Taking a job at an international NGO usually conjures up visions of working out in the field – in difficult conditions far away from family and friends. Yet that’s far from the whole story. Some of the most dynamic and interesting work for aid agencies can be based in cities where changing the world doesn’t mean going to the ends of the earth.
One of the most exciting places to be working at the moment is London, thanks to its vibrant research and advocacy community and multiple international NGO headquarters.
At a time when funding is tight in many countries, there is a very real debate going on about how to make development aid more effective and transparent. The British government of Prime Minister David Cameron, while cutting funding to almost every other department, has ring-fenced the Department for International Development’s budget, which will grow to £11.5bn by the year 2014-15 – or 0.7 percent of gross national income. DfID is just one major donor located in London; others include CDC, the U.K.’s development finance institution, as well as the Commonwealth Secretariat and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. They all partner with many of the NGOs based in London.
For those considering an NGO career, the quality of life in London can be fantastic. Of course it’s not cheap – the most recent Economic Intelligence Unit survey puts London as the sixth most expensive city in the world. But it is a place that offers access to diverse cultures and communities.
Glenda Cooper is based in London, where she covers U.K. aid reform and the vibrant NGO sector for Devex. Glenda has worked for the Washington Post and several other publications, as well as for Save the Children as the U.K. team's media manager. She has spent a year's fellowship at Oxford University researching the relationship between aid agencies and the media, and has since been pursuing a doctorate examining how new media is changing the reporting of disasters.