Empowered for Global Impact by Rotary: My International and Diverse Summer Internship Experiences by Jibikeoluwa Faborode
It seems like it was only yesterday that I went through the 5-month rollercoaster of emotions associated with applying for a chance to be selected as one of 10 Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Fellows. A time when I had to deeply reflect upon my career aspirations, and craft application essays in hope that I would adequately showcase my strengths and potential throughout the various selection stages. It feels surreal to have already spent a whole year as a Rotary Peace Fellow and Master of International Development Policy candidate at Duke University. I have and continue to enjoy the gift of family, dedicated support, and motivation to be my best self – a global peacebuilder on a mission to help build a more stable, prosperous, and equitable world!
This summer, I got a chance to test-run all I have learnt in the classroom. My Applied Field Experience (AFE) was carefully structured to explore multiple areas of interest, develop critical professional networks, and establish a roadmap to plug in my expertise towards helping to deliver solutions to some of the world’s most complex issues. This included three unique experiences of working with outstanding organizations to gain exposure across various continents – all facilitated and sponsored by Rotary International and the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center.
I served as a part-time Research Associate with Fund For Peace (FFP). FFP is a US-based NGO that focuses on data-driven strategies to categorize state fragility and resilience, establish early warning mechanisms for conflict prevention, address insecurity and champion responsible business practices on human rights. Although my role had a cross-cutting function across all FFP’s portfolio and business needs, during my period of attachment ensured that I contributed to work around fragility the most. I supported the development and launching of the 2022 Fragile States Index (FSI) Report, specifically contributing to the validation of global data analysis and development of country-level analytical insights. The FSI is an annually published policy-making tool which uses an established methodology to measure and consolidate countries performance across various social, political, and economic parameters for each of the 12 indicators of fragility. The validation exercise that I supported involved conducting desk-based research and an internal consultative process for data covering countries identified as the most worsened or most improved in fragility. It was a most-rewarding experience to support FSI’s work that helps policy makers and organizations to follow the trend of vulnerabilities and risks within and across 178 countries, thereby enabling evidence-based interventions and lessons for building resilience globally. My article titled “Rising Stakes of Fragility in West Africa’s Sahel and Lake Chad Basin Regions” was published in the 2022 FSI Report covering the year 2021.
As a Duke Global Policy Program Fellow in Geneva, I participated in the intensive one-week “Humanitarian Action” course track. This experience enabled me to improve my knowledge of the principles of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights (IHR), while interacting with a broad range of experts from various organizations across the Geneva Hub. Guest lectures and field visits included the US Mission in Geneva, GAVI, Global Fund, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Commissioner (OHCHR), ICRC and MSF, among others. It was opportune to hear directly from practitioners with a wealth of experience working in some of the world’s toughest humanitarian contexts, learning about their practical applications of the IHL and IRL principles and opportunities for young professionals to contribute to ongoing and future work in the space. Given my previous work which focused on rebuilding conflict-affected communities and re-integrating displaced people for post-conflict recovery and stabilization, the course equipped me with skills to apply the humanitarian-peacebuilding-development nexus lens to my work.
I also served as a Research Associate at the DevLab, an impact evaluation powerhouse previously housed within Duke and now operating at the University of Pennsylvania. I worked with the Principal Investigator (PI) and associate DevLab Director, Dr Heather Huntington, to assess several impact evaluations focusing on land conflicts. We are working to evaluate the effectiveness of several development interventions in addressing land conflicts, including the gender dimensions of such conflicts. This internship has afforded me the opportunity to work alongside an accomplished researcher to develop analytical skills and co-author two research papers. The ultimate goal is to use study findings and publications to advise policymakers and facilitate knowledge-sharing that influences the design and implementation of future land interventions.
Overall, my AFE attachments have been well-flavored by two significant characteristics. One characteristic is the fact that I have been able to undertake cross-sectoral work to establish myself as well-rounded development professional. On a visit to the Global Vaccine Alliance, GAVI, in Geneva, I learnt how organizations embed fragility data into the design of interventions aimed at reducing zero-dose immunization rates among vulnerable people in fragile, conflict and displacement settings. The FSI index which I am working on was referenced as a tool for GAVI’s work and this enabled me to engage the GAVI team beyond the site visit and expand my professional network. Similarly, I learnt about the relationship between land tenure security and durable solutions for the return and reintegration of displaced people (refugees and Internally Displaced Persons) in post-conflict settings. The second characteristic of my AFE is its contribution towards helping me achieve one of my main objectives for embarking on a graduate school journey – to develop and position myself as a thought leader in my field. The various publications attached to my AFE placements are testimonials of progress in this area.
In conclusion, I cannot overstate how my experience as a Rotary Peace Fellow has transformed my life and leap-frogged my potential as an international development professional. I sincerely thank the Rotary International, Susan Carroll (Director, Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center, my Rotary host family (Elisabeth and John Weiner) and my Rotary sponsors (Jim and Jan Heinrich). I can’t wait to unlock the experiences of my second year at Duke, a future of service to humanity and the global impact that awaits.