Berkeley - "What are you going to do?"

I must admit that I did not expect so many queries and questions to my first post. The two most FAQs were: “What are you going to do? “ and “What did you do to get there?”. Regarding the first question (the second will be dealt with the next post) I have a learning agenda composed of teaching (“the most effective form of learning”), attending selected courses (held by Alain de Janvry, Olivier de Schutter, Miguel Altieri) and working on my own research related to agriculture, nutrition and health.

Prof. Lynn Huntsinger, Chair of the Division of Society and Environment, within the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management (ESPM) who invited me as Visiting Scholar requested me to teach an interactive reading seminar for graduate students based on real-life experience.  Let me share with you the course description and some of the replies I received from the students/participants who have enrolled (18 at the moment). This will give you a sense of their experience and expectations from the course. Do you think I will be able to meet them? I will keep you posted. Ciao

Course Description: ESPM 290 SEM 006 Fa13

Topic: Implementing and assessing internationally funded development projects: theory and application

The interactive reading seminar will meet for 2-hours once per week for six weeks (from 23 September to 28 October). The purpose is to help graduate students bridge the gap between development theory and its application by sharing the challenges that arise from: i) the implementation of projects and programs supported by an international financing institution like IFAD; and ii) the assessment of their impact. Hence, students will be exposed to specific projects supported by IFAD that have been completed and evaluated. Since the mandate of IFAD is to focus on fighting rural poverty, the seminar will cover a range of topics regarding: i) sectoral/sub-sectoral domains such as rural development, natural resource management, and micro-finance; ii) vulnerable social groups such as indigenous people, marginal farmers, women and youth; and iii) key development processes such as targeting, empowerment, participatory planning and monitoring and evaluation. Finally, the seminar will be an opportunity to exchange views on some of the fundamental questions of development and international cooperation (why, how and for whom), its current situation and future perspectives, with reference to the work of different authors like Amartya Sen, Edgar Morin, Dave Snowden and Serge Latouche.


Dear participants, greetings from Rome! 

Let me first thank you for having selected this course.

I have prepared few questions listed below so that I can know a bit more about you before the beginning of the course and, above all, do my best to address as much as possible your interests and expectations.

1.            Your academic experience: what have you studied so far? 

2.            Your work experience: in particular, have you got already any field experience? (you can send me your CV if you want)

3.            Your contribution to the course: Is there anything you have worked, or are working on, that you want to share during the course?

4.            Your plans: what is your next academic target and how this course fits with it?

5.            Your expectations regarding the course: are there any specific topics you would like to be covered?

Finally, let me stress the point that the main purpose of this seminar if to bridge your studies with some real-life experience. Hence, I don’t plan to engage in any formal teaching but I can promise that I will share with you whatever I find thought provoking. I also promise that I will be available for follow-up discussions over coffee if needed. I very much look forward to interacting with you.

Kindest regards

Mattia Prayer Galletti

Senior Evaluation Officer

Independent Office of Evaluation

Tel. +39 06 5459 2294

Skype: mattia.ifad

"I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy."

— Rabindranath Tagore

Here are two replies:

Hello Mattia,

I'll answer your questions in order.

1) What have I studied?     I am a first-year doctoral student in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management here at Berkeley (I'm Lynn Huntsinger's advisee), so have no experience here yet. I am currently enrolled in "Political Ecology" and in "Sociology of Forests and Wildlands," as well as a required seminar for my cohort.  Prior to Berkeley, I have a self-taught M.A. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Social Ecology. My coursework for the program had four foci: climate change; energy security (both global and specific to the U.S., mostly focusing on peak oil); alternative food movements (agroecology, organics, etc.); and green urban design and planning.  My undergraduate work mostly focused on conservation biology. During my undergraduate years I spent six months in Namibia, four in Ecuador, and two in British Columbia working on and studying conservation issues.

2) My work experience is quite varied, and also atypical of a doctoral student. Rather than trying to explain, I'm attaching a CV. Not listed there is a recent temporary field research technician position at Oregon State University setting up research sites for a long-term forestry study.

3) Is there anything you want to share during the course?        My most relevant experience for this course is the two years my wife and I spent in Ethiopia with the Peace Corps. We were working in the environmental sector, living in an illegal village in the middle of Bale Mountains National Park. While our village had fairly minimal direct impact from development projects, we certainly witnessed many other instances of development in various forms around the country. Given how much aid and development money is spent in Ethiopia, it might be helpful to have the viewpoint of someone who saw how it was used and how it worked/didn't work first-hand.

4) What is your next academic goal, and how does this course fit that goal?      I am pursuing a Ph.D. in a field with which I have very little experience. My research goal is to examine how international (mostly) development practices affect the land use and land management practices of nomadic pastoralists. I do not have a geographic region selected yet due to lack of the necessary contacts, but China and/or Mongolia currently seem promising. Following my degree I intend to advocate for better land rights for nomads, and for a more appropriate application of development funds/efforts so as to maintain as high degree of autonomy among those groups as possible. For example, the forced settlement of nomads by governments around the world is a primary concern, as are large-scale development projects (e.g. dams, agricultural land grabs) that result in physical displacement of nomadic groups from traditionally occupied lands.

5) My hope for this course is to gain a better understanding of the process by which development grant applications (i.e. future projects) are evaluated and judged. Why do some projects get funded and not others? What attributes of the prospective project site are considered when evaluating a grant proposal? How are effects to the local population (target and non-target) determined and weighed?  As an advocate for an indigenous group, how would someone fight for or against a development proposal being funded? How can the funding process be improved to better respond to the relevant ethics, ecology, and cultural issues of a particular project area?

Thanks for asking for input, Mattia. I'm very much looking forward to the class.



Hello there! A pleasure to make your acquaintance. My name is Pierce Gordon, a MS/PhD student here at Berkeley in the Energy and Resources Group. I'm glad you asked these questions to find out a bit more about me. So, here goes!

1.            Your academic experience: what have you studied so far? 

I have undergraduate bachelor's degrees in Applied Physics and Aerospace Engineering, through a dual-degree engineering program between Morehouse College and the University of Michigan. I am currently in my second year of my Master's program here at Berkeley, on a track towards a PhD.

2.            Your work experience: in particular, have you got already any field experience? (you can send me your CV if you want)

My CV is attached.

3.            Your contribution to the course: Is there anything you have worked, or are working on, that you want to share during the course?

To be quite honest, my experience in international development is relatively thin. I do have a few I'd like to speak on, however:

The project which lit my fire in international assistance you can see on my CV; it was the HelpNSBEHelpHaiti program. In the spirit of the Haitian 2010 earthquake, a year later I orchestrated a campus-wide fundraising initiative which raised over $2,000 for a working water pump in Croix-Marchaterre, Haiti.

I also became a part of the Human Needs Project in my first year of graduate study, in the hopes that it would turn into breeding ground for dissertation research. I acted as a consultant for a small energy grid for a developing co-op which aimed to serve many of the needs of a large stake of Kenyan residents in Kibera, Nairobi, a well-known slum.

As someone who has built my current experience upon being a critic of inequitable systems, and a trained scholar, I'm here to learn from other's experiences, and can't wait to hear about the other development opportunities that you and the other registered students have experienced.

4.            Your plans: what is your next academic target and how this course fits with it?

My next academic target is the Masters, followed by the PhD.

My research interests include human-centered design practices for tangible technologies for the multidimensionally poor. Many design projects instilled by NGOs, multinational corporations, governmental institutions, Bretton Woods Institutions, and academic breeding grounds currently use interdisciplinary methods like never before. However, many previous forays into the fields by technological designers have created failures which are diverse, yet related. I intend to research the processes through which powerful entities create these technologies, the actors and fields included, and how multiple variables in design contribute to technology success.

I love having the opportunity to hear about current trends, opportunities, and causes for alarm concerning the community from individuals who make a career about the work, and what are important fields of interest to research and become an activist for.

5.            Your expectations regarding the course: are there any specific topics you would like to be covered?

I'd love to learn about:

The place, and relationship between disparate actors in the development community,

the design and implementation of projects, through history, and today (differences, similarities, etc).

personal advice for the development community about what is actually keeping us back from solving many problems,

and the place of certain intervention technologies (ICTs, water cleansing, sanitation, energy, cooking, lighting, health) that are helping communities out of poverty.