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Daniel Winstanley graduated from CMU in 2013
Daniel Winstanley graduated from CMU in 2013

International development graduate works with United Nations in Bangladesh

By Daniel Winstanley

Working for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Bangladesh has been a truly wonderful and educational experience. I received this position under the United Nations Association in Canada’s ‘International Development and Diplomacy Internship Programme’.

My placement duration is six months, having begun in August. Although this is an internship, I have signed a contract with a specific title: Junior Professional Consultant: Planning and Monitoring Results. I currently work in Dhaka at the central, 20-story United Nations (UN) building. I work for the Results and Resources Management Cluster (RRMC), a department which is essentially the highest level of quality assurance for UNDP. At any given time, there are between 20–40 projects running in the country and each of these projects reports to RRMC on a regular basis. Since I am with the Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) Team, consisting of myself and three others, I communicate with project managers and M&E officers frequently.

I’ve had the amazing opportunity to learn the intricacies of the internal UN corporate planning intranet system, work with project M&E officers to refine their M&E plans and indicators in line with the International Aid Transparency Initiative, build excel databases aggregating M&E data from over 30 projects, provide support to the development of UNDP Bangladesh’s next Country Programme 2017–2021, and to work on the Results Oriented Annual Report 2015 for UNDP Bangladesh that will be submitted to New York. Additionally, as a co-presenter supporting my team leader, an M&E Specialist, I delivered a presentation on Results Based Management at the Bangladesh ‘White House’.

Thinking back to my studies at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in international development, I remember doing a lot of research, thinking, and writing. All of this comes into play when working for an international organization that has to analyze the extreme complexities of each country, balance the nuances of national and international staff working together, and partner with the government closely in a fragile political environment. I came into this internship expecting a level of rigour and precision in all areas of operation. What I have learned is that the situation is complex and requires a variety of approaches. Sometimes things just need to get done and we have to work within the space that we have. Other times, the demand for rigour and precision is extreme.

Professor Paul Doerksen, speaking in one of my classes about an upcoming paper, explicitly told us to use proper Chicago citation when backing up a claim, otherwise the paper would be returned. At that time, I most certainly didn’t even think twice about what he said. The following day after handing in the paper, he dropped it on my desk saying he would not accept it. Somewhat grudgingly, I bought a citation handbook, made the proper citations, and handed the paper back in correctly. Not so long after that time, citation became very important to me with Chicago being my preference. I believe in rigorous testing and evaluation and making use of data and evidence in various professional documents and reports is critical. This was a skill I developed at CMU.

This position has also greatly enhanced my understanding and appreciation for results language. Back in development classes with Professor Ray Vander Zaag, there were lots of discussions simply analyzing different concepts and development principles. I remember Logical Frameworks being a frustrating issue. In my M&E unit in Bangladesh, results are everything. Sometimes it’s looked at from a financial perspective, but the majority of the time it’s looking at what we are doing and ensuring that it’s actually producing results; results supported by clear evidence. Today, I really enjoy Results Based Management and emerging concepts such as Theory of Change. In a changing development context where full transparency is becoming the norm, expectations for clear and well thought out planning are high.  

As my placement draws to a close at the end of January, I am exploring the possibility of continuing to work with UNDP Bangladesh as an international consultant. I really enjoy living in Dhaka and all the interesting work I’ve done. Both inside and outside of work, I have met many interesting people and made new friends. I would definitely consider working in Dhaka for a couple years, however, I also plan to pursue a masters degree in statistics. Working abroad can be difficult, but also a lot of fun. For those considering upcoming practica, I highly recommend considering international placements. I’m tremendously thankful to CMU for my education and to all the professors who challenged me to think critically about every issue.

Daniel Winstanley holds a Bachelor of Arts from CMU with a major in International Development and a minor in Disaster Recovery