Centre for Global Development

Andrea Wilkinson

andrea-wilkinsonMA in International Development

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Leeds studying for an MA in International Development. The teaching staff were extremely interesting and had a wealth of knowledge in all aspects of International Development, but, more than that, they were incredibly supportive and encouraging.

Flexibility and opportunity

I was successful in obtaining one of only three internships run through POLIS at the time and I then spent four months in the Netherlands working for an International Development organisation called EUFORIC (Europe’s Forum on International Cooperation euforic.org) which proved extremely valuable. The POLIS department were flexible enough to allow me to continue my studies for the four months of the internship via a distance learning arrangement and I passed in October 2005 with a Merit and a great deal of practical experience that took me onto my current role.

Working in development

I currently manage a small fairtrade charity called Shared Interest Foundation Shared Interest Foundation, which is the sister charity to Shared Interest Society Shared Interest Society, the world’s only 100% fairtrade lender. I started out in 2005 as a Project Leader for the organisation, researching fairtrade training projects throughout the world and, after four years in this role, I was promoted and now manage the charity.

One of the joys of working for a small NGO is that you get the chance to work on all aspects of the charity. During my five years with Shared Interest, I have travelled to over twelve countries, researching new projects, securing funding and then implementing, managing and evaluating the impact of those projects.

One of our main projects which I am extremely proud of is our Rwandan Producer Support Project, which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund. In 2008, I secured over £250,000 to run a three year project in Rwanda, training fifty businesses (ranging from basket weavers to banana wine producers) in business and financial skills, market access and fair trade awareness and the impact of this training has been immense.

We have seen a rise in income levels, trading levels, the number of children of the cooperative members attending school. All of the skills that Leeds University (POLIS) gave me, I am now putting into action and really changing lives. We (shared Interest Foundation) are currently looking for funds to expand the learning from this project into a three year project in Swaziland, which has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world (38%) and one of the lowest life expectancies (32). If you would like to learn more about the work that we do, help fundraising for projects or volunteer, please contact me andrea.wilkinson@shared-interest.com

Tools to make a difference

The skills, knowledge, expertise and networks I made at Leeds University continue to stand me in great stead for a long future in International Development. I made lifelong friends that work in the same arena: one of whom I bumped into randomly at a fair trade conference in Tanzania and then again at Shared Interests regional office in Kenya.

It’s incredibly inspiring to spend a year with people who are passionate about the same things as you, but more than that to then go onto employment in International Development and have the tools to actually make a difference. Just like the work that Shared Interest Foundation does in working with fair trade businesses across Africa, empowering them to grow their business and put in place the tools, knowledge and support to achieve this, so too does Leeds University.

POLIS empowered me, with the correct tools, knowledge and expertise to work in a challenging role within the International Development arena. Through the internship scheme, they also enabled me to gain experience in working within an international development organisation before I left university, which was a massive asset in applying for jobs in a very competitive environment. If you are thinking about studying at Leeds, I would highly recommend it, you one step closer to securing you dream job.

© Copyright Leeds 2017