The first week of the BRAC Young Professionals Programme promised (and delivered) an unforgettable experience with a packed line up of top management from both BRAC Bangladesh and BRAC International. The program provided a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet seasoned development experts and career professionals at the helm of the world’s biggest development organisation. It was inspiring to interact with the founder members of BRAC from the early years of the organisation who shared with us the original philosophy of the organisation.
The gains that BRAC Bangladesh has made in tackling nationwide challenges across all sectors are impressive if not mind-blowing. A major example is the Integrated Development Programme which was able to achieve better outcomes in hard-to-reach areas especially in Water and Sanitation, Health and Legal Aid sub-sectors than most of Uganda in record time. However, while the challenges might be similar, I realise that the differences in country conditions, culture and population characteristics require customising the approaches and solutions here to the individual country contexts.
Realising that ‘we can’t do all this on our own’ necessitates evidence based advocacy for governments to abandon development approaches that do not work for low cost innovative interventions that can be scaled sustainably. Specifically, one area where governments can learn from BRAC’s experience is the quality of services delivered. A case in point is infant mortality, which stands at 37.7/1000 live births for Uganda with institutional delivery at 58% (2011) compared to 30.7/1000 for Bangladesh with a low institutional delivery of 39% (2011), thanks, in part, to the BRAC health programme.
In summary, the three key lessons learnt from the orientation session were: the need for scalable low-cost innovations, continuous learning and the need for evidence based decision making and advocacy. As the organisation starts to implement its new strategy 2016-2020, it remains true to the BRAC spirit of learning and innovation by focussing on new models of service delivery across its programmes.
The first week has taught me to be committed to the cause of development, adopt a can-do mindset, learn from the field and reflect on the lessons learnt for improvement. This was the perfect recipe to get myself ready for the challenge which was best put in words by the Director of Asia Region, Mr. Jalal Udin Ahmed: “There is a lot you can do in your country. Learn from here and apply in your country.”
My country has great challenges. I have seen that it can be done. I have realised my potential. Now it’s time to get to work.
“Don’t bring up a problem without thinking about the solution” – Dr. Kaosar Afsana, Director BRAC Health Programme