Most fascinating Devex interviews of 2012

The Devex media corner during the European Development Days 2012.

Change often starts with a simple idea, and a leader willing to run with it. And over the past year, many of these leaders have shared their expertise and vision with the Devex community.

Among them were bilateral aid administrators like Rajiv Shah, Andrew Mitchell, Heidi Hautala and Martin Dahinden. We’ve stayed in touch with top EU officials like Andris Piebalgs and Kristalina Georgieva, reached out to developing world leaders, and interviewed multilateral chiefs like Luis Alberto Moreno of the Inter-American Development Bank, Jose Graziano da Silva of the Food and Agriculture Organization and Antonio Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees.

We’ve paid particular attention to the nongovernmental organizations and companies working in the trenches to alleviate poverty and suffering — not just by interviewing their top brass, but also their field staff and other experts about ways to achieve results. That includes a host of young leaders and private sector movers and shakers like GAIN’s Marc van Ameringen and IBM’s Stan Litow.

Our goal in these conversations is always to go beyond the rhetoric, beyond the soundbites, to advance real solutions and explain how they might affect the work of the aid community. We like to think that this practical focus sets us apart from other media outlets covering international development.

Here are 12 of our most fascinating interviews of 2012 — some of them video-taped at the Clinton Global Initiative annual gathering in New York and the European Development Days in Brussels. In alphabetical order:

‘With limited resources, why not put your effort into somebody else that shows the way?’With Imoni Akpofure, director for Western Europe at the International Finance Corp.

Akpofure demystified IFC’s role at the intersection of business and development, and shared advice for aid groups that want to get involved. More clarity is needed in this space — part of the reason we launched Devex Impact with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

‘We’re no longer the only game in town’With Caroline Anstey, managing director at the World Bank

Days before Robert Zoellick announced plans to step down, we spoke with the bank’s modernization czar. Anstey laid out a reform agenda that would soon be taken up by Zoellick’s successor, Jim Yong Kim, who pledged to transform the institution “from being a ‘knowledge’ bank to being a ‘solutions’ bank.’”

‘It’s a tough job’With Božo Cerar, state secretary and acting minister for development cooperation and humanitarian aid of Slovenia

Cerar candidly discussed Slovenia’s struggles as a young, small donor country. Although lagging behind on its self-imposed aid target, Slovenia, he said, is all for keeping European Union’s stature as the world’s largest donor.

‘Partnerships are essential’With Aron Cramer, president and CEO of BSR

What makes a cross-sector partnership successful? Cramer’s advice is a taste of what’s to come from Devex Impact, our joint initiative with USAID to facilitate private sector engagement in development.

‘They’ll have less poverty — if they do it right’With Christian Friis Bach, minister for development cooperation of Denmark

Friis Bach’s background in farming gives him a unique perspective on sustainable agriculture and Europe’s struggle to reach internationally agreed aid targets by 2015.

‘Keep the language simple’With Jacob Korenblum, president of SoukTel

Young, tech-savvy social entrepreneurs are changing the way we think about development cooperation — an exciting prospect when they’re as well-spoken and passionate as Korenblum, who talked eloquently about how to bridge the divide between the technology and aid communities, harness the power of big data and advance agile development.

‘We need to do business differently’With Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development

This December, USAID rolled out a much-anticipated policy guidance on resilience. We spoke about it two months prior already with one of its lead authors — part of our mission to cover the news even before it happens and to provide the aid community with the background and practical details it needs to do good and do it well.

‘I learned that condoms can be pretty funny!’With Debra Messing, ambassador for Population Services International

True to her TV and movie roles, Messing is a funny one. But she’s very serious about her work as an AIDS activist, and she answered our questions right after returning home from a field trip to Zambia, and before taking her advocacy to the U.S. capital for the landmark International AIDS Conference.

‘We haven’t really looked at whether kids are learning’With Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children USA

Miles spoke frankly about what she called a long-misguided focus of education aid, hours after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced a new global initiative, Education First, across town.

‘The real issue is how do you make the markets work for the poor?’With Marc van Ameringen, executive director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition

Van Ameringen suggested that in the end, it’s still the bottomline, not charity, that will drive companies to fully engage in development cooperation. He called for paradigm shift on how the aid community partners with the business sector — a call that continues to reverberate through the the industry.

‘The problem is probably for the ’squeezed middle’’’With Richard Miller, CEO of ActionAid; Carolyn Miller, CEO of Merlin; David Pain, associate director of Christian Aid; Justin Forsyth, CEO of Save the Children U.K.; Neal Keny-Guyer, CEO of Mercy Corps; Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE USA; Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka

We spoke with more than a dozen nonprofit leaders about the future of international NGOs in development cooperation, providing a rare glimpse into their strategies to go local while expanding globally.

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