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Ending global poverty begins with women’s rights
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Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

by Oxfam | May 17, 2010

I am a Masters of Library and Information Science student at McGill University with an undergraduate degree in International Development from the University of Guelph. I am President of the Special Libraries Association McGill Student Chapter and am currently working at Library and Archives Canada in the internet/e-publication unit. I have worked for years in various office environments and was finally able to combine my workplace skills and educational experience at Oxfam Canada asa Knowledge Management Intern.

I have an immense personal interest in International Development and was looking for ways to apply my masters degree in a field that I was interested in. I knew of Oxfam and emailed in my resume, and was quite surprised to hear back from them. I was incredibly interested in Oxfam itself because of their new focus on women’s rights and gender equality and their professional, respectable, and courageous reputation throughout the development community at large.

I was the Knowledge Management Intern, working with the Learning and Accountability Specialist on various aspects of incorporating Knowledge Management strategies into Oxfam Canada’s office environment in order to promote the dissemination, sharing, and organization of Oxfam’s organizational knowledge. Although this is definitely not hands-on international development programming experience, it is important to the international development community at large (not just Oxfam Canada) because it is allowing an organization to store and use the knowledge they have already created instead of having to perpetually re-invent the wheel. It also allows various departments and people to share their information with others in order to quicken the pace at which research is accomplished and programs created. The end-goal is to provide a basis for all international development organizations to share the best practices and lessons learned from their development programs, so as to repeat what works, not repeat what doesn’t work, and improve the pace and scale of international development.

Being able to apply what I have learned in my masters program to an area that I have immense personal interest in was very rewarding. It is nice to know that although I do not have the skills or experience for a direct impact on the creation of development programs, I can use my skills and work experience to help people with the correct knowledge develop the programs and projects that do aid development. The most rewarding experience has been learning that by applying my strengths and skills I can indeed help the international development community, even if my strengths are not in economics, policy creation, and the like.

I think the most important thing I learned was definitely the importance of proper information management so that dedicated, passionate, intelligent staff would have to spend less time searching for information rather than using it. This was really important, because it reiterated how important my masters degree actually is and how important it is to be an information professional with a huge interest in international development and international development organizations. It showed me the direction of my future career, showed me how valuable I could be to the field of international development. I had thought my ability to impact international development was reduced to zero because I hadn’t carried on my studies in the field, this internship showed me otherwise. It reasserted my faith in my education and myself, primarily in my ability to combine what interests me and what I am good at.

Could you ask for a better internship experience? No way!

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