30 September 2013

Advice for new ODI fellows

Some assorted advice for this year's crop of ODI fellows who will be heading out soon (former fellows - what else should they know?).

1. Your main job (should) be translating economic theory and evidence into English. (see for example, Portes or Coats)

2. Your main job will actually be poring over spreadsheets.

4. You can probably give up on the idea of building much capacity.

5. But that's ok. The ODI fellowship is as much about gap-filling as capacity building. (As an aside, even with stratospheric levels of growth, poor countries will remain poor for a while. If you have 10% annual income growth but only start with $500, it takes 32 years to get to $10,000, the "rich country poverty line". Poor countries will need external assistance for a while. Worrying too much about the short-term sustainability of projects is over-rated. African success stories such as Botswana and Rwanda have relied heavily on external assistance over long periods).

6. Don't wear flip-flops to the office.

7. Don't take any crap about the fellowship. A 2009 review concluded that:
"it has spawned hundreds of careers in economic development as well as launched prominent scholars and distinguished civil servants. It had done so with very modest resources and a management that has stretched itself to fit and to cover, earning the praise of its Fellows, current and former, and the grateful recognition of its delivery of quality service by host governments. There is very little that needs to be done to maintain and sustain this successful partnership. What has been recommended in this review are simply steps to ensure its continuity and survival. There is no need to provide extended encomiums—the alumni, DFID and the satisfied client countries already said what needs to be said. The ODI Fellowship Scheme is a success."

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