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Q&A: My internship experience at R4D

Amanda Kabonero   |   September 7, 2018   |   Comments

Amanda Kabonero Interviews R4D's Summer Intern Cohort

[Editor’s Note: As summer comes to a close, we wanted to spotlight our stellar group of interns who provided valuable support to our health, education and nutrition teams over the past three months. Amanda Kabonero, R4D’s communications intern, recently led a roundtable discussion with her fellow interns on their internship experiences. Amanda is working toward a bachelor’s degree in development sociology and global health at Cornell University.]

Summer 2018 interns working on global development in the areas of health, education at nutrition at Results for Development

Amanda Kabonero, R4D’s marketing and communications intern for summer 2018.

As a marketing and communications intern, I was given a unique opportunity to work across R4D’s health, education and nutrition practices to help increase the organization’s visibility and effectively communicate the impact of our work. This manifested itself in various ways — from supporting logistics for our 10th anniversary event series to exploring our web analytics and making recommendations to improve our digital presence.

Despite having “intern” in my title, I felt fully integrated into my team and immediately jumped into projects on my first day. I joined R4D with an eagerness to learn more about the intersection of communications and development, and I came away from this experience with an exposure to a wide variety of disciplines and new skillsets under my belt. I hope to leverage these skills in my future career, working on health and development issues affecting low-income countries in Africa.

Beyond the professional guidance from my team, my fellow interns and I were encouraged to take advantage of the endless professional opportunities available in DC. Because of those opportunities, I left R4D with a better understanding of the deep expertise and sensitivities required to tackle global development projects.

I learned a lot from my fellow interns, too. So, I sat down with them to hear more about the projects they worked on and some of their biggest takeaways from their time at R4D.

Why did you apply for an internship at R4D? 

Maggie Gratz, global education intern: My hope was to expand my understanding and view of the international development sector in general, and piece it together with various experiences throughout what I imagine and hope to be a long career. I wanted to gain more insight into NGO, government, and private sector global development work and I viewed being at R4D as an opportunity to do that.

Also, I will be leaving for a Fulbright in Sri Lanka for an English teaching assistant position and so while I’m not sure that teaching is in the cards for a future career, I really wanted to familiarize myself with education related projects, frameworks, tools and resources, so heading into that experience I’m a little more knowledgeable.

If I’m going to be in a classroom and engaged in education in another country, knowing where to read up on certain frameworks or methodologies could be helpful. I doubt I’m going to have a lot of control over that in a country, but being informed about what Sri Lanka’s education space looks like is helpful.

MPP, University of Virginia, 2018. BA, Global Development Studies, University of Virginia, 2017.

Esther Tsyngauz, nutrition policy and analysis intern: I wanted to have real-world experience on how global health and nutrition intersect and the kind of policies that exist in low- and middle-income countries. A lot of my nutrition classes at school are more science-oriented, so I wanted to see how policy informs what people eat.

BS, Human Biology, Health and Society, Cornell University, 2019.

Caroline Snead, health financing and policy analysis intern: I’m really interested in health, policy and medicine, and where all those spheres intersect. I was really interested in understanding what health policy looks like in the developing world. Because I have a background in global health and economics, I was really drawn to R4D’s work with health financing.

MPP, University of Virginia, 2019. BA, Global Health & Economics, University of Virginia, 2018.

Gloria Kebirungi, global education intern: I was really interested in the fact that R4D works directly with change agents on the ground, so that aspect of working with local actors who are the actual implementers is important to me within the development space. Also, the fact that R4D thinks about implementing change on the system level, as someone who concentrates in international political economy, systems are crucial in terms of creating sustainable change. I’ve also had some education related work experience so I was interested in joining the education team in particular.

MA, international economics and political economy, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, 2019. BA, political science, Colgate University.

Agbor Beteck, Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI) intern: I was coming to the end of my time in graduate school and I was really interested in pursuing work that would allow me to engage with developing countries. Everything about CHMI intrigued me, especially how broad the network was globally, and I knew that I could gain a wide range of skills. The position was also very database-driven and economics is all about data, so it was a good opportunity to apply some of my skills.

MA in Applied Economics, University of Maryland, 2018. BA in Economics, University of Maryland, 2017.

What projects were you involved in during your internship?

Maggie: I was involved in the Early Childhood Workforce Initiative (ECWI), a global, multisectoral effort to produce new knowledge and equip decision-makers with tools and resources to support the development of a quality early childhood workforce at scale. As part of this project, I researched and wrote briefs about promising approaches and lessons learned from programs in Ghana and the Philippines.

I also worked with the Evaluation and Adaptive Learning team on Rapid Feedback Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Learning (RF MERL), which works to improve rapid learning and adaptive management in the design and implementation of activities funded by USAID. As part of the monitoring and evaluation of the Tusome Pamoja project in Tanzania, in particular, I helped code interview data from over 30 interviews and focus groups, many of which were several hours long.

And I led an hour-long workshop for the team on software and principles for data visualization, covering Tableau and RAWGraphs.

Esther: I worked on Aid for Nutrition project, which is focused on tracking donor disbursements toward World Health Assembly (WHA) targets for nutrition in support of global resource mobilization and donor coordination. In particular, I worked as part of a research team to review donor projects for nutrition to identify which high-impact nutrition interventions were being funded — using excel and inputting data.

In addition, I completed an independent research project on interventions to meet WHA targets.

Caroline: As the health financing & policy intern, I worked on the USAID Health Financing & Governance (HFG) Project in Vietnam. I contributed by compiling published evidence of the health and economic benefits of prevention, and reviewed numerous countries’ health benefits packages to identify common practices regarding the inclusion or exclusion of key preventive services, including for HIV. And I reviewed global and Vietnamese guidelines for delivering various HIV prevention services to inform the design of a unit cost repository.

I also worked on the USAID Program for Strengthening the Central American Response to HIV (PASCA), which supports the development and implementation of national HIV policy strategies of each country in the Central American region. I contributed by conducting desk reviews on health and HIV policy, financing and program performance in El Salvador and Guatemala.

Gloria: I contributed to R4D’s work with Pearson on Project Literacy, which aims to eliminate illiteracy by 2030 through action and partnerships. My role included conducting outreach and helping to coordinate, strategize, and prepare materials for virtual meetings.

In addition, helped with social media efforts for the Center for Education Innovations (CEI), a network of more than 750 highly engaged education innovators that R4D manages. CEI identifies promising approaches and up-and-coming programs, while also serving as an important channel for pushing cutting-edge research, practical tools and emerging best practices, such as the Early Learning Toolkit, directly to practitioners.

I also completed an independent project on political economy analysis and its applicability to understanding education contexts.

Agbor: I interned with the Center for Health Market Innovations, which R4D established in 2010 to promote policies and practices that improve privately-delivered health care in low- and middle- income countries. More specifically, I led the implementation of a database quality review and clean-up process for CHMI’s global innovation database to ensure that program profiles were up-to-date and relevant.

I also provided research and analytical support for CHMI’s program profiling process; this included reaching out to innovative health programs, conducting in-depth phone interviews, and collecting and writing up data into succinct CHMI profiles.

What have you enjoyed most about your internship with R4D?

Maggie: Three things come to mind — first, the people. They’re all incredibly intelligent, hardworking and thoughtful. What I’ve been really grateful to see is that on the education team, my colleagues are willing to ask hard questions about the work that they’re doing, they’re willing to reflect on it, and they’ve built it into their day-to-day work. In our education team meetings, we’ll pick an article and have a discussion about it. It creates this sense of ongoing learning in the workplace. I think that’s important in a professional environment, where you are doing work that’s affecting people in an entirely different place to be somewhat critical of your role in that way.

The second thing that I’ve really enjoyed, through the Early Childhood Workforce Initiative was really diving deep in country policies, I’ve been mainly focused on Ghana and the Philippines, seeing the breadth and complexity, and sometimes simplicity of policies in these countries regarding education, is just something I’ve never really done before. It’s more difficult, but I think anything is when you’re not directly on the ground seeing those policies play out in practice.

The third is that I’ve really enjoyed having the flexibility to explore my own interests. Data visualization is a new skill I picked up in my last year of graduate school, so to be able to complement an internal drive for new knowledge and skills within the education team and say, “Hey! I have this skill and I’m going to share it with you all and have the opportunity to do that is pretty neat.”

Esther: The people that work here are interesting and I’ve had coffee chats with some and lunch with others. This is my first professional internship and first in global health, so getting to know people here was very rewarding. There’s no one direct path to R4D, everyone comes from different backgrounds and parts of the world, so you can learn so much from fellow R4Ders.

Caroline: There are two things I’ve enjoyed most about my internship. The first is how much I’ve learned, especially because I feel like in school when you’re learning, you have to learn for the grade and it’s very structured. But here, for example, I learned a lot about health financing through the materials my supervisor shared from a WHO e-learning course he took part in — one I’m interested in applying to in the future.

Second, I’ve really enjoyed meeting all the people here and getting to know my fellow interns. The people on the teams I’ve worked with have had really interesting experiences, including the Peace Corps and with various international NGOs. I’ve enjoyed chatting with them about their experiences in the health financing and development field.

Gloria: I really enjoyed the people. I got to know my fellow interns and learned about the different projects they work on, and also got to know them personally. I also really liked my team. My supervisor was very kind and approachable. I enjoyed that my team at R4D was interested in my professional development and really wanted to see me progress throughout my time here.

Agbor: The people. The people definitely made it. I really enjoyed learning from people in the office. There was never a dull moment.

Any words of advice for the next cohort of R4D summer interns?

Maggie: I have three pieces of advice. First, get to know each other. Getting to know my fellow interns has been a highlight of my experience and I think we’re all interested in similar things and could potentially be resources and good friends for years to come. Second, reach out to R4Ders on your team and across the organization at large. Everyone is very friendly, willing to share their advice and opinions. I think I’ve had more coffee this summer than ever before, and it was so worth it. Third, take advantage of DC and all it has to offer and the fact that R4D allows us you to explore that as part of your internship is pretty invaluable.

Esther: My biggest advice is to go on as many coffee chats and lunch appointments as you can. You never know what someone could say that would really help you professionally. Also, don’t be afraid to ask tough questions and share your opinion because there will be a lot of opportunities to do so.

Caroline: Don’t be afraid to ask for projects you’d like to work on. Initially, I wasn’t slated to work on the PASCA project at all, but I I told my supervisor I had experience in Guatemala and he plugged me into that project. If you know you want to do something with a particular country or particular work, don’t be afraid to ask your supervisor about it.

Gloria: Take the time to meet other R4D people who you find interesting but may not be on your team, because they’re more than willing to speak with you and go to coffee with you. Speak up and share your ideas because they are more than welcome. Reach out to people working on other projects on your team if they’re of interest in you. Don’t be afraid to branch out!

Agbor: Definitely get coffee with as many people as possible. I’ve not only expanded my network but also learned a lot because the people at R4D have a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.

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