How to approach development work as a non-native speaker

Source: UN ISDR

I’m back after a long hiatus. Spent the past months travelling with my work and discovering new things along the way. My new aim is to update the blog atleast once a month, and I’ll be diversifying the range of themes relevant to the blog. Given the nature of my work since December 2015, I have been unable to write foreign policy focused posts. While that remains to be the case even now, I am trying to come up with innovative ways to connect my development work with political analyses. Let’s see how it all pans out! 

But for now, here’s a how-to guide I wrote recently for tools4dev. It’s an excellent website with some great resources for those engaged in development work, specifically project/programme monitoring. 


International assignments and project work are a defining aspect of development / aid work, be it through short-term consultancies or long-term contracts. As a development / aid worker, the chances of finding oneself working in different countries over the span of one’s career, are high.

Among the many dynamic factors that shape an international career, language occupies a unique position of authority. Young professionals and experienced industry experts alike often find themselves immersed in an unfamiliar social and cultural environment, tasked with approaching a survey or project with a staff that is predominantly local. In such environments, language barriers can emerge as a significant challenge while working with diverse teams.

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The Reluctant Democracy

I have thought about writing this for a while now, and for various reasons up until now I have denied myself the opportunity to do so. Perhaps one of the reasons for the apprehension has been the physical distance I have willingly chosen to put between myself and the city I like to call home.

India is a country of many contradictions. It is diverse, it is vast, it is aggressively political, and yes, it is often quite difficult to comprehend. For the first 21 years of my life, I grew up in two cities – New Delhi, and Bangalore. I don’t remember much of the latter owing to the very tiny age at which I left the city and moved to the former. Sometimes, I do fondly remember the Bangalore rains. The gentle sound of raindrops falling in the veranda of my parents’ house still brings back memories of a life that was simple, not easy, but simple. New Delhi, on the other hand, has been the city that has defined me – personally, socially, politically, academically. It continues to do so, through the relationships that I have cultivated in the bustling corners of North Campus, relationships that over the years have survived and transformed in delicate ways.

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The Role of Civil Society in Shaping India’s Development Partnerships

Thrilled to have my master’s dissertation published by E-International Relations! Read it here.

“The emergence of “new” donors such as India and China in recent years has challenged the architecture of international development assistance. The aim of this dissertation is to explore the nature of civil society engagement in the formulation of development partnerships between India and its partners in South Asia and other regions. It argues that civil society participation in international development cooperation serves the ‘ontological security’ needs of the state as well as actors within civil society. It draws attention to theoretical aspects of conceptualizing civil society participation in development cooperation, and then proceeds with an analysis of CSO engagement with the Ministry of External Affairs in India.

Through a systematic qualitative study of the patterns and debates on civil society engagement in development partnerships, this study aims to understand the robustness of the dialogue between civil society and the Government of India over issues of development and foreign aid in the past two decades. It seeks to contribute to existing literature on the subject by examining the meaning and nature of civil society in the context of development, as well as its implications for emerging donors. The thesis establishes the groundwork for future research on the effects of civil society engagement on the formulation and implementation of development agreements in the context of South-South development cooperation.”