The fourth Q&A in the DRMCCA internship series is with Linn, who recently finished a three month internship with SREO Consulting in Istanbul, focused on programme monitoring and evaluation.
Linn insightfully describes both the highlights and challenges of her internship experience, and gives invaluable advice for how to make the most of an internship. Read more about Linn’s time in Istanbul below!
Where did you do your internship, and what was your work focused on?
I did my internship at SREO Consulting in Istanbul, Turkey, from June to August 2018. SREO Consulting is an American company conducting third-party monitoring and evaluation of humanitarian projects. It is hired by different humanitarian actors, including UN agencies, international NGOs and INGOs, to monitor and evaluate projects in hard to reach areas such as Syria, Iraq and Mali.
As a research intern at SREO I was welcomed by everyone and immediately treated as the rest of the staff, which meant that I did not have many specific “intern tasks” but I did instead help out with the work that the rest of the research staff did. This included to analyze incoming data (e.g. surveys and focus groups discussions with aid beneficiaries, key informant interviews with project stakeholders and implementing partners etcetera) and to write monitoring and evaluation reports based on this data. The reports could be about anything from school reconstruction to water and sanitation assistance to shelter and protection services. As most projects were already ongoing when I arrived to SREO I did not take part in designing questionnaires and research questions that were sent out to local field researchers, which I think would have been very valuable to do. Apart from writing reports I did also participate and take notes in internal meetings, wrote project proposals, helped out with a literature review on education in crisis contexts and assisted in creating a workshop for one of SREO’s clients.
What are your thoughts about your internship experience? Can you highlight a valuable aspect or moment you encountered?
One of the most valuable aspects of my internship was that I got to take part of what is happening on ground in different humanitarian projects. It was very interesting understand more about logistical and security related challenges, as well as how activities are being implemented. What surprised me was how complex the chain of humanitarian efforts actually is, with donors, project stakeholders and local implementing partners operating from different places and sometimes without clear coordination and understanding of each other’s work. Being at SREO and monitoring or evaluating such projects put me in a position where I did not only get to read project descriptions and take part of the rationale behind projects, but also to get the implementing partners and beneficiaries point of view on the projects, e.g. challenges and good practices.
What aspects of the internship proved challenging?
A downside of my work is that there were often short deadlines, and I was struggling with doing only “good enough”. I often also lacked clear instructions on the work I was about to do, which made it more time consuming and difficult. An advice for future students is to ask on beforehand what is expected and to make sure you are given enough time to finalize a task. While I found monitoring and evaluation quite difficult, I have also learned a lot during my internship. By going through surveys and interviews I have got a better understanding on how to formulate questions and to analyze large quantities of information. I believe this will be valuable in the upcoming work with my master thesis. Having knowledge in monitoring and evaluation is often also considered a good merit when it comes to job opportunities, no matter what specific sector one wants to work in.
In terms of SREO as a company, it is rather small (around 30 people in the office in Istanbul, a few people in the Iraq office and one person in the Mali office) but growing. If one is proactive it is quite easy to get large responsibilities fast. This is probably one of the bigger differences from interning at a head office, and I liked that I was given qualified working tasks and was seen as one in the team. The downside of this was that my role as an intern at times was blurred, and that I was given more responsibility to deliver than I felt comfortable with. After communicating this to my supervisor (who was very good!) this was however solved, which taught me that communication is key and that one has to be clear one’s role as an intern.
In sum, my three months at SREO went very fast and it was not until the very end of my internship that I started to feel comfortable and understanding the work I was doing. This is probably because I asked to work on many different projects, in order to see and learn as much as possible. While the majority of SREO’s work is about humanitarian response in conflict-affected areas, there were unfortunately no projects to monitor or evaluate focusing on prevention, or on environmental or climate related issues. The internship did therefore not contribute to providing me new knowledge in many of the areas I have studied at the DRM&CCA programme. As SREO wants to expand its expertise also in other areas (I for example wrote a project proposal for a disaster risk reduction project in Myanmar) it is however possible that SREO’s portfolio in the future will include more than humanitarian response activities. This also since there are currently four graduated DRM&CCA students working with SREO (and that SREO has been very happy with!).
Is there anything you’d like to highlight about your experience, or any final words of advice you’d like prospective DRMCCA students to know?
As a last advice for students who are interested in interning with SREO (or any other company/organization in the EU plus Turkey), I want to mention the possibility to receive an Erasmus internship scholarship. At the time I applied this was rather easy to get, although one has to make sure to apply for it well in advance. With Turkey being a fairly cheap country to live in, and with SREO providing me free accommodation and paying my travel costs from Sweden to Istanbul and back, my scholarship of around 500 euro/month allowed me to travel around in Turkey and visit some very cool places!