WHO IS DR. BERYL LEVINGER?
Dr. Beryl Levinger is a highly regarded development professional, distinguished professor and chair of the Development Practice and Policy program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
With a career that includes senior positions such as the President of AFS Intercultural Programs, Senior Vice President of CARE and Vice President of Save the Children, Beryl draws on a rich array of experiences to teach classes and deliver consulting across the five issues of evaluation, capacity development, strategic planning, education and health. A former vice chair of both Pact and InterAction, Beryl has worked in nearly 90 countries and, for the past 15 years, she been research director or co-director of Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers Report, a publication that offers a comparative perspective on the health, education and gender issues faced by girls and women throughout the world. Beryl has won numerous international awards for the quality of her contributions to the field of development.
You can connect with Dr. Levinger here:
IN TOR 070 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- Beryl’s prolific career in both in-field practice and research.
- The set of skills that has helped her in each and every step of the way.
- How a representative of a boomer in development views the field, the young professionals coming in, and its outlook.
- Her contributions to novel approaches, both in specific situations (such as Escuela Nueva) to general design approaches, and her DPMI program.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- Monterey University, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey
- AFS Intercultural Program
- Save the Children Alliance
- Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers Report
- Cornell University
- Peace Corps
- University of Alabama
- Vicky Colbert & Escuela Nueva (“New School”)
- Evan Bloom & Root Change
- Red Cross
- Aga Khan University
- Certificate in International Development and Social Change (design, partnering, management and innovation — DMPI)
- Capacity building
- Writing, grant writing, communication skills
- Human Development Index (HDI)
- Contractors and contract work
- Behavior economics
- Discussion-Oriented Self-Assesment (DOSA)
- Project design
- Quechua language
- Monterey, CA
- South America
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
How did Beryl decide (she did not)
Her husband became a proficient Quechua speaker
She was pursuing a law degree, Cornell.
But marrying him was what she was interested in even if it implied leaving her law track and joining him in the Peace Corps. Then she fell in love with development.
“Most people who do a career in development actually never lived among poor people.“
After Peace Corps, USAID, back to PC, administrative role.
Then Save the Children. 4 promotions in a year, up to VP. The only grant writer.
“If you are in a large, bureaucratic organization, communication skills are probably the most important ones.“
Back to Ph.D.
Looking for opportunity, and a choice with the PC and University of Alabama.
Beryl felt she had done the ‘practice’ to exhaustion, it was time to approach the ‘theory’ behind.
Peace Corps post-doc, 2 major projects:
1: Interaction (trade association for U.S. based NGOs).
2: Save the Children Alliance.
The holy grail of development
’92 speaking invitation to Monterey (AFS CEO at the time).
Mutual attraction, then invitation as visiting professor including research practice.
Built a consulting and teaching brand. Led her to the Save the Children’s report.
Usually 15-20 projects at once, with practical focus, mostly on capacity building.
International Resources Group consultancy.
Root Change, organizational and ecosystem capacity.
“Capacity development is much, much broader than training. It’s helping organizations establish systems.“
#1 ’68 PC volunteer in Colombia with Vicky Colbert’s Escuela Nueva (“new school”) movement. Montessori influence, strong informal skills for teachers.
Enrollment declines. Parents saw the new approach as playing, not learning, kids might as well be at work. It was clear that work had to involve communities. Escuela Nueva is a highly involved community approach, since then safeguards are in place.
#2 ’11-’14 with Evan Bloom, Red Cross. After 2.5 years they realize performance is related to national HDI scores. But networking can overcome the ‘HDI destiny.’ “The more you network, the better you became.” The networking and performance correlation is stronger than HDI or capacity investment.
Now and from now on
“I’ve never advertised and I’ve never solicited.“
“I’m trying to focus on things that are meaningful to me. Nowadays I want work that redefines the field.“
There is sponsored development and broader ones. There is a convergence of sector (public, private, civil society). Impact investment starting from this convergence is a standard approach to development. “Whether that is a good thing or not, it is a matter of time.“
Beryl does not think the power of the market is enough. “Everything would be solved by now.” But sectors come and go.
Work based in contractors is a trend, probably not a healthy one in terms of capacity building.
Behavior economics is an important field to pay attention to in development.
The single biggest change: global development of individuals, contractors, including local capacity.
Beryl on the up and comers
Demographic differences: “No baby boomer looked for work-life balance.” Is it due to a lack of idealism, or a more healthy approach?
Beryl’s other biggest failure
“You can mess up in many different levels: by alienating, by introducing a concept wrongly.”
She and Bloom developed DOSA, a capacity assessment tool. Widely used, USAID recommended in the ’90s. Then they realize measuring everything is wrong, not as productive as measuring only a few things “a little deeper.” (Pareto’s law)
Another issue is the unit of analysis. It used to be the organization, now it is the ecosystem.
“Always make sure you are not measuring the wrong thing. Technology is critical, but it is a mistake to collect a lot of data that do not matter.“
“Get yourself into a rich network. Then tap it.“
Specialize: “Bring skills to a network which lacks them, it does not matter if it is small. Make them seek you out.”
On transition: Beryl-led DPMI program runs in Monterey, DC, Kenya (Aga Khan U) and Rwanda. It cover 3 sets of skills: design, management, modalities. People from all backgrounds, considering transitioning into development, join the program and get involved in a network.
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