Published on February 5, 2014
A History of my International Career…
Who am I? • Clara Whyte • Economist and Policy Analyst • Specializations: International Development, Environment and Resource Management, Rural Development & Agri-Food.
Where do I come from and why did I choose that profession? • An international family: • French mother passionate about Hispanic cultures • British father born and raised in India and Britain • Paternal grand-mother who traveled the world • I was exposed to diverse cultures from early infancy • I developed an interest for foreign languages / intercultural communication and a preocupation for socio-economic development issues
• As a teen, I wanted to become an ethnomusicologist, but I was advised to go for a « safer » career • So I decided to aim at becoming either a diplomat or an international civil servant • Chose to go into Economic Analysis and Policies to prepare for that career
Studies and Diplomas • I finished highschool majoring in Economics and Social Sciences (1995) • Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Policy Analysis from the University of Grenoble, France (1998) • Master’s degree in Environmental and International Development Economics from the University of Versailles, France (2001) • Master’s degree in Political Science (with emphasis on international relations and trade) from the Paris Institute of Political Studies, France (2003)
• Because I was so used and passionate about traveling, I started to move around a lot very early • As a child, I would spend some time every summer in Britain or Ireland • As a teen, I also went several times to Germany
• In 1998, I managed to get a first internship in international business development in Montreal, Canada. • How did I do that? • I went on holidays to Montreal for the summer and conducted intensive research there • Then I managed to get a temporary work visa through the « France-Quebec Association »
• During that internship, I would: • Make cold calls to potential customers in Canada • Join senior consultants in their meetings with customers • Contact potential product sellers in Europe and the United States • Help plan the business trips to Europe and the United States • During this time, I also volunteered for a community centre aimed at elderly people in downtown Montreal. I would deliver hot meals to isolated people.
Lessons learned: • Major cultural differences between Northern American people and European people in their way of doing in business • I began to learn about the institutions in Quebec and Canada, and how they worked (ex. BDC, Export Development Canada etc.) • I also learnt more about bilateral exchange programs between France and Quebec. • I discovered the important role played by community organizations in Quebec.
• In the summer of 1999, I decided to open up new skylines for me, so I arranged a first internship in a developing country. • I hesitated between 2 projects, one in India and one in Guatemala. • I chose to go to Latin America because from the point of view of my family history, I was opening new paths since nobody had ever been to Latin America.
• I was not disappointed by my choice since I got to work on a wonderful project, with wonderful people and in a marvelous coutry. • UPAVIM (Unidas Para Vivir Mejor): • The mission of the organization is to empower the women of the community of La Esperanza – a shanty town in Guatemala City giving them an opportunity to improve their quality of life, for themselves and for their families. • www.upavim.org
At the time I was there, the main programs of UPAVIM included: • A Montessori preschool • A tutoring program for children attending local public primary schools • A dental clinic • A prenatal and postnatal clinic for mothers and their children • A pharmacy and a medical laboratory • A handicraft workshop UPAVIM was funded throught grants and partnerships, and money would also come in from selling the women’s products to export markets.
UPAVIM is a member of the Fair Trade Federation which is an Alternative Trade Organization in the United States promoting fair trade in Canada and the US. www.fairtradefederation.org UPAVIM has sent representatives from Guatemala and the US to many of their conferences over the years.
• My role there was to: • Participate in fundraising activities to finance the projects of the Center • Provide tutoring support for children of the community • Visit the families within the community to identify their needs and define how to better serve them This first experience was decisive for the next steps I took in my career, like getting into development economics.
• Especially, because UPAVIM had been founded and was supported by some of the most inspiring people I have ever known Lessons learned: • Fair Trade markets can help improve the living standard in Southern countries but they are tough markets • Extreme inequalities within the country • Although poor, I noted a lot of happiness and education in many children: social capital is very strong coping strategy from which countries in crisis should learn
• In the summer of 2000, I identified a great project in forest restoration and agritourism in Brazil • At the beginning I was a bit reluctant to go to Brazil but, once again, I was not disappointed with my choice • I really fell in love with Brazil, its people, its cultures, its nature, its rural areas etc. and Portuguese was just really easy to learn for someone who could already speak Spanish
• So, I spent my summer 2000 working on 2 rural development projects in Minas gerais, Brazil. • The first one still exists. It is called Iracambi and has many great projects in place to promote reforestation of former native forest areas, to improve environmental awereness and provide environmental education programs etc. • The second project was to create agritourism options for a fazenda of the same area. I am not sure if the project still exists.
At the time I was there, Iracambi mainly had the following projects going on: • A reforestation project (Mata Altântica) with a tree nursery • An environmental education centre • A research centre Since then, the organization has expanded a lot and you can find out more about their current projects on their website: http://br.iracambi.com/site/
My tasks: • Define development opportunities for agritourism projects on a dairy farm and a fish farm in the State of Minas Gerais • Assess the impacts of the projects on local communities • Develop financial backing to implement the projects
Lessons learned: • Impacts of agriculture on native forests • Conflicting interests around natural resources and various land use options • Difficulty to restore degraded forest areas • Traditional role of « fazendeiros » (major agricultural landlords) in rural Brazil (paternalism) • Water pollution issues linked to agricultural and aquaculture activities • Richness of Minas Gerais cultural heritage: Fazendas, colonial cities, literature (Joao Guimaraes Rosa) etc. • Brazil is much more than just Carnival, soccer and beaches!
• During the summer 2001, I was hired as an intern by a research centre named CIRAD • I was in charge of the systematization of a successful cluster of organic producers in Southern Brazil. • The cluster was organized around a cooperative of organic producers named AGRECO, which still exists today and has expanded • http://www.agreco.com.br/site.html • This internship was also a very enriching experience
• The Agreco is a cooperative of organic producers located in a mountainous area in the state of Santa Catarina in Southern Brazil. • It is organized around a network of micro-agro-industries that each produce different products, but get together to join their marketing efforts. That makes the products of small producers profitable even outside of the state of Santa Catarina. • As a part of their marketing strategy, they created an agritourism cooperative that helps then attracts tourists and promote their products.
My tasks: • Conduct research on an innovative local production system based on organic farming (interview the main stakeholders, researchers, specialists of the region’s history etc.; gather statistical data from various sources including the IBGE; gather relevant books, documents and articles) • Organize participatory workshops with the farmers • Examine the institutional backing required for this type of project to operate in a sustainable perspective • Assess the potential opportunities offered by export markets for Brazilian organic products • Identify precise niche markets that may offer opportunities for small farmers, and referencing the key players in these markets
Lessons learned: • Selling cooperatives are key to making small producers’ products profitable on the markets. They can only work if a strong culture of cooperation is promoted among the local producers • Small producers need to rely on differentiation strategies • Promoting sustainable agricultural production can help improve local socioeconomic development while preserving the environment • Marketing strategies are key to letting consumers know about the differential of the products so that they are ready to pay a premium to get them • Several markets can be targeted: city consumers who want to live on a healthier diet, institutional markets (schools), etc.
• From 2003 to 2004, I worked for a year for the Trade and Environment Program of the WWF in Brazil. • I was hired to support a permanent Senior officer of the organization for a year in his work to transfer the new program to Brazil • How did I get there? • About two month before finishing my 2nd Master’s I launched a huge emailing campaign through the internet. I sent hundreds of CVs with the idea of arranging a job for me in Brazil. I eventually got about 5 offers, including 3 in Brazil and 1 in Laos. • I chose the WWF because « the Panda » was sort of a mythical organization for me
• The main project I was involved with was aimed at tackling the social and environmental impacts of soybean and cattle expansion in the Amazon region • Several organizations and partners were working at building up the Roundtable on Responsible Soy that still exists today. http://www.responsiblesoy.org/ • Today it is complemented in Brazil by a working group on sustainable livestock. http://www.pecuariasustentavel.o rg.br/
My tasks: • Monitor the trade negotiations at the WTO and between Mercosur and the European Union • Participate in government information sessions on Brazil’s trade and agricultural policies (Ministry of Environment, Itamaraty etc.) • Organize multi-stakeholder workshops to engage in discussions and find creative solutions to increase the sustainability of the agricultural sector in Brazil (particularly in the Amazon region) • Identify the main commercial and financial policies of Brazil (and other Mercosur countries), assess their effects in terms of sustainability and formulate proposals to improve them
Lessons learned: • Once again, the existence of conflicting interests around natural resources and various land use options • Importance of promoting dialogue and implementing multistakeholder initiatives • Had the chance to travel and get to know various Brazilian ecosystems and the various environmental issues that they were facing • The extreme carefulness with which any public announcement would be made or the famous Panda logo would be used
• During my time in Brasilia, I also got very actively involved with the Society of Saint Vincent of Paul. A Catholic organization aimed at helping poor people. • We would meet every Friday night and would go on Saturdays to distribute food and visit families in communities located in shanty towns around the city.
Lessons learned: • Importance of the Catholic Church as a social actor in Brazil • Severe land use issues around the major cities also (not only in the country side) • Food security issues were still important for lowincome families at that time • Many other social issues were also prevalent such as teen pregnancies or single mothers raising many children alone
From 2004 until 2008 I worked in Montreal, Canada as a consultant on issues related to environmental economics and policies, resource management, agricultural policies and markets, international development and gender.
I also got involved on many committees as a volunteer: • 2009-2011 Member of the Steering Committee of the Agricultural Caucus of the Canadian Environmental Network • 2007-2011 Research Associate to the Institute of Research in Feminist Studies (IREF) of the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) • 2006-2011 Member of the Women and Development Committee of the Quebec Association of Organizations in International Cooperation (AQOCI) • 2007-2010 Member of the Board of Directors of FEM-International • 2005-2008 Member of the Women and Trade Committee of the Quebec Women’s Federation (FFQ)
Lessons learned: • Conflicting issues around natural resources also occur in Canada, especially around First Nations lands, but not only • Importance of agricultural Federations in Quebec • High interest in environmental and international development issues, generally • The promotion of gender equality was rather high on the agenda in Quebec
• In 2006, I got married to a Canadian man who had originally imigrated from Lebanon. • I took a break in 2007 on the occasion of the birth of our son
• From 2008 until 2010, I worked for a Montrealbased Canadian NGO in Oruro and La Paz, Bolivia. • I worked on inclusive business projects mainly with rural Aboriginal women
My tasks: • Travel to rural Aboriginal communities and identify their leaders • Engage with Aboriginal women’s groups in order to identify their needs, as well as their strengths and weaknesses as producers • Facilitate workshops and training sessions to teach the women how to write business plans, funding proposals etc. • Assist the women in the development of basic skills by helping them to open their first bank accounts, organizing workshops in accounting, computer literacy or good food management practices etc. • Conduct market studies in order to identify potential niche markets for the women’s products as well as their requirements
Challenges faced: • Assigned to a partner organization with severe governance problems • High levels of analphabetism among Aboriginal women • Lack of resources in the communities and remoteness
Lessons learned: • Importance of letting local authorities know that you are going to be working with some women of their community • Finding innovative ways to transmit knowledge to women who can hardly read or write • Finding appropriate ways to approach women that are extremely shy at the beginning • Women are very motivated to improve the situation for themselves and their families • Cultural differences have to be taken into account • Export markets are not always an option
I returned to Montreal, Canada and worked as a consultant once again, including on some CSR projects aimed at supporting Canadian entrepreneurs willing to invest in developing countries. Many funders nowadays require that investors follow a series of social and environmental criteria, and that relations with local communities be managed in an appropriate way (ex. IFC Standards). That requires to have a long term strategy in place associated to relevant action plans and the necessary monitoring and evaluation tools.
At the same time, I continued to be involved with some organizations as a volunteer. • 2010-2012 Member of the Steering Committee of the International Program of the Canadian Environmental Network (RCEN) • 2010-1011 Member of the National Council and of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Environmental Network (RCEN) • 2010-2011 Member of the Board of Directors of the Quebec Association for Impact Studies (AQEI)
• From 2012 until 2013 (with a break for Christmas), I went on a business trip of several months to Brazil. • I went to Brasilia (DF), Belém (PA), Belo Horizonte (MG), Ribeirao Preto (SP) and Rio de Janeiro (RJ). • Main lesson learned: Brazil has changed a lot over the past decade taking millions out of poverty => expanding middle class
Finally, in 2013, I arrived in Vancouver, Canada for the first time in my life, and here I am! Thank you! E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Many pictures in this presentation are mine, but others are not. Here come the references of the pictures that are not mine: Slide 4 : Asian musicians: http://www.celebratevancouver125.ca/2011/06/summer-live-artists/ Alain Daniélou, famous ethnomusicologist: http://www.find.org.in/into-the-labyrinth/ourorigins/alain-danielou/ Slide 5: Université de Versailles-Saint-Quentin: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/1360335 Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris : http://www.fplusd.org/schule-und-studium/studieren-impartnerland/sciences-po-die-schule-von-der-die-jungen-franzosen-traeumen/ Slide 6 : Irish Cross: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/ireland Herd of sheep: http://www.exploringireland.net/discover-ireland-2/ Greetings from Ireland: http://english4fun.altervista.org/3ireland/?doing_wp_cron=1391536814.8399651050567626953125 Neuschwanstein Castle in Bayern, Germany: http://www.schloesser.bayern.de/englisch/palace/objects/neuschw.htm Munich: http://vimeo.com/58832279
Slide 7: Montreal, QC, Canada (picture 1): http://www.isihconference.com/2013-montreal/ Montreal (picture 2): http://adriannatravels.blogspot.ca/2013/01/o-canada-quebec.html Slide 9: Export Development Canada: www.edc.ca Business Development Bank of Canada: www.bdc.ca Association France-Québec: www.quebecfrance.qc.ca Slide 10: Handicrafts Market of Guatemala City : http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2010.05.12.120416_Mercado_artesan%C3%ADas_Guatemala_City.jpg Entry stairs of the Biotopo del Quetzal: http://www.guate360.com/galeria/cat-biotopo-del-quetzal-259.htm Salama, Guatemala: http://mgmttravels.blogspot.ca/2009/10/salama-guatemala_10.html Quetzal bird: http://www.revuemag.com/2012/09/the-symbol-of-liberty/ Slides 11,12 and 14: Pictures from the website of UPAVIM: www.upavim.org Slide 13: Handicrafts from UPAVIM: www.upavim.org Logo of the Fair Trade Federation: http://www.fairtradefederation.org/ Handicrafts from UPAVIM: http://www.thengolist.com/upavim-guatemala.html
Slide 15: Guatemala City at night: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guatemala Logo of UPAVIM: www.upavim.org Slide 17: Iracambi (picture from their website): http://en.iracambi.com/ Entry gate to Iracambi: http://www.goabroad.com/providers/amigos-de-iracambi/programs/iracambi-atlanticrainforest-research-center-15105 Slide 18: Iracambi’s former logo Slide 21: Agreco’s logo: http://www.agreco.com.br/site.html Picture from Agreco’s website: http://www.agreco.com.br/site.html CIRAD’s logo: www.cirad.fr Slide 22: Picture from Agreco’s website: http://www.agreco.com.br/site.html Slide 23: Picture of the Encostas da Serra Geral: http://www.santarosadelima.sc.gov.br/turismo/item/detalhe/11608 Picture of the Church of Santa Rosa de Lima, SC: http://www.panoramio.com/user/4769416/tags/Ingazeira
Slide 24: River of Santa Rosa de Lima: http://ricardoribas.photoshelter.com/image/I0000fFRQauybwFo Main street of Santa Rosa de Lima: http://br.distanciacidades.com/distancia-de-seara-a-santa-rosa-de-lima-santacatarina Slide 25: Picture of the Pantanal (picture 3): http://pantanal-lodge.blogspot.ca/ Slide 27: Soybean: http://www.agricultura.gov.br/vegetal/culturas/soja Roundtable on Responsible Soy: http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/agriculture/soy/responsiblesoy/soy_roundtable/ Slide 31: Montreal, Qc, Canada: http://users.encs.concordia.ca/~sera2010/Montreal.html Olympic Stadium of Montreal: http://www.montreal-travelguide.com/hochelaga-maisonneuve/Montreal-TowerOlympic-Park/ Slide 32: Logo of the AQOCI: www.aqoci.qc.ca Logo of FEM-International: www.feminternational.org Logo of the Quebec Women’s Federation: www.ffq.qc.ca Slide 40: Logo of the RCEN: http://rcen.ca/home Logo of the AQEI: http://www.aqei.qc.ca/
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