Student Opinion

Why do a Master’s in international development?

Published on 19 January 2023

Andrew Adwera MA Society, Science and Development, 2008

Andrew Adwera was part of MA Society, Science and Development and graduated in 2008. He has set up his own social enterprise which seeks to empower young people in Kenya, and is currently working on influencing policy around energy and renewable energy sources.

Before I came to study at IDS I was working as a Research Assistant at the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), an international environmental think tank on a programme that provided training to mid- and high-level policy makers on understanding policy analysis. At this time, I also got to meet and work with IDS fellows on a project funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), which sought to address food security in East Africa.

Addressing knowledge gaps

My involvement in this project made me realise that although I had a great deal of local knowledge – there were gaps in my understanding of the issues informing the broader context. I needed a better grounding to help me understand key questions to aid me in the outcomes I was pushing for.

This experience showed me first hand that IDS had a big focus on how to make things happen. The missing part of the puzzle for me was the “doing” part – how to implement the existing practices to have real and lasting impact. The decision to apply to study at IDS was therefore an easy one.

Why study international development?

Today the world is a global village, and we need to understand how knowledge interconnects. The outcomes of development decisions made by leaders in Addis Ababa or in London or Washington DC affect us all. That’s why it’s important to have an international perspective to help formulate the decisions, strategies and policies that govern interventions.

Career progression

IDS enhanced my career progression by helping me gain more clarity in my vision statement and purpose, while at the same time giving me the grounding I needed to be able to make critical arguments and reviews of development narratives. I now have a good understanding of why certain narratives are dominant and how best to keep pushing for different pathways to development. I came to learn that there is diversity of knowledge and it all matters.

After my studies at IDS I went back to ACTS for a couple of years, then got into independent development consultancy work, where I was able to apply the knowledge and experience I had gained to work with international and national agencies. I also spent a few years tutoring undergraduate students on climate change and development.

After a while I was able to apply my passion for impact by founding a youth initiative called Kiota. It aims to build a participatory voice amongst talented young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. I have also worked with other charitable groups that use participation, with the aim of financially empowering the less advantaged in the society. Under the Kiota platform I am currently raising the funds to secure 20 sewing machines to support the livelihoods of women being supported by the World Dominion International Ministry in Kenya.

I am now working at the Electricity Sector Association of Kenya (ESAK) as a Research Associate, where I lead on the analysis and review of new policies, regulations and sector plans.

Learning at IDS

The most important thing I learnt at IDS is that impact is at the centre of everything. Process is important, and there is no one-size-fits-all way to fix challenges. Theories are great but what is more important is finding out how to put this into practice to better lives, improve health systems, improve governance, improve planning processes etc. Participation is therefore pivotal to the studies at IDS.

IDS opened my eyes to better understand how the world operates. It changed my thinking about popular and existing approaches that have dominated growth and development. Above all it taught me to be persistent, as real change takes time and patience. IDS gave me the purpose and uncommon tools to engage in any conversation. It built me all round.

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The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IDS.


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