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Meet Siobhan Bradley of Team Ethiopia 2017-18: Productive Safety Net Programme

Please describe your role/work as a Consultant for UNICEF

I provide technical support to the design, implementation, and evaluation of government-led maternal, newborn, and child health programs, with a focus on home fortification using micronutrient powders. My work extends across the lifecycle of programming, including formative research, stakeholder engagement, designing program tools and materials, training and capacity building, and monitoring and evaluation. I’ve worked with UNICEF country offices in Lesotho and Malawi.

What has it been like to work for an international organization throughout the COVID-19 pandemic? What strategies have you adopted to be able to complete your work remotely from Canada?

UNICEF has been a huge proponent for flexible working since I started in Lesotho, which eased the transition to working remotely. Still, restrictions on field work and effectively communicating across multiple time zones were some of the challenges we contended with during the pandemic. A few strategies were communicating frequently but more efficiently, providing multiple channels for feedback when working with stakeholders, and experimenting with different virtual tools. Striking a balance between being conscious of people’s time and making the time for real human connection has been really important.

How did your experience in Reach inform your career path?

Reach allowed me to step outside of academia and illuminated the barriers in reaching the hardest to reach. The experience motivated me to gain hands-on field experience and to support development programs in a way that is equitable, innovative, and locally-led. The framework of thinking promoted by Reach around multi-sectoral collaboration and bold ways of challenging the status quo is really valuable in the real world!

Can you tell us about an interesting project that you’re working on now?

Recently, I supported the integration of micronutrient powders into Malawi’s end-user monitoring activities. End-user monitoring focuses on the last mile of the supply chain. It essentially aims to improve data visibility around the availability, quality, and use of commodities by intended users. Now, it’s an additional source that can be used to triangulate Malawi’s program data, and ultimately this improves sustainability by further integrating micronutrient powders into existing health infrastructure.

What takeaway did you get through your experience as a Reach researcher that you are applying to your work now?

I would say it is the importance of critical reflection, humility, and diversity in perspective when working in development. My experience taught me that things will rarely go to plan, so as much as you can and should contingency plan for your contingency plans, be ready to adapt and always be open to learning. Lastly, Reach exposed me to practical skills in ethics approvals, research methodologies, interviewing, and analyzing data, all of which are applicable to my work today.

What is your fondest memory from your experience in Reach?

My fondest memory from my Reach experience was the opportunity to work with an amazing team of women (shoutout to Sydney, Jillian, Rachel, and Avni)! The experience demonstrated the value of interdisciplinary teams, where everyone brought unique skills and perspectives to the table. We were continuously learning with and from each other.

What advice would you give to researchers who have recently begun their desk research and submitted their REB application?

This year’s approach to research will look different, but I think you can really take advantage of these changes. During my team’s Reach project, we condensed a ton of field research into a short one-week window, which was both exhausting and an overload of information. Now, you have the opportunity to connect with stakeholders as soon as your REB is approved and you’ll have more time to re-calibrate and conduct analysis throughout the year. You can spread out your interviews, follow up with stakeholders, and conduct more interviews, hopefully resulting in a greater breadth and depth of data.