7 questions for Devex's West Coast correspondent

There are bridges to be built between the beltway and Silicon Valley, not to mention between the latter and the developing world.

Devex is committed to helping global development professionals do their jobs better by uncovering solutions to global challenges. Catherine Cheney, a new member of the growing Devex editorial team, will do just that from her base in San Francisco as our West Coast correspondent.

Before she began uncovering the work of the Gates Foundation, Starbucks, Facebook and countless other West Coast-based philanthropies and private sector entities for Devex, Cheney helped to build NationSwell, a media company and membership network, reported on foreign affairs for World Politics Review and built the social media presence for a Middle East news site.

“I hope my reporting will lead others who are not already involved in global development — from philanthropists to academics at Stanford and Berkeley to app developers — to consider ways they can improve lives in the developing world,” Cheney told me.

Our conversation didn’t end there. Get to know Catherine Cheney:

1. Where does your passion for global development come from?

When I was in college, I traveled to Mexico to produce a communications campaign for an international development agency, documenting the impact of the rural microfinance movement. I spoke with individuals whose stories revealed how savings helped them achieve goals that would otherwise be beyond their grasp. I saw so many examples of the way the international community could play a role in changing lives, from promoting a culture of savings, to delivering products to the last mile.

2. When did you last crack up, and why?

I last cracked up when I cracked my bone! I broke my first bone earlier this month, when my dog broke away to say hi to another dog and my middle finger went along with her leash. I was having coffee with a fellow Air Force spouse at a Starbucks near the base in northern California. My friend insisted it must be broken but I tried to convince her it would heal itself … we both broke out in laughter when we saw the way it tilted. Writing now with a metal splint on my finger, so it’s not so funny anymore, but laughter was the best medicine for what has turned out to be not such a fun injury!

Reporter Catherine Cheney is the newest addition to Devex’s news team, reporting on the West Coast of the U.S. from Silicon Valley to Seattle.

3. What book changed your life?

“The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.” Part of why the book changed my life is that I was fortunate enough to learn from and work with the author of the book, Anne Fadiman. She was a favorite professor of mine at Yale and remains a friend and mentor.

4. What song could be your personal life soundtrack?

Heavenly Day by Patty Griffin. I tend to play songs I love on repeat, over and over and over, and this is one of them. It has that folk music sound I love, plus a message I always feel I could do a better job of following: living in the moment rather than worrying what tomorrow will bring.

5. If you could karaoke with one global dev professional, who would it be?

I'd have to pick Danielle Cass, the tech sector liaison for USAID. We met for lunch in my first week on the job and she followed that up with email introductions that have been a huge help as I get to know the West Coast global development community. We had a great time dining and talking at a vegan lunch spot in Berkeley, California and I could see us taking the stage at a karaoke spot in San Francisco.

6. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Probably the word “Yes!” One of my weaknesses is saying no. This new role with Devex is reminding me of the importance of prioritization. There are so many people to meet with, organizations to cover and events to attend that I have to get better at saying no or at least maybe so I have the bandwidth to prepare and follow up with every yes!

7. What's one thing about your writing that you think readers should know?

As the only Devex representative on the West Coast, I am in a hybrid role. I usually have my reporter cap on, interviewing sources and writing stories, but with each interaction I consider what will be best for Devex and the mission I work to support: "Do Good. Do It Well." That could mean making a connection between people who should meet, moderating a panel, discussing a potential partnership and looping in my colleagues to carry on the conversation, planning an event, etc. Also, I'm eager to hear from readers! So please feel free to get in touch via Twitter or email.

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About the author

  • Kelli Rogers

    Kelli Rogers is an Associate Editor for Devex. Based on the U.S. West Coast, she works with Devex's team of correspondents and editors around the world, with a particular focus on gender. She previously worked as Devex’s Southeast Asia correspondent based in Bangkok, covering disaster and crisis response, resilience, women’s rights, and climate change throughout the region. Prior to that, she reported on social and environmental issues from Nairobi, Kenya. Kelli holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and has since reported from more than 20 countries.

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