By Emilie Turner, MAGG Graduate (2018)
My third month in Jakarta has been by far the most challenging since starting my internship at the United Nations Development Programme in Indonesia. As I approach the halfway point of my placement, I find myself at a place where I am beginning to reflect on what this internship has meant for me, both in terms of professional and personal growth, as well as how it will shape my next steps after my contract ends.
On November 16 and 17, the UNDP Indonesia Country Office, alongside the UNDP SDG Impact Fund (UNSIF) from the UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub for the Asia-Pacific, hosted the conference Leveraging Innovative Finance for Development in Jakarta. The rationale for the conference was to capture and explore the most recent trends in innovative finance throughout the Asia-Pacific region. This interactive conference drew in UNDP Practitioners and senior staff from Country Offices from the region and beyond, as well as key figures working in impact investment, social entrepreneurship and development. The conference intended to build on UNDP Indonesia’s Innovative Financing Lab by contributing further to a sustainable finance roadmap for the region.
My role was to be the “focal point” for the Indonesia Country office. This meant overseeing, understanding and ensuring that all was being taken care of in the office, such as managing logistics, understanding our communications strategies, and liaising information between senior management and the various teams working on the event. At a broader level, my role as focal point also consisted of working alongside the team in Bangkok and coordinating with all the other Country Offices and invited speakers who would be attending the conference. It was crucial to ensure that not only did our participants understand their role in the conference, but also that everything from visas to meal requirements were addressed in advance to ensure a smooth couple of days. In addition, I was also responsible for inviting and following up with all our local Indonesian invites to ensure we had a well-rounded representation of attendees from different institutions.
Having had no previous experience in organizing an event of this scale, and still being relatively new to the UNDP and innovative finance team, I felt very in over my head. Additionally, as someone who prefers to work at the project level writing and doing research, I was not entirely enthused that all my working hours, and many after-hours, had now been overtaken by endless emails, calls and meetings devoted to organizing and discussing the nitty-gritty of the conference. That being said, I remain so very fortunate there are so many truly great people working at the Country Office whose patience, graciousness and willingness helped kept me sane and grounded throughout this intense experience.
In the end, the conference was a huge success. The hard work paid off with the delivery a very smooth and, I believe, fruitful event. All in all, although I can confidently say I would prefer to leave future event organizing tasks to a professional planner, there are several positives that emerged from this experience that I would like to highlight. Firstly, it allowed me to work closely with different units in the office, as well as with senior management. This was not only beneficial in terms of meeting other people working in different units, but also for understanding their various roles in the organization and how they all work together. Secondly, not only did I become better familiarized with the social finance landscape in Indonesia and Asia-Pacific, but I also had the good fortune to interact with experts and senior staff from UNDP offices abroad and attend their internal discussions on crucial topics in development finance. Thirdly, I learned that the endless networking, coordinating and managing necessary to pull off an event of this magnitude is not for me. That last point is crucial; just as much as experiences are important for shining light on and narrowing what one wants in a career, they can also serve to identify what one does not want to do. This has been an important realization, both professionally and personally, one I believe will contribute to my continued evolution here, and influence the choices I will have to make once this internship comes to an end.