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.
"See no evil . . . " (credit to Dr Weaver!)
July already – the past few weeks have flown by. As a group we’ve coded thousands of projects, and I must say my Malawian geography is as sharp as you like. As a break from coding, we also have the chance to do a bit of digging in to some topics that interest us. So Tiffany Tripson and I are looking at energy sector aid to Africa – for differences between donor groups, regions, countries, and projects – all using AidData’s great database. I’ll certainly link to anything we come up with later on.
Over the past year at LBJ we heard a lot about the UN, the World Bank, the IMF, and generally more three letter acronyms than I care to remember. But this summer, through work and Dr Weaver’s class, I’ve had a chance to see some of the real ‘faces’ of these institutions – shiny buildings full of busy people (who, I must say, eat at the most glamorous cafeteria I’ve ever seen!). And these organizations are trying to find solutions to real problems, both within themselves and out in a fast-changing world. So it’s been great to meet some of the people that make these big bureaucracies tick. For example, the World Bank is trying to get very serious about innovating to keep up with changes in technology, so serious that it hired on Aleem Walji of Google.org to help. We had the chance to hear about many of these new ideas from a panel that Mr Walji moderated. That same day I got to meet Daniel Kammen, Chief Technical Specialist for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency at the Bank, and another new acquisition. He comes from UC Berkeley, where he was founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (among many other positions). I just hope that these institutions can keep these kinds of people (and get more!) – making real use of their energy and experience.
But I’ve seen some more recognizable faces too. Walking to work the other day I happened to see Christine Lagarde rushing in to interview at the IMF. A few days later, on a stroll through Georgetown, my wife and I saw what looked like a police car convention – lights flashing everywhere. Then SWAT-type trucks and fleets of SUVs and motorcycles. As it turns out, it was just President Obama having ice cream with his girls for Father’s Day. I suppose even the busiest faces in DC need a break sometimes. . .