Blog: International development: for the many…

Charlie Goldsmith Associates is a UK SME, that works in South Sudan, Somalia, Sierra Leone and beyond, to put money, services and power in the hands of the poorest, and has a “charism” for bringing new talent into international development.

Our first eight “Fellows” – recent graduates, posted to South Sudan to learn the craft of international development – have been a big success. The scheme won an award from the UK Department for International Development in 2016 for “youth development and social mobility”.  Earlier this year, in partnership with the Catholic University of South Sudan, we took on fifteen research interns, who are travelling across the country following up our work in education.

Now we are looking for up to five more high-achieving, high-potential generalists/fast-streamers that any organisation, the world over, would be glad to have, with the humility, flexibility, connection and understanding to apply their skills where they are sent, for induction in the UK followed by starting work in South Sudan in September.

We are keen to receive applications from across the United Kingdom and beyond, and particularly from young people from the North of England, who are under-represented in our sector, not for lack of talent, but for lack of pathways and contacts.

Outward-facing opportunities, delivering for the poor

Whatever the next British Parliament may hold, the dangers of insularity, intolerance and a failure to look peacefully within and beyond borders, and have a care for your neighbour, are even clearer than they were before, to give two examples, the UK Referendum, the American elections.

Two years ago, we set up a scheme to give a cadre of bright and willing graduates, with an appetite for experience in international development, an opportunity to build relationships, skills and experience in a context far removed from that in which they had grown up, creating a way in to a sector that cries out for new talent, and yet can be uniquely difficult to get into.

The needs of the world’s most vulnerable haven’t got less; if anything, the task in South Sudan, which is at the heart of our work, has got even bigger: conflict is now spread across the country; 4m people are displaced or refugees. Yet, remarkably, more people than ever are engaged in education: we are proud of what we do for Girls’ Education South Sudan and for IMPACT, working with colleagues from BMB Mott MacDonald, and with funding from DFID and the EU, and we know that the stakes are higher.

Working with and in communities

Since 2015, Alec, Anna, Ellie, Emily, Juliet, Kristine, joined by Grace and Patricia, traversed the length and breadth of South Sudan, including during the July 2016 crisis, working on projects including DFID’s Girls’ Education South Sudan, the EU’s Human Resources Information System for Education, and recently, the EU IMPACT programme, to pay incentives to teachers. They’ve written reams of powerpoint, learnt how to code surveys, led research teams, analysed data, written reports, and travelled with colleagues from the Ministries of Health and Education – like you would in any graduate job.

But they’ve also put to practical use what they’d learned about distinguishing different calibres of ammunition by sound, and have moved around by everything from motorcycle taxis and canoes to Cessna Caravan planes. They’ve worked with government Ministers and Bishops. They’ve also been involved with a local NGO, Confident Children out of Conflict (CCC), in the musical life of All Saints’ Cathedral, and with a local womens’ collective.

“More than that”, says Ellie, “we’ve learned far more from new friends, colleagues  and communities we’ve worked in than any course could provide”.

Here Comes Everybody/ homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto…

We’ve now hired eight Fellows through this scheme: we normally have about 50 people working for us – so the Fellows programme is not a ‘nice extra’, they are fundamental to us delivering our work.  We’re very grateful to our friends at Aid Works, who helped us as part of their Getting the North to the South initiative.

The Fellows have included: one from Sunderland, one from Newcastle, one from Belfast, one Danish nurse, and one South Sudanese. Seven out of eight of the Fellows are women – and this broadly matched the ratio of the applicants!

Across the company, we have colleagues who are Scots, Sierra Leonean, South Sudanese (from more than twenty tribes), Kenyan, Malaysian-Australian.  We’ve appointed people fresh out of College from the UK, and four of our South Sudanese data analysts started off as watchmen or drivers; our “senior intern”(!) is in his seventies.  Our staff include Anglican clergy, devout Muslims, committed Socialists…

…short story long: international development is not just a job for people ‘over there’, or, slightly worse ‘people from over here, over there’: progress is everyone’s concern, and we try, in our way, to reflect that.

Keep me serving

All our first eight Fellows are still engaged in International Development: a number still with CGA; one working for the UK Department of Health on their Overseas Development Aid portfolio; one has won an ODI Fellowship; one with, and one about to join, NGOs; three doing further study – including Grace, CGA’s original South Sudanese Fellow, who is going to London this Autumn to study for an MBA.

Four (or five) more…

Development work in Fragile and Conflict Affected (FCAS) countries is best done by the people who know that country best, namely, its own citizens. And that is why, as we set out in our blog ‘Agile African leopards, not fat cats’, the majority of the people who work for us are just that.

But there is still a role in development work for people from the Global North if they have the right skills, the humility, understanding and connection to apply them well where they are sent, and hopefully the intention to continue to apply them in this work for the medium term. That doesn’t just mean water engineers and hard-bitten Treasury hands, it can also mean the high-achieving, high-potential generalists/fast-streamers that any organisation, the world over, would be glad to have.

But for those bright young people, getting into international development is not always straightforward: it can seem unwise to set off to a fragile state with no particular fixed plan, as many of those now working in this sector first did; getting to, and staying in, some of the places we work is expensive even if you do have systems already set up, let alone if you’re doing this the first time, straight out of College.

We need people who will be useful and fungible for the projects we work on. We will want to see excellent thought and writing, good excel, good attitude, good aspiration, and a good degree (or expectation of one) in any credible subject.

International development work needs to be informed by knowledge of, and some degree of integration in and affection for, the community in which you work. So part of the deal will also be working – a serious number of hours every week – in community work we are involved in, and bringing some distinctive excellence to bear there: we are specifically interested in choral scholars, organists and keyboard players, people active in other arts fields, outstanding sportsmen and women.

We do not pretend the places that we go, or our way of working, with and in the community, are without risk. We do make sure that our people have the best information they can, on which to make their own judgements, and back them when they do.

In short, if you think you’ve got all the impressive stuff that it takes for the Civil Service Fast Stream, Teach First, a big regiment, consultancy, or the big graduate schemes, but your vision is international, medium term, focused on the poorest of the poor, and accompanied by a reasonable appetite for risk, then we would like to hear from you.

A Northern edge for the Global South

The cracks in British society have become increasingly evident over the last twelve months, between the London “City State” and almost everywhere else, and even within boroughs.

We are keen to receive applications from across the United Kingdom (and beyond), and particularly from young people from the North of England, who are under-represented in our sector.

How to apply

To apply, please send us a CV and covering letter, answering the ‘exam question’ above, to fellows@charliegoldsmithassociates.co.uk. Please keep each of them to two pages or less.  Please send them as soon as you can, and, at any rate, before CoB on Bastille Day (14th July).