WHO IS TIM LUDFORD?
“Every organization says they are open to change, their individuals are open to change, and in a lot of ways they are, but they might find they naturally resist change.“
Fresh out of university, Tim Ludford volunteered in Nigeria with poverty-focused British development organization VSO. On his return, he got a job selling mobile phones, but his volunteering experience had made him realize development was a career, and that it was possible to get paid for helping people. He put out a few feelers, and landed a job in London with JICA, Japan’s overseas aid development organization.
Ludford works now as an independent humanitarian aid and development consultant, has operated extensively in Iraq, and as a program evaluator for organizations including UNICEF and Plan International.
IN TOR 005 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- Tim, a generalist consultant with a lifestyle approach to development work.
- His experiences in places like Nigeria and Japan, and how his professional successes and network grew from “being as useful as possible.”
- The pitfalls of consulting in terms of influence, and the approaches Tim has taken to stay closer to the projects he’s involved with for longer.
- The cons of having a critical mass of development practitioners working permanently at maximum capacity, prioritizing donors’ and fundraising related engagements at the expense of organizational learning and personal reflection.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)
- Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
- Personal collective and organizational learning
- Baghdad, Iraq
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
Joining international development
“It fulfills many interests.” Volunteering in an international context.
Started with VSO in Nigeria. Unscripted, several activities. 21 at the time, not a lot of pressure.
He saw people were getting paid to travel and help. Also considered politics.
Did his research, realized a masters was a good way to go. Found a job quickly after graduation.
Joined JICA where he gained responsibilities.
An entrepreneurial mindset.
Few Japanese people, some English, some international.
Did many different things, from writing to field work to fundraising.
Tim’s specialties or lack thereof
“Generalists.” About being as useful as possible, with no particular focus.
“I’m whatever they want me to be.“
Lately has focused on evaluation projects.
He enjoys long term relationships with organizations and experiencing the whole project life cycle.
Sometimes consulting work is frustrating. Lots of demands, not a lot of power or autonomy on the influence they might have.
Bringing perspective: “They probably have a picture of what change might be or mean, but bringing a third party might disrupt that, and sometimes they know it.“
Managing every practitioner’s time
Not deliberate organizational processes, neither for funding.
The network has given him everything. He makes the effort to keep it activated.
Knowing to walk away is an important skill.
A consultant’s commitment is limited by design.
Time is very limited. “Lots of people are already working at maximum capacity. But there is a lot of space for change and evolution.“
People’s time and energy constraints limit collective learning. Evaluations are supposed to bridge the gap, but that is not the case either. “Organizations don’t sit to discuss organizations.” Evaluations and organizational learning are not priorities.
Often times donor related duties take the bulk of time.
Ideas on their own won’t change the issues.
Iraq imposes lots of restrictions on your life compared to the UK. Tim was in the north, relatively peaceful. But in Baghdad he had to stay in a compound and could not travel around. “But there is some fascination in the idea of being in the place where things are happening“
“If you get a first consulting job, it’s very likely that you get a second one.“
“Get experience, any kind of experience, to bring to work.“
“If you send an email to all of your contacts, you will receive an answer, someone will have something for you to do.“
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