Thursday, July 21st, 2016
As soon as I heard about Design, Partnering Management and Innovation (DPMI), I knew I would apply. There was really no convincing necessary, except that I was pretty committed to joining the Washington, DC Cohort and completing the full three-week program. This was admittedly for the selfish reason of recharging on the east coast—since I’m a New Jersey native, but also to experience DC in a way that I had never experienced it before.
Being a participant in this professional certificate program in International Development and Social Change was an indelible experience. The location was perfect with parks, restaurants, metro stops and monuments nearby. The weather was beautiful and just as humid as I had expected it to be. The cohort was rich with perspective, experience, energy and creativity. The room was filled with current MIIS students, recent Middlebury graduates, Davis Scholars and practitioners from Columbia, St. Lucia, Jamaica, Haiti, Nigeria, Uganda, Liberia, Pakistan and Nepal.
After having participated in the Sprintensive pilot program, which allowed students to take courses in a block schedule over three weeks, taking these one week modules felt like muscle memory. It’s almost like I’m conditioned to work in small teams and shuffle my groups around frequently. I’m never surprised to play a new role, whether it be moderator, facilitator, analyst or visionary. I’m also less and less frustrated by the iterative nature of design work. Our modules in program design, partnership and innovation and then finally facilitation of participatory development were thoughtfully woven—from the tools we learned and utilized to the exercises and simulations we engaged in.
There were small group and large group activities throughout our engagement every day. We completed tasks and evaluated the work done by others. Timed ideation exercises in design thinking resulted in the generation of hundreds of ideas! During Week One my team designed a program that focused on malnutrition in Indonesia. During Week Two we engaged in a simulation in which my team represented IRC and we partnered with IREX and PATH to address challenges female refugees in Turkey face in accessing maternal health care. During Week Three my team developed a social marketing campaign to address primary-school aged children in Haiti reaching education milestones in both French and Haitian Creole.
My time outside the Middlebury Offices was also well spent. There were opportunities to visit such places as the World Bank and ACDI VOCA; I attended a site visit at Search for Common Ground—which happened to be one of the organizations that some cohort members represented in our week two simulations. We had the opportunity to sit with their African Program Development Associate, Africa Team Intern and the Director of Monitoring & Evaluation. I also attended a couple of different social events with the cohort, DPMI Alumni and MIIS students interning and working in DC this summer. DPMI alumni highlighted how their learning still continues to intersect with the work they are currently doing in International Development.
In the end I fully enjoyed my experience. The days were long, we hit some walls, we failed forward and we will be more competent practitioners for it.
Author: Daniele Elizaire, MPA Candidate 2017