Niels Dyrelund

Podcast Interview

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BFP: What do you do?

ND: I am a Master’s Student of Business & Development Studies at Copenhagen Business School (CBS), in Denmark, and a Research Intern at the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Istanbul International Center for Private Sector in Development (IICPSD), in Turkey. IICPSD is a global focal point in the UN system which focuses on the role of the private sector in human development. The Centre was recently established to promote actionable partnerships with the private sector for the accelerated completion of the Millennium Development Goals and for the world’s sustainable growth beyond 2015. I am about to start working on my master’s thesis and am therefore in the process of reaching out to a case organization, preferably in Latin America.

BFP: What is the best part about your job?

ND: The best part of my internship at IICPSD is my dedicated, inclusive and inspiring colleagues, our dynamic working culture, our meetings with internal and external partners and other stakeholders and the variation of topics. I like that I get to work with various topics that all deal with leveraging the strengths of the private sector for human development. It really complements my studies, and I feel privileged to be part of this as a graduate student. I would like to use this opportunity to encourage all organisations in the forum to engage with students in internships. At the same time, I am enthusiastic about supporting the collaboration between IICPSD and CBS Sustainability Platform towards a joint research project on the development impact of the private sector.

BFP: What have been your greatest challenges?

ND: I get to work with different disciplines, fields, areas and topics. This means that I often need to develop a quick but sufficient understanding of complex issues that I am little familiar with from the outset. The products that I work on are sometimes innovative, and they are often dealt with by a variety of organizations worldwide. The innovative nature implies limited prior knowledge, high uncertainty and the need for careful coordination with what already exists; and the diversity of organisations to engage makes it challenging to get a satisfying overview and implies high transaction costs. The global development agenda and the market-born solutions to poverty, inequality, social exclusion and progressive deterioration of the environment are complex topics, highly debated nowadays, for which my contribution to the specific work of the IICPSD requires substantial documentation.

BFP: How have you overcome these challenges? / What advice, would you give to others?

ND: In order to familiarize myself with a new area, I tend to first identify and consult the most influential organisations within that area and read academic literature reviews. In order to develop a sufficient understanding, I consult my colleagues frequently, and we draw on a network of experts. On the issues related to innovation, I assess the need for the ideas and how the ideas fit into existing activities targeting the same stakeholders.

BFP: If someone wants to do what you do, where should they start?

ND: Being from Denmark, I was first exposed to some of the realities of the Global South while I was an exchange student in Peru with the American Field Service (AFS), 15-16 years of age, living with a Peruvian family and attending a Peruvian school for a year. I think that this exchange experience was the first to draw my interests towards international development. My entry into working with the private sector in development has been through my business school: an undergraduate in business, language and culture (BLC) and a graduate combining business and development studies. Moreover, I have engaged in extracurricular activities in student organisations within the area of sustainable development, oikos and 180 Degrees Consulting at CBS, also mentioned in CBS’s recently published UN PRME report. My studies directly address the interfaces between the private sector and development. However, there are many entries into this area, which I think reflect its interdisciplinary nature and its demand for both practical field experience and theoretical knowledge. My colleagues at IICPSD have different backgrounds, including economics, business strategy and administration, international relations, finance and psychology.

BFP: Finally; what do you hope to get out of being part of the BFP community?

ND: I hope to network with community members and stay updated on topical issues; I find the online discussions and the blogs interesting and easily accessible, and I find the newsletter very useful. I hope to find more engagement of students as well, for instance through thesis collaborations. I also believe I can contribute to the wealth of knowledge and experience of the BFP community with what I have learned with the IICPSD.

Editor’s Note:

Thank you to Niels Dyrelund for taking the time to do this interview.

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