Thursday, February 24, 2022

We wish Luisa all the best in her new role at the University of Cambridge in the Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre in the Faculty of Education.  She reflects here on her time with Walker and what she has learned:

I worked at Walker for almost five years, and so when I was asked to write this blog post, I struggled a bit to synthesise my experience (ironic given that I taught evidence synthesis training as part of my job there!). But I decided that, whilst I could talk about the travel I got to do, my personal and professional growth by always being in the stretch zone, or about the research and training I supported, I would like to focus on the reasons why I feel so fond of Walker.

Walker’s motto is ‘One community committed to making a difference in people’s lives by shaping a climate-resilient future together’. I know that this statement has been carefully crafted, and I think it embodies all the key aspects of what I value the most about Walker.

Let’s start with the word ‘climate’.

I must bashfully admit that when I first joined Walker, sure, I knew about climate change, as in, I knew it wasn’t great, but beyond that I was, somewhat blissfully, ignorant. I was, however, very much aware of and passionate about the unjustness of global inequality and unnecessary poverty.

During my time at Walker, it became heartbreakingly clear to me that, yet again, those most adversely affected (and by adversely, I mean inexcusably, detrimentally affected by loss of food, homes, and loved ones) by climate change are the poorest of our society.  And even worse, they have contributed the least to the problem!

So, my first point is that, through my time at Walker, I have come to fully understand and deeply care about the climate crisis and its complexities and how profoundly this will impact  all our futures. For my research, striving for  gender equality, this has impressed the importance of interdisciplinary working and the importance of factoring in the climate crisis because its impacts are so far reaching.

Speaking of the word ‘future’, I have also come to realise that working in climate change is one of the most complex and frustrating spaces to work in.  This is because not only must we persuade  individuals to change their behavior, values and plan for a future beyond their lifetime, but we also have to sway governments and their institutions too.

Walker has also taught me ‘resilience’. Not just in the sense of understanding the importance of  climate-resilience, but also personal resilience. This includes adapting, sometimes last minute (admittedly I had to work on this!) to do a better a job, accepting and dealing with essential changes to make yourself a better human, and taking personal responsibility to do so, being able to make another plan when things don’t work how you wanted them to, and most importantly, drawing on my  core values to carry on when I felt like I was too small to make a difference.

Which is the perfect lead into ‘making a difference’. I am so passionate about this that it was in the front pages of my PhD Thesis (which Walker was extremely flexible in helping me complete by the way). But ‘making a difference’ for me, is the meaning of life. Deep I know, but I genuinely believe that if you can help someone else’s life be better, you have succeeded. I believe that Walker makes a difference everyday – to farmers, meteorological services, policy makers, researchers, and it’s staff members. I have spent a lot of time at Walker reflecting on ‘impact’, and I have come to believe that although formal, institutionalized ‘impact’ assessments are valuable and needed,  the real impact that we all have is on each individual’s life that we touch, and we have the power to make a difference even in the smallest way to everyone we meet. I believe that Walker does this every day.

When I think of the word ‘community’ I think of friends and families, of all different shapes and sizes, with a similar set of values and ethics, coming ‘together’ (another word from the motto!) to unconditionally support one another at times of hardship. When I think of Walker, I think that this is a pretty accurate analogy. Walker, although small (but growing!), really does consist of a very close group of similar minded, passionate, and most importantly, kind people from all around the world trying to make a difference in this big, real, complex fight against climate change. I feel very lucky to have been part of that community, and even through I have moved village, I know that my community is still there.

The final word in the motto is ‘committed’. Having worked with Walker (and I include the global Walker Community in this), I have been regularly overwhelmed by the commitment of people to making a difference in the fight against climate change. This job, and indeed any international development job where you are trying to make the world a better place, has its ups, but it also has its downs and you can feel you are  not going anywhere. This is where commitment really shines through, and, I believe, where the differences are really made. I have come to see that there are many people who really care and are passionate about this endeavour, and that no matter how big the challenge may seem, there is hope for the future because of people like this. I truly believe that Walker is playing a key part in bringing together a community of people from all over the world who will make a difference in tackling the climate emergency and its impacts.

Through my experience at Walker, I have begun a new journey as a postdoctoral researcher at The University of Cambridge in the Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre which is based in the Faculty of Education. My work here is in evaluating how a gender transformation education programme is adapted and adopted by national governments in Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe – a part of the world and cause which is very close to my heart. Whilst the subject area is closely aligned to my PhD, I would not have been able to get this role without the extensive experience Walker gave me in working with policy makers, and implementing research projects.

I will miss Walker very much, but this is not a farewell, but rather a ‘thank you and see you soon’.