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Leadership in Action Reflection – WONDER Foundation

Isabel Mangum | September 5th, 2022

 

After my interview with the WONDER Foundation, I was almost certain that I wasn’t a good fit for the role as a Research and Programmes Intern. Sure, I had the interest as an International Relations and History student and wanted to try my hand at international development work, but I worried about the soft skills. Olivia, my potential boss, told me that a crucial skill for the role was being able to multi-task and handle the uncertainty that comes with the charity sector. I famously struggle at both of those things. The perfect kind of work for me is one long-term project where I can plan mini tasks over a month and check them off on my to do list. Nevertheless, I accepted the role at the WONDER Foundation, knowing that there would probably be a steep learning curve, but still excited to try a role I never had before.   

 

The work itself was incredibly interesting and right up my alley. I worked on a website, a resource to support Kenyan, Nigerian, and South African women in starting youth groups and clubs (Check it out! https://growskills.africa/), for the first time. I researched Cocoa injustice in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, and ways to help empower African cocoa growers and artisanal chocolate producers for the Tony Chocolonely brand. I investigated opportunities for expanding food processing in Nigeria as a way for women to create businesses and income. I even helped stop a minor flash flood from ruining the WONDER office (photo evidence below). Even when I floundered, like the first time I tried to make a presentation for a Nigerian partner, I had enough support from colleagues to get the feedback I needed to improve my work. These projects were intellectually stimulating and satisfying.

 

The soft skills, on the other hand, were a challenge. Some days were easy­­ – I met with Olivia in the morning, discussed my plan for the day, and was able to check off my task on my to do list. Other days I found more difficult ­– I would get a phone call in the middle of the day about a new task that would need to be done, one time it was researching events planners in Nigeria, within the next few hours. I struggled to transition out of one task into another and the quick turnaround required had my feeling like my work wasn’t complete to the standard I expect of myself. Even tasks I had anticipated as being easy, comparative to research I had done before during the academic year, wound up feeling nearly impossible as the information I was looking for didn’t exist (For example, did you know that the last time the Democratic Republic of the Congo had a census was in 1984?). There were times, particularly at the beginning of my six weeks with WONDER, when I would close my laptop at the end of a workday and feel defeated.

 

However, as time went on, I surprised myself by growing accustomed to an in-person office and the rhythms of work in the charity sector. My boss, Olivia, took notice of my improvement ­during our daily catch ups and by our final reflection of my time, we both agreed that I had significantly improved these soft skills. This comfortability will serve me even more than the projects I worked on, because I can take these transferable soft skills with me into other fast-paced and complex sectors. While initially I felt daunted by these challenges to the point that I thought this work wasn’t for me, by the end I felt sad to leave and discussed returning for another internship!

 

I want to thank the Laidlaw Scholars Foundation, LSE Laidlaw scholars, and the WONDER Foundation for a wonderful leadership in action project!


 

Project Description – WONDER Foundation

Isabel Mangum | September 5th, 2022

 

This summer I interned at the WONDER Foundation. The Wonder Foundation is an international charity that’s mission is to “empower women, girls, and their communities through access to quality education so that they can transform their lives and exit poverty for good”. It’s vision for the world is one where women can make their own choices for themselves, they can access education and rewarding work, their value and dignity is respected, families are seen as an important support system, and where development agencies can learn from communities and their expertise. To fulfil these aims, WONDER works with partners agencies, such as the EU, to provide funding and guidance for indigenous projects. WONDER operates globally in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. During my time at Wonder I worked under Olivia Darby, the Director of Programmes and Policy, as the Research and Programmes Intern. This role entailed researching integral information for various projects and programmes with WONDER’s international partners.

 

As a Research and Programes Intern I worked on several projects including: editing, updating, and finding dissemination partners for the Project GROW website, coordinating student testimonials for the Junkabal programme, researching Cocoa justice in Ghana and the Ivory Coast for a partnership with Tony’s Chocolonely, researching food processing opportunities in Nigeria and creating a presentation for Nigerian partners, finding Swiss grants, and working on identifying partners for improving the experience of refugee girls in England.

 

My favorite task was working on the Project Grow website. Project GROW is a website that will help Kenyan, Nigerian, and South African women start youth groups and clubs. This work is meaningful because these resources, which are so common in England, are rare in rural communities, have the potential to help women generate income, and make change in their communities. I was able to work on Project Grow at multiple levels. Firstly, I looked for partners in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa that could disseminate our work in local communities who might not have reliable access to the internet or know where to look. Secondly, I edited the information for clarity and format. Thirdly, I created new titles for the posts for increased clarity. Lastly, I used WordPress to fix the errors in the presentation of the website. This project became incredibly meaningful to me beacuse I was able to see the tangible changes I was making, as opposed to just doing research which is an introductory step in a larger project. The outcome of this work is a complete website that is ready to be distributed to international partners.

 

 

 

 

 

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