Many people have told us that if you want to work in international development, it’s very useful to spend time working in a developing country (e.g. see our interview with Owen Barder), and living abroad is probably useful for exploration value too. It’s also very useful to get project management experience early on in this space, because it opens up jobs in non-profits and foundations. But management positions in the developing world are rare early in your career.
This made me interested to hear about 2Seeds, which gives graduates the opportunity to volunteer as a project manager in rural Tanazania for a year.
I met the co-founder of 2Seeds, Sam Bonsey, at a conference, and then followed up by doing the following interview with their Outreach Manager, Abby Love. Based on what I’ve seen, it looks well worth considering as an early career step, especially if you’re interested in working within international development.
Read on to see the full interview, which was conducted by email.
What is 2Seeds Network, and why does it exist?
2Seeds Network is a nonprofit that incubates community-based projects to turn income-generating activities into thriving businesses in Tanzania. Each year, we recruit and train 16-24 individuals to partner with Tanzanian communities to lead these projects, which utilize activities such as poultry-raising and food production and sales to generate income and build business acumen.
What is the Project Coordinator position?
2Seeds recruits and trains resilient, passionate individuals to live in rural Tanzania for one year as volunteer Project Coordinators. Project Coordinators partner with local Tanzanians to lead projects targeted at improving efficiency along the agricultural value chain. Typical activities include coordinating and conducting training, working with individuals on business skills, participating in day-to-day agricultural tasks, and establishing deep, trusting relationships with community members. Through this invaluable professional and personal experience, Project Coordinators are pushed to develop skills such as project and people management, effective communication and high-stakes decision-making, all while learning a new language. Before departing for Tanzania, Project Coordinators go through an intensive 3-month Pre-Departure Program that teaches language, inter-cultural communication, and other skills to prepare them to effectively lead their projects. In addition, Project Coordinators must raise $8,000 for village-based projects and $15,000 for specialized projects to cover their living expenses and project investment costs. 2Seeds coaches and supports Project Coordinators in their fundraising campaigns.
What does a typical day look like for a Project Coordinator?
No two days look the same for 2Seeds’ Project Coordinators! They are fully immersed in their Tanzanian communities, where work and life are very closely tied together. Day-to-day tasks vary widely depending on the project, its stage of development, and the time of year. For example, some days are spent visiting and working on 2Seeds Partners’ farms, while others require strategic planning sessions for the project. PCs are responsible for structuring their own time and ensuring they are making progress on completing tasks and achieving goals.
How do people benefit from being a Project Coordinator?
2Seeds is an extremely powerful, accelerated leadership experience for its Project Coordinators. Project Coordinators, alongside their Tanzanian Partners, are the visionaries, decision makers, and executors of their projects. Project Coordinators develop skills they will undoubtedly use in the next phase of their career such as project and time management, effective communication, decision-making, and resilience.
How does 2Seeds and the Project Coordinator position compare to other similar opportunities?
2Seeds sets itself apart in a few key ways. Primarily, we practice a people-centered approach to development that focuses on increasing the quality of life of our partners. We don’t just deliver goods or bring in experts, but rather work with communities to build trust, develop business acumen, and lay the groundwork for resilience and creative problem solving. In addition, our Project Coordinators gain international project management experience early in their careers.
We are committed to the personal and professional development of our Project Coordinators, and therefore provide the support and training needed for them to flourish as effective managers and leaders. Finally, Project Coordinators are matched with a mentor, an accomplished professional who provides additional personal and professional support throughout the year. Many alumni, board members, and other stakeholders comprise our network and are highly invested in the organization and committed to the success of our Project Coordinators.
Is it a good way to start a career in international development?
Becoming a Project Coordinator is the perfect way to start a career in international development! The experience gives individuals a crash course in international development fieldwork. A third of our alumni enter a career in international development: some are in field placements throughout the world, while others have returned to their home country and are working for nonprofits, research institutions, or development consultancies. A year of practical, hands-on experience in the field gives PCs an understanding of development work, and develops people and project skills that can be applied in any job.
Besides international development, what kind of careers are Project Coordinator alumni pursuing?
The rest of our alumni pursue a wide variety of careers including but not limited to: management consulting, environmental services, nonprofit management, urban planning, and education. We have had alumni move from 2Seeds to Technoserve, One Acre Fund, World Resources Institute, Bain & Company, Dalberg Global Development Advisors, and top-level graduate programs. In addition, all of 2Seeds’ staff members were previously Project Coordinators.
What skills or qualities do individuals need in order to succeed as Project Coordinators?
2Seeds recruits individuals with the drive and passion to improve food and income security, integrity and the ability to lead humbly, and values that align with 2Seeds’. While different skill sets and characteristics will be more relevant for different project stages and types of placements, all Project Coordinators must possess:
- Demonstrated leadership capabilities.
- Humility. We seek mature, humbly confident leaders that are flexible and good-humored.
- Passion for our work.
- Compassion, curiosity, and openness to unfamiliar cultures.
- An orientation towards perseverance, task execution, and results.
- Self-awareness. We seek individuals who understand their strengths and weaknesses, and strive to better themselves and the lives of those they encounter.
We do not seek candidates with particular hard skills, but rather assess candidates on the above qualities. All Project Coordinators must have a Bachelor’s degree (completed or on-track to complete before traveling to Tanzania.) Basic knowledge or experience with Swahili, agriculture, finance or economic development is a plus, but not required.
What are the major filters that would mean this is not for you?
Project Coordinators are individuals who:
- Can live without running water, electricity or consistent internet access.
- Don’t have health issues that require seeing a doctor regularly.
- Are willing to raise $8000-$15000 for the year.
- Enjoy building relationships and engaging in unfamiliar cultures!
If this doesn’t sound like you, this program might not be the right fit. If you’d like to speak to an alumnus Project Coordinator to determine if the program is right for you, contact us at [email protected]!
Describe the typical CV of a Project Coordinator.
Project Coordinators come from a variety of backgrounds and from multiple countries. Most PCs are early in their careers (1-5 years), and join 2Seeds to either (a) launch their career or (b) take a gap year to change their career path. A few mid-career professionals have joined our team in order to utilize their management and consulting skills to propel our projects forward. We have had individuals leave careers in IT strategy, management consulting, community outreach and development, and social work to join 2Seeds. While Project Coordinators have a range of specialties and skillsets, all Project Coordinators we select have demonstrated leadership and organization skills, are able to execute on their ideas, and have values that align with 2Seeds’.
What is the application process?
Applications for the August 2015-July 2016 Project Coordinator are available at www.2seeds.org/involved and due March 1, 2015. Priority review will be given to applications received by December 15, 2014. An extensive interview process will follow.