Seven years ago I started WhyDev in a cafe in Mae Sot on the border of Thailand and Myanmar. Back then, it was called “The Why of Development”. I quickly set about harassing my postgraduate peers to join me in building a blog to challenge the status quo of development and humanitarian work. I was thankfully joined permanently by Weh Yeoh as we attempted to undermine, problematise and figure out how to “make a difference”.
I was clueless (still am). It was never a full-time enterprise, and always a part-time voluntary gig for myself and colleagues. I learnt web development, communications (this can be debated) and online networking through trial and error. We’ve published almost 800 blog posts, piloted an online peer coaching program for aid workers, published an ebook, created a mentoring program with Monash University and are piloting a Fellowship with SHE Investments in Cambodia. Not bad for a blog.
However, WhyDev is not fulfilling its true potential if it is not being led with full capacity. I’m stepping back from managing WhyDev, and have recruited a replacement who I have the pleasure of introducing. I’ll join the Board and continue supporting the team as WhyDev continues to go from strength to strength. A big thank you to all the friends, volunteers and peers that made this journey incredible: Ellie, Rachel, Stu, Allison, Jessica, Jennifer, Zoe, Clemency, Daniel, Holly, Megan, Sonja, Carly and many others!
Without further ado, I am thrilled to introduce you to Maria Bartram.
Hi! My name is Maria and I’d like to tell you a little bit about myself. I am WhyDev’s new Managing Director and thrilled to be taking on this new role during these exciting times for the organisation.
How did this role find you?
After some soul-searching, I have realised that WhyDev shares the same belief as me, which is to get development right. I would like to say that I got into this position by being an advocate for social change and a human rights activist but my academic background surely helped. I have an honours degree in International Relations and a Master in in International Community Development. I have been striving and working towards this goal since I was a teenager by engaging in community development programs in rural areas in Mexico. My professional background is in higher education and community development with a focus in developing the resilience of vulnerable communities and curriculum development. Through my experiences I have become an experiential learning and education specialist with a focus on volunteer programs, work integrated learning and international education.
What were you doing before?
In my past life, I worked in the “Global South” with international student volunteers by developing engagement strategies and try to mould them into empathetic, humble and educated global citizens. Through participatory research, I observed that most international volunteer programs propagated a “white saviour complex” with unstructured programs that gave volunteers little background information. This would mean that they will step into this new world with preconceptions and apply it to overseas communities that may be feeling entirely different about the implemented projects. After these experiences, to me it is very important to give them a background as to who they are interacting with and their history, culture, and values.
What is your vision for WhyDev?
I still stand for WhyDev being a bona fide non-profit supporting humanitarian and development practitioners around the world. I envision us as an incubator for the next generation of development practitioners by empowering and facilitating worldwide participation of students and fresh out of university professionals. I want WhyDev to be the force that helps shape the future generation of collaborators and motivators for the aid and developmental sectors. This can be achieved by facilitating the learning of critical skills through valuable hands-on projects with a creative approach to development. And of course, by doing what we do best, by continuing to build a global community practice.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me on opportunities to partner, build practice excellence or just chat development at email@example.com
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