Explain what you do for work, like I am two. I’ll start

My two year old asked me what I do at work. It took me a moment to figure out how to explain social risk, inclusion and sustainability in a way that he would understand. It is already a mouthful.

But this is not the first time that I have had to take a pause before I explain what I do to someone who is completely new to this sort of work. Take for instance, when I go home, my grandaunts often ask me what I do (in the abroad); and not only do I have to explain these concepts, but I also have to translate them to Chichewa in the simplest of terms. It was rather odd, during my undergrad, that I often was asked what I would do with a degree in Political Science. “Do you want to become a politician?”. This was low key a jab, because: name politicians that went to school to study politics to become politicians (I’ll wait…).

Anyway, I have now realized that when I stumble with the explanation, it is not that those who ask would not understand. It is more that, for me, it always feels like an explanation and if I am honest, ‘I no fit shalaye’. I low key envy those who can fit their explanations in one word- a teacher, a doctor, a policeman, a janitor, a driver, a painter, and so on. And somehow, we get the broad idea (although I think there is a whole lot we don’t know, about the sophistications of each profession, no matter what it is). So this morning, this question took me by surprise. It is one thing to ‘explain it to me like I am five’. It is something else to make sure a two year old gets it.

My answer was ‘I help communities get better’, building on what he already knows- that his dad helps people get better at the hospital. To which he responded ‘oooooohhhhhh’, which i reckon meant that he got it. Whatever, I was impressed with my ability.

Which got me thinking, it has been a very busy season at work, mainly because this is the end of the financial year and the work becomes heavy on the reporting and finalizing outstanding tasks, or analytical pieces. With my head buried in multiple competing deadlines in the last few weeks, this question from my two year old this morning helped me to look up and remember my ‘why’.

Why I do what I do is that my efforts contribute to our shared goal of ‘ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity’. I particularly enjoy that my role is to ensure that the people and the environment are protected from potential adverse impacts of our project investments. I shared more on this here.

From the grassroots work that I did when I first started, to the global work I do now; I have remained passionate about working (or is it walking) alongside ‘the people’. I look out to ensure that the poor and the vulnerable are included and empowered; and that their communities are cohesive and resilient. Its a mouthful to explain, I know, but hear me out… The other side of the work is to ensure that in the process, institutions are accessible and accountable to citizens. In simple terms (if at all), my job is to ‘put people first’ in the development process. And I have been at it for the last decade. And if I am learning to add more to this, it is adding ‘planet’.

Putting People and Planet first.

How do you explain what you do?

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