1st Edition

Dear Development Practitioner Advice for the Next Generation

Edited By Simon Milligan, Lee Wilson Copyright 2024
    208 Pages 24 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    208 Pages 24 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In this book, influential development practitioners reflect on their careers by writing letters of advice to their younger selves. Sharing their successes and failures, the challenges and barriers they have encountered, and the changes and continuities within their work, these deeply personal accounts provide an invaluable window into the world of development practice.

    The authors come from nearly 20 countries. They have held a rich mix of jobs across a range of sectors and organisational types, bringing a long-term perspective to the sector’s contemporary challenges. The distinguished list includes a Nobel Peace Prize winner, senior figures in government and international organisations, those working at the frontline of humanitarian aid and civil society organisations, and those who might not even have thought of themselves as "development professionals", such as technologists and social entrepreneurs. Despite the differences, common themes emerge: the pursuit of meaningful change, the navigation of barriers, and the ongoing sense of hope.

    This book will inspire those about to embark on their professional careers and remind new entrants and current development practitioners alike how much there remains to be done.

    Introduction to the collection

    Simon Milligan and Lee Wilson

    Section 1: Civil society and advocacy

    Chapter 1: Different is good

    Anna Bwana

    Chapter 2: Don't go. There is a place where you belong

    Cara Yar Khan

    Chapter 3: Education, education, education

    Harpinder Collacott

    Chapter 4: Learning to be the platform, not the app

    Ingrid Srinath

    Chapter 5: Fly forward to new horizons!

    Lysa John

    Chapter 6: Whose reality counts? Finding the North Star and learning to make decisions the right way

    Mark Goldring

    Chapter 7: Challenging power and discrimination

    Salmah Eva-Lina Lawrence

    Section 2: Human rights

    Chapter 8: The challenge of being true to yourself

    Bahey eldin Hassan

    Chapter 9: Keep an eye on the ball

    Morten Kjærum

    Chapter 10: In your footsteps, my brave little girl

    Tawakkol Karman

    Section 3: Public service

    Chapter 11: And it breaks my heart

    Admiral Ncube

    Chapter 12: In search of a blueprint

    Adrian Schlaepfer

    Chapter 13: Be true to yourself – take risks

    Brian Atwood

    Chapter 14: Insist and persist

    Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu

    Chapter 15: Who should be allowed to work in international development?

    Fernando Damazio dos Santos

    Chapter 16: Charting a course for change

    Hannah Birdsey

    Chapter 17: Pushing for change

    Irina Schoulgin-Nyoni

    Chapter 18: Be what is needed, not what is expected

    Jeffrey O’Malley

    Chapter 19: Don’t listen too carefully

    Johannes Oljelund

    Chapter 20: Driving forces in an international development career: what's the X factor?

    Suresh Nanwani

    Section 4: Social entrepreneurship and change making

    Chapter 21: From Cold War to a warming Cold War?

    Arthur Wood

    Chapter 22: Everyone a changemaker

    Bill Drayton

    Chapter 23: Finding solid ground

    Dias Rahwidiati

    Chapter 24: What an elephant can teach a girl about physics

    Frannie Léautier

    Chapter 25: Nothing changes your field of work like doing fieldwork

    Indrani Medhi Thies

    Chapter 26: Be kind to yourself and others

    Julie Mundy

    Chapter 27: Follow your own path, forge your own route

    Ken Banks

    Chapter 28: Trust yourself

    Petra Karetji

    Section 5: Researching development practice

    Chapter 29: Ask why?

    Deepa Narayan

    Chapter 30: My development decades

    Gabriele Köhler

    Chapter 31: Transforming opportunities and challenges into a career in gender and international development

    Leith Dunn

    Chapter 32: Start where you stand

    Lina AbiRafeh

    Chapter 33: Learning to work in Lesotho

    Mark Moran

    Afterword: Dear next generation

    Lina AbiRafeh


    Simon Milligan is an Independent Advisor with more than 20 years of professional experience in development cooperation. As a consultant and "critical friend", he has been engaged by various governments, multilateral agencies, inter-governmental organisations, and non-governmental organisations. He has a particular interest in evaluative thinking, partnership-based approaches, and mentorship. He has a PhD in Geography from the University of Sussex, UK. Simon is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the University of Lund and teaches on Lund’s Masters in International Development. He lives in The Hague, Netherlands.

    Lee Wilson is an organisational anthropologist who has spent the best part of the last two decades striving to understand and drive change in a diverse range of institutional settings and cultural contexts. A particular focus of his work has been on innovative approaches to capacity building and culture change. When asked what he does professionally, he will probably tell you rather glibly that he works "to put the people back in to strategy". He has worked as an advisor to national and regional government agencies, international organisations, non-governmental organisations, research centres, arts organisations, and law enforcement agencies in Australia, Asia, the Pacific, and Europe. Lee has a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge and is an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Futures, University of Queensland, Australia. He is currently based in Geneva, Switzerland.

    "This volume is a labour of love. The authors’ commitment to, and experiences in, aid and development are charted with honesty and openness. They have in the process come to understand themselves and their motivations better. We, the readers, can benefit similarly by reading these thoroughly enjoyable, stimulating and often very moving accounts."

    Sir Myles Wickstead, Visiting Professor of International Relations, King’s College London, UK and coordinator of the 1997 UK Government White Paper, Eliminating World Poverty: A Challenge for the 21st Century

    "A welcome volume masterfully edited and brilliantly and thoughtfully written by development practitioners from nearly 20 countries of their struggles and victories in their journey of development practice. The eye-opening and reflective work is a must-read for anyone interested in development issues."

    Ashok Swain, Professor of Peace and Conflict Research & UNESCO Chair on International Water Cooperation, Uppsala University, Sweden