Location: UK, South Africa
Jess advises bilateral donors, philanthropic foundations, NGOs and multi-laterals on how to mainstream adaptive management and innovation practices in their cultures, systems and practices. She believes that the institutions of today need to work differently to tackle the challenges of the future and that we need to transform our institutions to change our society. She has a hunch that learning and adapting are key to that transformation. Jess also advises on managing adaptive portfolios and leads MEL (Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning) in development programmes that are trying to change complex systems such as education, healthcare and governance.
Jess has 13 years of experience in international development, working for UNDP, think tank ODI, and behavioural science organisation Busara Center. She has an MSC from SOAS and MA Hons from University of Edinburgh. She specialises in adaptive management and in democratic governance (civil service reform, administrative reforms, anti-corruption, justice sector reform, elections, public financial management, development effectiveness). She has led and run operations for large research and governance programmes. She has mostly worked in complex contexts such as Myanmar, Somalia and Nigeria.
When Jess started work in Myanmar in 2013, civil servants she worked with said ‘corruption’ was a bad word, and were reluctant to mention it, let alone work on it. In 2017 Jess designed Myanmar’s first nation-wide government run public survey about corruption- the government was asking people what they felt about government corruption, what a turnaround! It was a collaboration between the Central Statistical Office and the Union Civil Service Board (this is big, because of a historic ‘divide and rule’ culture in the government). Jess even got a letter from the President appointing her to the government steering committee for the survey: unfortunately, she spilt tea on it later that day, so it didn’t survive. Jess loves tea.
Questions Jess is exploring in their work right now:
- What would be possible if governments worked in ways more fit for our non-linear world?
- What does a culture of learning and adaptation look and feel like in an international aid agency?
- How do I build the right mindsets, mechanisms, and methods to make adaptive management work in my programme?