2021 My Year at Ripple Effect – By Doug Statt

A 12-month International Development Internship funded by Jersey Overseas Aid

What was your role?

I was hired by Jersey Overseas Aid (JOA), one of the international donors that fund Ripple Effect’s programmes, to work as an intern in different teams in its UK office, and in its programmes in east Africa. The programme is only open to Jersey residents, and my family lives in Jersey so… I was in with a chance!

The plan was to work for JOA for two months at the start, learning how donors operate and how they evaluate programmes, followed by four or five months at Ripple Effect’s UK office at Newton St Loe, outside Bath, gaining experience of how all the fundraising support and programme development teams work, and then spend the rest of my year working in one of the Africa country programmes.

The pandemic put paid to international travel plans – unless you count a couple of work trips to Wales for a conference and the Isle of Man to set up an exhibition (which I’m afraid I don’t quite - sorry Welsh Richard!). But all was not lost. I had a great year – better than most during lockdowns – and got a lot of experience. It’s surprising how connected you can feel with co-staffers in east Africa via Teams meetings.

Doug at the BCVA conference in Wales

What made you want to work here?

Before this I was working for a UK charity and I wanted to get some experience with an international organisation. I’ve previously worked with refugees in Greece and France, and as a teacher in China, so I knew that I wanted to learn more about different types of work within the sector. The role really came out of nowhere and merged everything I was interested in.

What’s it like working at Ripple Effect?

The biggest stand-out for me is how social and supportive the organisation is. People go above and beyond to help you out, even if they’re not directly involved in the project you’re working on. And no-one ever told me a question was too stupid. I realise that was really important experience to acquire – working collaboratively, finding the information, getting the understanding to get a task done.

The office genuinely has a cooperative environment which I really appreciated. You can really tell the buy-in that staff have with the work that the organisation does, which has a huge role in making it a truly enjoyable place to work.

What was a typical working day like?

I moved to Bath after my first two months with JOA. I was really lucky in that I was counted as a member of the “core office team” throughout my time at Ripple Effect, meaning that I had access to the office throughout the various restrictions of pandemic working. In a normal week I worked in the office three or four days a week, a split that suited me perfectly. I much prefer working with other people rather than alone.

My in-office working days would start with a 20-minute cycle to the office which is in an amazing barn conversion in a village overlooking incredible parkland. Lunchtime walks (socially distanced!) around the lakes or the village were always great.

Ripple Effect's UK office in Newton St Loe

There’s a shower in the office (very handy for after-cycle clean-up), then I’d make some breakfast in the communal kitchen and be ready to start around 9.

Mornings would begin with a social check in with the team I was working with that week, before following up on projects I was working with African colleagues and getting through a bit of admin. During my first few months I was having one-to-one chats with people across the organisation, learning about their roles and how I might be able to work with their team. There might be organisation-wide meetings providing updates from different teams or about specific projects. Then I would be getting stuck into my work, maybe reading midterm reports for funders from projects in each of the countries, doing some research for funding bids or for different media posts.

Wet lunchtimes were a game of table tennis in one of the meeting rooms with whichever team was in the office that day. Afternoons were usually spent focussed on my direct work for one team, with meetings to discuss how a project was doing, or what needed to be done next. And then a downhill cycle back home along the river.

What are you proudest of?

I’m probably most proud of my work on a funding bid with the Programme Funding team. It was an eye-opening experience, combining information about a country, previous and current projects and showing the huge positive impact the new project would have. It also meant I got to work with staff in both Burundi and America and could combine their specifics with knowledge I had from other teams in the organisation. It was a collaborative effort with lots of people happy to offer advice when needed. And our bid was successful!

What would you have changed?

Not getting to work in the country projects in Africa was a blow: I would have loved to have some first-hand experience of the projects in action. Working via Teams made up for some of that, and I did get to work more with the staff in the UK. But… next time.

Any other highlights?

Loads! Being able to get to know the people in each team, going out to the pub when that became possible again, sheep herding on a team development away-day, and representing Ripple Effect in a town called after me (Douglas, Isle of Man!). The list goes on…

Any advice for people hoping to work at Ripple Effect?

  1. Give it a go! Even if you don’t think you completely have enough experience, passion and interest go a long way.
  2. Make the most of walking around the lakes during lunch breaks.
  3. They don’t “send cows” any more. I know, me too.

What’s next?

I’m off to an organisation that works with refugees in Northern Greece, and then we’ll see!