Author Archives: wvjohnson

About wvjohnson

I am currently pursuing a Master of Global Policy Studies at LBJ and I have my MBA from the McComb's Business School at University of Texas. My area of specialization is international development with a focus on poverty alleviation. Before LBJ I lived in Cambodia and Laos for three years where I participated in the MBAs Without Borders program. I also worked for two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) while I was there. Both organizations used the social enterprise model for sustainable development which combines business and social impact.

The LBJ Washington Program

I am less than a week away from leaving DC. It has been an incredible summer with lots of friends, family, sightseeing, and general living the DC Life. But what really made the summer special was the Washington Program course I took with Dr. Kate Weaver. There were nine students in the “Crisis and Change in International Organizations” class held at the UT Archer Center. The objective of the course was to understand the changes, crises and reforms taking place in the United Nations, World Bank, IMF and other international organizations. This course would not have been the same if it had not been taught in DC.

Instead of spending hours in the classroom discussing theoretical research papers, Dr. Weaver arranged a series of guest speakers who told us what was really going on in these organizations. We talked to people from the World Bank, IMF, UN and UNHCR who gave their perspective on their organizations. We talked US Congressional staff who gave us the government view. And we talked to watchdog groups like the Bank Information Center who gave us the civil society view. Every one of the speakers was engaging and refreshingly candid. My summer in DC would not have been complete without that learning experience.

On Tuesday, 2 August, Savin and I fly to Beijing, China for a two-week course titled “Development Within a Low Carbon World: Preparing Professionals for Policy and Planning Instruments for Green Innovation.” I am really looking forward to that class and visiting China for the first time. I will write one more blog post when it is over. It should be the perfect end to an exciting summer of learning and experiences.

Innovation Days and Nights

Geocoders 2011

Geocoders 2011

My first couple of weeks working at Development Gateway has been great. Our geocoding team has students from LBJ, BYU and William and Mary. We all sit together cozily in a big conference room. But as much as I enjoy my workdays, it is my evenings and weekends in DC that I really love. There is so much to do in this city. The past two Fridays we walked down to the National Gallery of Art for Jazz in the Garden.  On our way there the first time we stopped to watch President Obama’s helicopter land on the White House front lawn. I am pretty sure we saw his feet on the other side of the helicopter. After our picnic and some free jazz we headed to Chinatown to eat a variety of delicious Asian foods, including $1 sushi and Peking duck.

Last week the World Bank held their Innovation Days event at their headquarters. The event focused on innovations and technologies that are being applied to international development. Their lobby was filled with booths touting innovative projects that use technology to improve the lives of millions of people in developing countries. We listened to panels discussing the latest innovations in East Asia and we saw a film screening on sustainable green energy development around the world. We also had a treat Sunday night when LBJ School Dean Robert Hutchings invited us to a reception hosted by the Ben Barnes Group at the Roosevelt House for the Health Privacy Summit which took place in D.C. this week. I feel like I have done so much and I have only been here two weeks. I am looking forward to seeing what the rest of the summer has in store.

Kicking Off the Summer in DC

My internship with Development Gateway (DG) in Washington D.C. is off to a great start. First of all, I love this city. As an international development professional and a news/politics junkie it feels great to be at the heart of the action. I am living in an apartment in Georgetown with three other LBJ students. Savin and Anustubh work with me at DG and Jessica Tibbets works at the State Department. Our apartment is one block off M Street and 100 meters from the Potomac River. Morning runs along the riverside trails and evening picnics in the riverside park have already begun. My first day at work was 31 May and that evening the Washington Area LBJ Alumni Chapter coordinated a happy hour that was a big hit and a great way to kick off my summer here.

Development Gateway is in the middle of the downtown D.C. scene. We are across the street from the IMF and the World Bank, so we go over to their cafeteria to eat lunch. If I ever see Robert Zoellick there I will pull up a seat next to him and then I will really have something to blog about. The work I am doing for DG is geocoding all of the donor aid that is being given to the country of Malawi, Africa. It is one of the first projects of its kind and when it is successful, other countries will hopefully want to do the same. Basically, the government of Malawi provided documentation related to every project that uses donor funding. There are 33 donors and hundreds of projects across all sectors – health, education, economic development, infrastructure, agriculture and governance. I read through the project documents, identify where the money is being spent (cities, villages, districts, etc.) and capture that information so that the project can be mapped using GIS (Geographic Information System).

A similar effort was made last year and resulted in the World Bank’s “Mapping for Results” platform –  For this effort, the team mapped every project in the world that the World Bank funded. Our current work will produce similar output, but for every donor and every project in Malawi. Many groups benefit from the work we are doing. Donors are better able to assess the needs of Malawi and guide funds to areas that are underserved. The government of Malawi will be able to identify gaps in donor-funded services and respond accordingly. But most importantly, the people of Malawi will benefit by getting the right services where they are needed the most. I am very much looking forward to all of the work and play I will doing in D.C. this summer!