WHAT DO YOU DO?
The official answer is: I am a teacher, researcher and academic manager for our Communication for Development MA program at Malmö University in Sweden where we are currently celebrating the 15th anniversary of our program!
The less formal answer is: I am a passionate advocate for critical engagement with international development and of how people, media and organizations communicate about development in the digital age.
HOW DID YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE?
This could be a perfect space for a catchy Richard Branson quote or one of these quotes that can be attributed to basically everyone from Bill Gates to Mother Theresa…but all jokes aside: It was a healthy mix of traditional education, pro-active self-promotion and, well, a bit of luck.
I have had a passion for development since my undergraduate days and a good ten years later graduated with a PhD in the subject. I also launched my social media profile, linked development blogging to my research, extended networking from traditional spaces to the virtual sphere and was finally offered a great position in Sweden!
I would not describe myself as a radical, but I have a, however small, critical voice and like to raise it here and there. My blog has proven to be a very good outlet for that critical engagement. Not everybody agrees with my research, but if everybody is still your friend after a few years in a project or organization you are doing something wrong!
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO OTHERS WHO ASPIRE TO BE IN YOUR FIELD?
It depends to some extent what you mean by ‘your field’. The academic industry is and will continue to be a very difficult space for sustainable long-term opportunities. Any linear thinking along the lines of ‘I enjoy teaching and research, so I should get a PhD and then apply for an academic position’ will most likely not yield satisfactory results.
I am a bit more optimistic about the ‘field’ of ComDev or C4D. No matter where you will be working in the aid industry, you will dedicate a substantial amount of time telling people what you are doing and why you are doing it. Even if your work is technical, bureaucratic or seemingly self-evident, e.g. humanitarian aid, you will have to explain, defend and be authentic about your and your organization’s work. The development organization of the future will likely be a mix between a technical agency, a public education institution and a media outlet. Communication for Development is an important crosscutting subject.
Good work may not automatically speak for ‘itself’, but doing good work unnoticed for a while is better than looking for shortcuts that may look good on your CV but cannot be backed up by substance and sustainable work! The aid industry is small and you never know who may contact your references.
In a recent interview with my colleagues at Örecomm I concluded:
“At the end of the day, when all ‘white Land Cruiser’ jokes are told, all ‘white elephant’ projects are evaluated and all voluntouristic photos by white people are uploaded to Instagram, development in general and development communication in particular will continue to have an important role as witness to injustice and marginalization, as an amplifier of dissent and as a connector between cultures, stories and those who need a virtual or physical hand that reminds them of humanity.”
If this reflects the sector you want to be engaged with-welcome aboard!