In a world driven by individualised experiences, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a collective awareness of the potential for creativity and collaboration in how individuals work and go about their daily lives. For the Global Resilience Partnership (GRP), one change has been to innovate on how the Partnership reaches out and engages the Global South community.
GRP hosts the Resilience Knowledge Coalition (the coalition) which is co-led by Climate Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) and the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD). In June 2021, the coalition launched the Global South Talent Pool (GSTP), an internship program for graduates and young experts from the majority world. This first cohort had six interns from different countries including Bangladesh, Venezuela, India, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe.
From preferring physical to remote working
From pets obscuring the panel of Zoom video calls, and traffic sounds in the background to network buffering, remote working has brought with it a wide range of experiences. But for me, it was a challenge that I was eager to take head-on and push myself out of my comfort zone.
The GRP internship job offer email popped up on my notifications whilst I was scrolling down for some football updates. Working remotely within a diverse culture in an international context had not been under my belt yet.
It was nerve-racking at first, but after settling in, I realised what a pleasant and productive ambience remote working had brought. I was able to accomplish some of my assignments on time or earlier, giving me plenty of time to perfect them.
Before COVID-19, I interned at iShamba in Kenya, where I used to go to the office and enjoyed meeting colleagues and sharing ideas. But that unexpectedly came to an end as COVID-19 wreaked havoc on all communities around the world, shattering ‘our normality.’
Getting the work done, learning at GRP
Before working remotely, I was always concerned that I would become unproductive since I would be in my comfort zone. I had no idea that I could always challenge myself and get support from colleagues online to be more effective.
At GRP, I met smart intellectuals from all over the world who engaged and enlightened me about climate change and resilience, among many other topics. I had minimal familiarity with climate change and resilience before joining, but I got acquainted with it and became more interested in the subject.
If given the choice between remote and physical working, I would choose the former because it has challenged me to push myself and get the tasks completed while also allowing me to effortlessly collaborate with colleagues from all over the world.
The following are some thoughts from my GSTP colleagues.
A remote internship programme
The Global South Talent Pool programme was designed as a remote internship programme. All the interns participated in the programme from their homes.
“Remote working was always working well within the GRP Secretariat,” said Simone Verkaart, GRP’s Head of Programs. “This is a way of working that instils trust in people, it is about results and getting the work done; that is something we feel strongly about.”
“With COVID-19 we made a deliberate decision to hire more people based in the Global South,” Simone added. “Working remotely has a lot of advantages like flexibility, which gives an opportunity to a lot of people.”
The coordinator for GSTP, Shuchi Vora, GRP’s Programme Officer was happy by the smooth recruitment process and how the GSTP idea was fully embraced.
“The calibre and level of interest we got were way above expectation. It allowed us to do more than what we had set out to do,” she shared. “We had a great volume of applications in a short advertisement period.”
Reflections from virtual collaboration
Virtual collaboration has undoubtedly challenged and motivated a number of people to think beyond the box. Would anyone have imagined being able to work effectively and maximize productivity while working remotely and collaborating from multiple locations? Trying to coordinate meetings and conferences across multiple time zones has always been a challenge. However, COVID-19 restrictions sped up the process and taught scores of people how to engage online.
A Venezuelan biologist who was part of GTSP and based in California, USA, adapted well to the need to collaborate and engage with colleagues from all over the world. “I have learned to adapt to differences between time zones,” Mariana Hernández-Montilla said. “I consider myself a night owl, someone who is comfortable working late into the night. It gives me more flexibility and freedom to choose my schedule since I prefer to start working later in the day.”
“Every month, I’m challenged with new projects, and I get to network with an international, virtual team of brilliant people with incredible diversity, creativity, and talent,” said Mariana. “I have learned valuable lessons from this experience, such as empathy for others’ schedules, patience on waiting for replies to my questions, respect for cultural differences and language barriers, and, most importantly, acquiring the understanding I need for my future endeavours,” adds Mariana. “With these practices, I am confident that I will be more capable of collaborating effectively with others and solving problems as I adapt to different circumstances for years to come.”
Arnav Prakash, a GSTP intern from India, expressed similar sentiments on what he learned from remote work.“Being a part of such a diverse cohort gave me the opportunity to learn more about various disciplines and understand how teamwork can lead to achieving goals within a remote work setting. GRP allows everyone to put forward their thoughts and promotes collective growth within the team and beyond. The journey has been insightful and has given me the confidence to take on challenging projects in the future.”
From internship to opportunity
The GSTP is a part of the efforts of the Resilience Knowledge Coalition to improve collaboration within communities of practice while placing the spotlight on expertise in the majority world. The coalition has exhibited its learning by doing approach through a successful pilot of the programme. These young professionals are future thought leaders who will go on to shape plans, policies and investments for building a resilient future. Through the coalition, GRP, ICCCAD and CDKN are proud to have contributed towards preparing them for that future.
Farheen Rehman Reeda, who interned with ICCCAD and has now joined the organisation, wishes for future interns to be able to collaborate through this remote opportunity in the same way that she did. “ One of my personal favourite things was to be able to connect with the other interns in the program, share my experiences with them and get to know about theirs as well. As we were all located in different countries, it truly gave me some enlightening insights from the perspective of the Global South.”
A new round of the Global South Talent Pool is now open. Two of the co-leads of the coalition are hiring four interns, three will be hosted at GRP and one will be hosted at ICCCAD. Candidates will either be hired as interns (with 0-2 years of experience) or as young experts (2-4 years of experience). These positions include a one-month probation period.
The application process is now open and will be closed on 22 April 2022.
GRP Young MEL Officer – Learn more and apply here!
GRP Innovate and Share Intern – Learn more and apply here!
GRP Advance Intern: Learn more and apply here!
ICCCAD Locally Led Adaptation (LLA) Intern – Learn more and apply here!
Shuchi Vora is the lead contact person for the Global South Talent Pool.