Reflections on Devex World: RPCV Takeaways

Devex is a membership organization and online media platform that connects the global development community. The organization’s annual flagship conference, Devex World, brings together actors from government and NGOs, businesses, the tech world, finance, and more. It focuses on the future of global development, how the industry is changing, and how the world’s most innovative practitioners and enterprises affect the way global development work gets done. Thanks to Devex’s generosity, a few lucky members of RPCV/W were able to get complimentary tickets to this year’s sessions. These can cost upwards of $1,500! 

We asked these participants to share their takeaways and reflections on the event – read on to hear what they had to say!

RPCV/W: Were there any talks or sessions that you found particularly relevant or helpful? Which ones, and what did you take away from them?

Participant: There was a session on what the future development professional should or might looks like for the organizations that were represented at the conference. It provided advice on how to strengthen yourself as a professional, which was very helpful. I was most interested by the talks on impact investments and financial inclusion – this is the sector I'm hoping to move into. It was great to hear thought leaders in the industry speak about their ideas of the future of development and give concrete examples of how they think we can get there. 

RPCV/W: Now that you've been to the conference, what do you think you will do differently when it comes to job hunting in international development, if anything?

Participant: I will continue to network, and try to become exposed to more and more organizations that I haven't been aware of previously. 

RPCV/W: Would you recommend this conference to others? Why or why not?

Participant: I would, because all the big players were there. However, if you are there as a job seeker, be prepared to insert your way into some conversations. Most people were there on behalf of their organization, to meet partners and attract potential new business. They weren't necessarily prepared to talk about career opportunities at the entry level. I found many people were there in a different capacity than I was, and didn’t even carry their business cards. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing; I felt like I almost had "exclusive" access as a job seeker, and felt like I didn’t have to compete with everyone else at the conference for the short list of jobs they were promoting. However, I did have to adapt my strategy and the way I went about these conversations, which I hadn't expected. 

Additional takeaways from another RPCV participant:

  • I learned that when tackling international development’s greatest challenges with a Human Centered Design (HCD) approach, consider the situation from the perspective of a “learner,” and use the question “How might we…?” HCD is an approach that begins with involving all stakeholders in the brainstorming of solutions; most importantly, community members, NGOs, and experts. Multiple perspectives ensure a comprehensive analysis, and often yield a more realistic and sustainable solution. With an effort to have all stakeholders provide their own perspective of the problem, community buy-in is built into the design of the solution. An advantage of this approach is that it allows for challenges to be addressed with an inclusive, adaptive, and iterative process. Disadvantages could manifest in 1) the amount of time required to incorporate iterative cycles of feedback; and 2) the limited flexibility of public funding that is earmarked with pre-established problems, solutions, and budgets. The HCD approach can be applied in global development, public health, education, and more. 
  • I also learned about one mindset to consider when developing a solution; you can cast the beneficiary as “the customer.” When considered as a customer, the beneficiary is humanized and empowered in the role of determining their own solution. This leads to a belief that the customer has choice and they are their own, active, agent of change. When customers become decision-makers, long-term solutions become more relevant, realistic, and sustainable. In other mindsets, decisions can be made solely by funders, which places beneficiaries in a passive role (i.e. “aid recipients”). Past cases in international development, where beneficiaries were left out of the processes of problem definition and developing a solution, yielded solutions with little relevancy for beneficiaries.
  • Finally, the conference featured a faith-based perspective analysis on leveraging resources in international development. I had not really thought about the contributions of faith-based organizations to the aid space, and what their place might be alongside multilateral donors and the private sector. I learned that their unique reach to particular subsets of the population can allow for greater inclusion.

Thanks so much to Devex for their donation, and to our participants for actively participating and sharing some of the much-coveted knowledge they gained! Readers can contact our Professional Development Director at profdev@rpcvw.org with questions about professional development opportunities through RPCV/W.