Who are you?

My name is Francesco, altough this is often shortened in Fra. I was born in Italy some thirty years ago. I studied history and I had been working for some years as a project manager with international NGOs in South Sudan. At the moment I live and work in Muenster, Germany, and I am studying in distance learing at Northumbria University (MSc in Information Science – Data Analytics).

In the page Who am I, I talk a bit about myself, here I explain a bit more in detail what it meant for me to be a project manager for aid organizations in South Sudan, and here I collect some thoughts about how international aid business is run.

Why this blog?

I started this blog to help people understand what I had been doing, what it meant for me to be an aid worker, and to help myself to collect my thoughts. A bit portfolio, and a bit housekeeping exercise.

Why this name for the blog?

A consultant I once spoke with told me that she likes to think about theory and practice like two islands apart. I choose the name thinking that having done field work and having had the chance to read and reflect about it, I was in a good position to seek the link between theory and practice, in humanitarian aid – and possibly in other sectors. Although my focus and my interests are shifting – or perhaps just widening – I guess that the name still stands valid.

Why are you not working in the field any longer?

Many reasons. As I mention here, I believe that in an ideal world, a period of reflection should follow any period of action. Nowadays this is unfortunately a luxury. However, at the end of my last assignment I felt that I truly needed it, and as I was lucky enough to afford it, I took the chance. Furthermore, I feel the need to try something new and undertake new challenges.

How did you end up working as an aid worker?

After my master’s degree I felt that nor academic career nor teaching – most common paths for an history graduate – would work for me. Nor working in an archive, for that matter. I had always been interested in international affairs and volunteering, so I started to look for opportunities in development and humanitarian organizations, and taking some courses. I ended up landing an internship in an Italian NGO, and from there it all started.

How did you end up working in South Sudan?

I set foot for the first time in South Sudan in September 2013, as an intern for an Italian NGO (this happened before the civil war erupted in December 2013, and relatively junior staff could join the operation). I then got to work with the same organization as Child Protection Officer, and after a few months in Italy I went back to South Sudan in May 2014. From then basically one assignment followed the other until June 2017.

Why have you worked only in one country?

High staff turnover is one of the big challenges of emergency relief work. This often prevents the possibility of building local knowledge, as there is no way to get to know a place like say, South Sudan, in just a few months. I personally tried to minimize this issue looking for assignments in only one country.

What have you been doing there?

I try to answer giving some examples here. In more technical terms, I have been working mostly in protection and camp management activities, both in the context of the IDPs and refugee response. You can have a look at my LinkedIn for some more information.

What do you do in your free time?

Mostly, things I like to talk about here.

What is the picture in the header?

The picture was taken in the Danakil desert, Afar region, Ethiopia.

Linking theory and practice is easier said than done. As I wrote above, I was once told that they are like two islands apart. I liked the metaphor, though I prefer to think about linking them more in terms of crossing a desert than an ocean.