60 seconds with…Laura Hopkins

Our ‘60 Seconds with…’ blogs are designed to provide a quick run down of what our staff do here at Itad. Here is what Laura had to say…

What’s your job here at Itad?

I am a consultant in the Organisational Effectiveness theme. There are four of us on the team, and we work really closely together on all sorts of interesting things.

What does that involve?

There are two main sides to the role:

  • the project work, which revolves around evaluating or supporting (or both!) institutional learning for organisations across different sectors
  • the internal role I play within Itad; following (and supporting) the development of the company, sharing knowledge with others, and providing baked goods.

How did you get into the field?

I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Bath, where students are encouraged to spend a year ‘in industry’ before heading into their final year. I had always wanted to work in international development – although I had little idea what that meant at the time, of course – and the Economics department had a few links with development consultancies. I was lucky enough to secure a placement year with one of them.

After graduating, they re-hired me to head out to Afghanistan as project manager on a portfolio of economic reform projects. It was a bit of a dive into the deep end of the sector!

Two years there, and I went back to study for a masters in the economics of public policy – in the glorious, sun-soaked city of Barcelona.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The people I work with are wonderful – thoughtful, conscientious, and committed. That feels pretty special.

What innovations have you noticed in your sector?

The growth of the evaluation space in the last five years is noticeable. Alongside this, the thinking on what it means to be an evaluator has had to evolve. There’s now much more emphasis on co-creating approaches with a range of stakeholders – a positive development, I would say.

Recent highlight?

We were recently approached to carry out a portfolio evaluation by a new client team within an existing client organisation – it’s nice to see our work had been internally recommended, and always good to begin a project where the client is eager to engage.

Most interesting question you have been asked recently?

At an Itad company business day: What will the role of the development sector be in 10 years’ time?

One thing I’m really conscious of is the contradiction between what we currently understand to be international development and the challenge that climate change presents. We live on a finite planet, so can we keep expanding our consumption of its resources? What challenges does that present in terms of migration patterns or even conflict due to dwindling/changing resources?

We always say the idea is to work ourselves out of a job, but recently I’ve been wondering if that’s true – things will always move on, but it might be a radically different direction to the one we’ve taken so far. There are lots of ways we could think of supporting progressive change, so I don’t think we’ll run out of work any time soon!

Favourite place you have visited as part of your job?

I went to the western region of Ghana a couple of years ago. It was my first time in sub-Saharan Africa and despite all of the beautiful things colleagues had told me about that part of the world, I wasn’t prepared for how much things just seemed to want to grow out from the rich soils – the enormous exotic plants all around just blew my mind.

Laura Hopkins, June 2018