making themselves vulnerable and damage the environment. Even better insurance that provide support for communities facing drought. Schemes are appearing but it is not yet a proper business. The aim has to be the provision of long term partnerships eg pharmaceutical companies with medical relief organisations The WEF human rights initiative from Davos provided a framework that facilitate companies working in groups and also working to the important codes of conduct that distinguish ngos that have worked in the areas. Flowing from this have been some notable examples – DHL helping to eliminate airport bottlenecks or Ericcsson providing telecoms in disaster areas.
Sir John Holmes concluded that companies were no longer to be seen as cash cows but as strategic partners in trilataral arrangements with civil society organisations and government. The aim to provide not a basic ‘fire brigade’ response but long term local capacity. The private sector has, after all, a fundamental interest in stability. This method of working need not be restricted to the developing world. When we consider response to floods for example these three parts of society working together can make a difference anywhere. The humanitarian sector has come a long way from its roots in volunteerism and embracing the private sector is a natural step for a professional approach.
Panel 1 The corporate-humanitarian record to date
11.40am Well the consensus from the opening session was definitely – ‘yes’ to the private sector. Professor Denise Livesley Chairs and introduces three papers for the first panel session
* Professor Alyson Warhurst Warwick Business School – an awesome CV including advisor to the World Economic Forum and consultant with. Maplecroft.com and most likely advised God on how he could create the world in 7 days
She argues that the BRICs countries plus the 11 economies adjacent to them in growth are the key to pulling the world out of recession. However these countries also are very high risk for business – in terms of factors such as pandemics, conflict, climate change etc . Companies need to change their attitude to risk in the same way they were able to when cleaning up the trade in conflict diamonds. The private sector needs to be involved because these vulnerable countries are also key points on the business supply change.
12.20pm Humanitarian logistics – Rolando Tomasino INSEAD social innovation centre.
Who would have thought a session on logistics could be quite so interesting. Rolando works at one of the worlds top Business schools. He talked about his recent work around the science of humanitarian logistics. How to coordinate disparate actors. Lots of different elements involved including from financial flows, information, goods and human capital. Felt there was something the private sector could learn from the humanitarian sector. Particularly in the area of adaptability which relief agencies have to be very good at. Put up some very powerful photographs of poorly organised interventions – unwanted or unsuitable goods – out-of-date foodstuffs and the like. Underlined that private sector companies do not win by having the cheapest supply chain but by having the most adaptable.
Panel 2 Current practice and future possibilities
Jo da Silva Arup. Jo is an engineer with Arup and was instrumental in getting them involved via RedR. Most recently Jo worked in Sri Lanka and enrolled Arup to be more proactively engaged there.
The private sector seen as ‘donor’ not ‘doer’ and in those cases where they act as ‘doers’ then often assumed to be a self funded doer. An ethos in the sector about not wanting to be seen to be making money out of suffering. But private sector organisations as well as NGOs need, after all, to pay staff. Private sector organisations, Jo feels, want to be enablers – offering networks, staff, plant and partners often on a global basis. After disasters the humanitarian impulse may suffice but preference is for more sustained engagement.
‘Remote working’ is another form of contribution Jo touched on this and then on talking about ‘secondments’. Funded by staff, firms and NGOs – eg a seismic engineer in Pakistan from Arup. Pointed out though that the individual is inevitably limited. It is possible to bridge the gap between the relief and private sector organisations. ‘Private firms are from mars NGOs are from Venus’ but that does not mean they are irreconcilable.
Will Day Sustainability Advisor PWC The two sectors can be seen as oil and water eg green beans exported from African while the local population are hungry and out of date chocolate imported as part of ‘relief’
On the other hand CARE worked with Cable & Wireless and Scott Wilson in a very constructive way. So who does what best? Issues such as food security and debt reduction are often seen as squarely within the NGO arena but the scale and urgency and the inter-connectedness of issues and economies mean the distinction between private and humanitarian sector dissolves. Business, for example, is good at risk and being held to account. Often long term strategic thinkers especially in business such as defence and mining.
Climate change is now being taken on by business because they are seriously aware of its impact on their profits
An example of private sector involvement. PWC is a money machine. It’s good at ‘systems’, measuring and accounting but people may be surprised that they are also restoring policing in DRC. They are very expensive but clearly worth it as they get repeat business despite their fees.
Another example – ‘water sanitation’. Often drops off map – governments have no money and NGOs no expertise in this area. Private sector could make a difference but are we willing to use Unilever selling more soap as a measure of success? Yes, surely, if it’s an indicator of improved sanitation. Business as usual in any case is not an option.
Medecin Sans Frontier Marc Dubois Head of MSF UK – introduced a contra note to the day and challenged the consensus that there were merely “wrong-headed suspicions” about the private sector. At the same time pointing out that, yes, a ‘private sector’ saved the people of Darfur but this definition of the private sector was the micro level private households that took initiatives before the ngos or private sector arrived. The Private sector he reminded us were also in DRC – delivering Market advantage at the point of a gun. A fundamental drive for profit. The humanitarian sector is about immediate crises – a very different drive and one that is founded on mpartiality with no ulterior objectives.
Independence. Most of the aid discussed today, Marc continued, isn’t humanitarian at all. It’s been hijacked because of the cachet it brings. The ‘fire brigade’ isn’t a great model to aspire to for emergency relief but it’s clear and better than getting disparate things mixed up. Money spent in Afghanistan or Iraq is for military objectives and is not humanitarian aid. It can look like it but people on the ground know the reality. That is why there is hardly any aid made available to refugees in camps outside Kabul but lots of money being channelled to the remote areas where the battle for ‘hearts and minds’ is being funded by the allies.
So You Think You Want To Be A Relief Worker? August 24, 2009Posted by Jeff Riley in : emergency relief , 1 comment so far
Saturday 22 August 2009 9.30am – Attending a one day course at RedR headquarters and after reading the BBC’s cricket blog thought I’d adopt the same format for this report. Which is a neat coincidence as I only have to put my head out the door of the office in Kennington to see the distinctive green gas holders that form the iconic backdrop to the Oval cricket ground where England might be winning the Ashes. Or should that be Foster’s Oval since Fosters couldn’t resist stamping their branding over it and the authorities couldn’t resist selling their heritage? A great start to the blog!
9.35 am – I meet the three people I’m sharing my table with in a room of around 25 or so. Barbara a fine art student at the University of Dundee; Ben a Civil Engineer from Bristol and Steve also an engineer from Winchester. Jane Davies, the course facilitator, asks us to introduce each other, including an interesting fact, to the rest of the participants. I don’t mind this at all but I know speaking in public terrifies some people. Barbara is Belgian and rather lovely and tells us that you have to go Edinburgh to get Dundee cake. Can’t imagine anyone wanting to do this. Ben is a funny guy and the interesting and unmissable fact about him is that he has managed to get on the course despite a first class hangover. Steve announces to everyone that he hasn’t found out an interesting fact about me.
9.40 am Lots of engineers, nurses and architects on the course. The kinds of professions that might more readily find a place in the emergency relief sector. During the day the participants demonstrate at a number of points that they are quite knowledgeable and have done some groundwork to get to this point – even though its just an introductory one day course. Glad to be here. It feels like it’s going to be an informative day.
9.45 am Work starts with the ‘course objectives’. Jane Davies, the course facilitator, starts, in classic facilitator fashion, by establishing her credibility – Action Aid, earthquakes in Peru, professional training background. Contrasts sharply with whenever I have to start Development courses with a confession that my only experience of the developing world are holidays in Botswana and Laos. The objectives seem comprehensive – an overview of the sector, an exploration of motivations and a chance to meet some professionals. Jane asks if there is anything we want to add. A dangerous moment for any facilitator I always think.
9.50 am “What is Humanitarianism?” Eek, we’ve been asked to define it. Lots of relevant words get shouted out though – ‘respect’, ‘human rights’, ‘empathy’. I’m aware that normally on a Saturday I would be recovering from a big breakfast rather wrestling with definitions. Jane eventually reveals a dictionary definition and a debate kicks off as it seems narrower than ours. Specifically about saving lives and alleviating suffering. Jane neatly squares the circle by pointing out that the narrower definition focuses on what it is and our more general words relate to how it is done. A score draw between us and the dictionary.
10 am When did it begin? I get on the field by shouting out ‘Red Cross’ but then lose points by getting the founding date wrong – Doh! By a mere few decades, I hasten to add but then compound the error by saying the Red Cross was an ngo. Not a classic ngo Jane says. I’m big enough to take this public humiliation. I’m angry already (joke!)
10.10 am How it evolved? Jane briskly takes us through significant points of the history of humanitarianism. The mess that was the response to Rwanda, the development of the Sphere charter and its principles and standards. Also the withdrawal of MSF from the consensus gives us an insight into a key debate. Another nice distinction made by Jane between humanitarian agencies that adhere to the principles of not propagandizing on political or religious grounds and some smaller players such as missionary organizations that deviate from this.
10.20 A practical exercise in groups. This stops us getting numb. ‘C’mon our table’. We have to look at specific scenarios and outline for the other groups what the key issues are. We get to wrestle with the complications around what emergency relief is and discuss how it can be distinguished from development and how guidelines can help with navigating around these issues. For example someone asked whether in a particular scenario the priority should be food or water. Jane said the guideline would suggest you ask the people affected and take your steer from them. At this point I was reminded of being in a Labour Party meeting in the early 1980s when someone suggested making a donation to Zanu PF and this was carried on condition it was only spent on bullets and not wasted on food! The good old days.
11.50 News come through that England have Australia at 78 for 3. Barbara, the Belgian girl doesn’t have a clue what this means and a kiwi tells us over tea that he doesn’t know who he wants to lose the most. After tea we learn about the sector’s 96 pages of acronyms and the politics of relief. Also here the, possibly apocryphal, story of China donating tents to Pakistan on the condition they are set out so they spell C.H.I.N.A from the air.
12.15 Ben is still struggling with the hangover. I told him I left the pub early so I was in a fit state for the course. He told me he left the pub early as well – early that morning. – hombre!
12.30pm – What are your motivations and how might they be challenged in the work? This was an excellent exercise and I thought very good questions as well. I might be bowling these to some of my students at college. In the discussions Jane said that motivations can change under experience. England have the aussies at 90 for 3. Barbara doesn’t seem to be taking the cricket in at all. Being a Belgian, living in Scotland, clearly hasn’t helped in this regard.
Lunch – I’m holding out for a big curry tonight so I pass on the sandwiches but during lunch have a nice chat with a couple of the participants. Including a fire fighter from Devon. I never see fire fighters put out fires in London and had to evacuate a hotel in Cornwall once when it burnt to the ground while the fire fighters were presumably trying to get over the country stiles. I stepped through the ashes the next morning to collect the credit card I left behind the bar. Ooh, the ashes, I wonder how England are doing?
2pm Working in the field. A talk by a relief worker. Andre Steel a civil engineer with a PdD in water supply management talked about his experience of working in Myanmar with Merlin. An excellent talk. Nicely illustrated, balanced, interesting and light. Andre reassured people that you don’t need a PhD and that experience can be better. At the same though more complex work such as water treatment needs more qualifications than, say, making concrete water tanks.
2.30pm – Recruitment into the sector. England 160 for 4. Go on my brave lads. – Stuart Finch from Oxfam’s HR department. A good choice of speaker because Stuart was personable and had worked his way up through volunteering after going off track by working in Lambeth’s parking enforcement department after his degree in development. Stuart also gave us the low down on CVs and skills needed for the sector. In this case lots of technical skills needed which must be a bit demoralizing if you don’t have a technical background. Though he was himself a good contra example. He said that Oxfam had 340 jobs last year and had 60,000 applicants. Though some of them were from USA Sheriffs and security personnel without much understanding of the sector. Some key tips to help differentiate yourself
* Capacity building is a hot topic. Don’t wait to get asked about it but bring it up yourself.
* Management skills - real shortage in the sector. So if you have the right technical skills these can make a real difference on your CV.
* ‘Gender mainstreaming’ – What? Again don’t wait to be asked about it but bring it up. Of course finding out what it is would be a good first step. Simply put its the steps we can take to ensure we get women into the mainstream with due sensitivity to local cultures.
He sketched out a sector structure – Disaster response > Post-conflict/complex emergencies > Rehabilitation / Recovery > Development but pointed out that boundaries are blurred.
Lots of pressures including that from donors make it hard for recruiters to take a risk. Consequently those from the UK need even better experience and qualifications to get started.
An interesting diversion when Stuart talked about how straightforward technical solutions are inadequate. He gave an example of a well sunk on behalf of local people who subsequently get driven away because the land doesn’t belong to them and has suddenly become more valuable because of the well. This reminded me of the kind of research and joined up thinking that the London International Development Centre is involved with and about which I’ve also blogged recently. I asked Stuart whether education providers in the sector are generally taking on board these issues but I think I must have couched the question awkwardly.
3pm – Turning up on an ngo doorstep? Remembering a recent discussion in the blog on this I asked Stuart from Oxfam what he thought about this as a strategy. He is a professional recruiter so hardly likely to endorse it as a tactic. Both Jane and Andre also were resistant to it especially in a more dangerous country. On the other hand Jane reminded us that this was how she got her first experience of the sector being in the wrong place at the right time – an earthquake in Peru.
3.15pm – I’m going home. The afternoon tea break. I have decided to skip the rest of the day. Its going to be a question and answer session and I haven’t had a cricket update for an hour and I need to prepare for my night out in curry town! All in all I would have thought participants would have thought they would have got good value from the course. I know I learned a lot.
RedR May 12, 2009Posted by Jeff Riley in : courses, emergency relief , add a comment
I had a nice invitation to meet with RedR the international disaster relief training and recruitment charity. I admitted that I’d first spoken to them around 4 years ago and I was so embarrassed at how little I knew that I hadn’t contacted them since. I knew of course that they were well respected in the sector and that they had really useful courses for both experienced professionals and for those just considering the sector but I’d not developed proper links. However, I will now be looking to enrol them on the next ‘Getting into international development’ course. Perhaps to run a workshop on the relief sector. In the meantime you can read the report on my conversation and download some information about their courses at www.careers.lon.ac.uk/development > employers > RedR
Merlin Information Evenings July 4, 2008Posted by Jeff Riley in : emergency relief , add a comment
Every month Merlin, the health care and disaster relief organisation holds a free Information Evening. The next available evening is taking place on August 13th. The evenings are open to all and are a chance to talk informally with head office staff about the work of the charity, job opportunities and work in the humanitarian aid sector generally. The evenings are popular so book a place early. More details on the Merlin web site http://www.merlin.org.uk/Lists/Event-Detail.aspx?id=577
Fundraising with AMREF April 1, 2008Posted by Jeff Riley in : emergency relief, international development , add a comment
AMREF has sent us the slides from their recent presentation on fundraising as a career in international development. They have also notified us of opportunities in fundraising for students in UK universities. You can read more on the international development site here