Prior to undertaking the MSc in Development Studies at SOAS, I worked at a private sector organisation as a consultant and researcher. During this time, I was fortunate enough to assist a global girls’ rights organisation for a short period, exploring the potential for digital technologies to transform how the organisation designs its programmes; understands its effectiveness in the field; and influences policymakers.
Although such an endeavour provided me with a valuable opportunity to support an NGO and explore some current issues in development, I was ultimately left frustrated as the project ended. It was at this point that I identified my desire to act from within an impactful organisation rather than from the outside on an ad-hoc basis. I turned to SOAS because I was keen to be better equipped for richer challenges ahead and for a chance to develop the theoretical/contextual knowledge necessary to make a significant contribution in this sector.
Having now benefitted from the world-class teaching at SOAS, I feel ready to take my next step and help co-ordinate processes of inclusive and sustainable change.
I think there are two moments which stand out and reflect how this postgraduate course at SOAS strikes the right balance between providing a structure and encouraging independence.
While I accept this may sound strange, one highlight was when we were given a month or so over Easter to revise for a three-hour examination, which was part of the Political Economy of Development module. After a year of fast-paced lectures and tutorials, crammed with insight and stimulating discussion, the opportunity to slow down, critically reflect and appreciate how the weekly topics interrelated significantly enhanced my overall understanding of the issues at hand. During this time, we were supported with formal revision lectures and tutorials, though heated informal debates in the SOAS bar with course friends were also instructive.
My second highlight was during the first month or so of the dissertation process, as I met up with my supervisor, Matteo Rizzo, on three occasions to discuss the history of industrial policy and its contemporary application in Ethiopia. Over the course of these friendly and formative discussions, I was offered clear and considered guidance, which instilled in me the confidence to continually refine my research area and argument (even if this meant abandoning initial ideas I had formulated). While initially daunted by the prospect of managing this research process, I soon felt like I had a strong foundation on which I could creatively and enjoyably build.
I have joined Gatsby Africa as a researcher, exploring the trends set to affect economic development in East Africa and impact on the foundation’s sector transformation work. Alongside writing a report that will detail emergent political, economic, social and environmental issues, I will engage with Gatsby Africa’s programme staff in Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, as well as external experts, to help evaluate the extent to which the organisation’s strategy is fit for the future.