BFP: What do you do?
DP: At an international level I do research and writing projects, promoting the role of business as a partner in development. A lot of my work has been in the extractive sector, with organisations such as ICMM and EITI, and I’ve recently been working with TPI on a report that was launched at the GPEDC High Level Meeting in Mexico. I also work at a local level to promote sustainability and carbon reduction, of which more below.
BFP: What is the best part about your job/project?
DP: Definitely the people – this field attracts people from such an interesting range of backgrounds and experience, all with these high ideals and loads of integrity. The recent project with TPI was just a joy to work on because of the team of people involved. And it’s the first time I’ve worked with a former quantum physicist…
I also enjoy the challenge of trying to extract the complex ideas in people’s heads and attempting to transmit them clearly in words, and increasingly with visuals as well. It’s such a multi-disciplinary field and the attention to detail on the design of reports can be just as important as the substance of the text. For example, on the TPI project the designer was seriously patient with me as we went through draft after draft trying to convey the concept of resonant frequencies as a metaphor for effective partnership. But I think it was worth the effort!
BFP: What has been your greatest challenge
DP: There’s quite a long and increasingly diffuse causal chain involved between report production and poverty alleviation, so I sometimes wonder exactly what impact I’m having. But I guess this is the same in all fields of international development.
BFP: How have you overcome these challenges? / What advice can you give others ?
DP: In attempt to shorten the causal chain I have recently started complementing my international projects with more work at a very local level here in my rural corner of the UK. It’s been very interesting to discover that the challenges of fuel poverty, local governance capacity, intermittent political will and mistrust across sectors are all reminiscent of the kind of issues I’m writing about in developing countries.
I like the balance of the two types of work. I believe there is a role for people to keep joining up the dots at an international level, to keep making the arguments for integration and collaboration in new and creative ways. I also believe that working at a local level is a good way to ‘keep it real’ – when you are talking to people up the road about things like renewable energy or community resilience you have to cut to the chase very quickly or you will lose their attention.
Ultimately though, if I had to distil my advice to someone looking to work in this sphere, I would ask them to remember that everyone is making it up as they go along.
BFP: If someone wants to do what you do – where do they start?
DP: My route was somewhat unconventional, though I guess most of the people on this site will have had unconventional routes. I started off at the International Business Leaders Forum – a real baptism of fire for a first job – and then went freelance in 2004, after which time I have worked with a series of people who seem to like my writing style.
For me, the single thing that has driven me throughout my career is a deep sense that the way the world organises its affairs is absurd, but that with just a few course corrections, just a bit of cultural tinkering, we could set things on a much more equitable, fulfilling and creative basis. When I find people who share this view, I do my best to hang out with them and see what emerges.
BFP: Finally, what do you hope to get out of being part of the BFP community?
DP: Two things. I am really interested in the rapid growth of this community, it seems like an incredibly well informed and well connected group of people. So I hope to find others who are offering the same mix of international and local work so that we can compare notes. And, secondly, when I consider the gloomy trends that characterise the world at the moment, I find the sheer range and quality of discussions that are underway on this site to be a powerful antidote. So I hope to find more hope.
Thank you to Dave Prescott for taking the time to do this interview.
Read previous Member of the Week interviews here.