A year ago I wrote a blog about how proud I was to work for INTRAC as started my 10th year with the organization. Now I’m writing my parting words as I depart INTRAC at the end of May 2021. It’s a pretty emotional time as I work through my final To Do list in my last week with this amazing and dynamic organization. I came to INTRAC from the academic sector, bringing my academic experience into practice; I am now heading back to academe, and will be taking a much larger wealth of knowledge from practice back into that sphere.
The last couple of weeks have been enjoyable. I’ve been sifting through 10 years of my work – and the 20 years of INTRAC research that came before me – as I write up my handover notes and attempt to help INTRAC made decisions about what it needs in the research, learning and communications space going forward. My inner archivist is having a wonderful time, as I relive the richness of the work I’ve had the privilege to be involved in.
Shortly after joining INTRAC in 2011 I headed off to The Netherlands for our last major M&E conference. Ten years later, I’m proud to have played my part in ensuring that the wealth of wisdom and knowledge on M&E that sits at the heart of the INTRAC approach is openly available throughout the world via the M&E Universe.
In 2011, INTRAC was just getting into the Civil Society at a Crossroads project, which was then the focus of our 20th Anniversary conference in Oxford in November 2011 (the big 30th is just around the corner). That led to a significant portfolio of initiatives around civil society sustainability, civil society in emerging economies, the changing role of philanthropic funding for civil society, responsible partnership and exit planning, topics that have kept me very busy over the years.
And that’s just two of the many areas of research I’ve been involved in over the last decade. We’ve also explored accountability, governance, partnership, aid effectiveness and tackling power imbalances in the aid system. We’ve tried out new approaches to data collection and analysis, and to research collaboration and learning. We’ve worked with a wealth of local researchers, consultants and activists, building strong connections with civil society funders who share the INTRAC vision.
Of course, there are many things I haven’t managed to do – the pile of (what I think were) great research and capacity strengthening ideas developed with partners in different countries for which we never secured funding, the books and papers that remain unwritten due to a lack of time and resources, the major changes to civil society policy that we couldn’t bring about for lack of influence.
I am leaving INTRAC at a time when the aid system is under fire. Some of this is necessary in my view, forcing actors in the sector to take a long, hard look at their practices. I welcome the critical debates around decolonization, shifting power and localization which are long overdue. At the same time, it is hard to watch charities struggle under the weight of politically-driven funding cuts, compounding the pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. INTRAC has not been immune, facing budget cuts or delays to programmes and learning initiatives.
As I re-read my blog from last year, I realise just how much of it still resonates strongly. Under new leadership in an uncertain world, INTRAC is currently reviewing its values, theory of change and goals, how it addresses diversity, equity and inclusion, and how it communicates and learns. What’s inspiring is that these reflections are being driven by an enthusiastic, largely new cohort of ‘INTRACers’. As I head off to join the big family of ex-TRACers who never quite manage to leave entirely, I wish all INTRAC colleagues and friends the very best for the future.