By Jameson Spivack
InsideNGO Marketing Assistant
April 6, 2016
This is the first feature in a new “Meet Our Trainers” series, where we get to know InsideNGO’s trainers beyond the classroom. In this blog post, we highlight Keith Edwards, an experienced master trainer for InsideNGO. Keith is based in and works from Cape Town, South Africa.
How long have you been working in the international development sector? How did you get your start?
I started working in this field on March 15, 1988. How come I remember the specific date? I had quit my job as the dean of programs (big title, little meaning) of an unnamed business school in January 1988 and I was counting down the weeks until I ran out of money! The school’s deputy director and I noticed a high drop-out rate among female and minority students, due to lack of affordable day care. After missing a certain number of classes to take care of their children, they automatically failed the courses. We proposed to the directors that we start a day care program at the school; they refused, and both the deputy director and I quit. A recruitment agency told me about a position as an administrative assistant at the Population Council in New York. I said I wasn’t interested in being anybody’s secretary (yes, I actually said that!) but reluctantly went to the interview, and in the first five minutes I wanted the job. I got the position and in the first month I had to work on a request for proposal. My first. With no experience. Six months later I was promoted to project coordinator for an operations research project in Latin America and Mali.
How did you get involved with InsideNGO?
I attended a USAID Rules & Regulations workshop and met Alison Smith, who knew my supervisors at the Association for Voluntary Surgical Contraception (AVSC). We got to chatting. When AVSC, which became EngenderHealth, started developing tools, standard operating procedures (SOPs), etc., I shared them with InsideNGO. I started doing trainings at EngenderHealth on support services operations issues, and next thing I knew, I was asked to do a USAID Rules & Regulations training in Nairobi. EngenderHealth allowed me to do the trainings a couple of times a year. I think they realized how valuable the free slots were and I of course seized the opportunity to strengthen my training. And to build my frequent flyer miles!
You teach a number of InsideNGO workshops, including USAID Rules & Regulations: Grants & Cooperative Agreements, and Procurement Planning & Execution: Grants & Cooperative Agreements. What’s your favorite workshop you teach, and why?
USAID Rules & Regulations. It’s the core of compliance and project success. Understand those regulations, have SOPs to comply with them, and your organization/project will be strong. That is what matters. How good are you at delivering to the people that need your help? Be accountable to your donor (by complying with the regulations) and you can give invaluable service to your beneficiaries.
Where in the world have you travelled, and which has been your favorite?
Okay, you asked…Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bolivia, Botswana, Cambodia, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, England, France, Gambia, Ghana, Germany, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Kosovo, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Myanmar, Mexico, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Vietnam, Zambia, Zanzibar, Zimbabwe. My favorite, unhesitatingly, is Thailand! The culture, people, food, and, of course, shopping. And to add one more country: I was born in Trinidad.
What’s a project you previously worked on that you found particularly interesting or rewarding?
I lived in Kenya for two years, primarily to develop and document our SOPs and then hand over the management functions to a local hire. We were able to replicate SOPs in our other country offices based on that work. And it positioned our organization as a leader in standardizing operating procedures. To this day I am still benefitting from that experience. I love the operations side of organizations, including the detective work to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.
When you aren’t travelling or working, what do you like to do?
Gardening. I also get a special benefit from gardening by traveling. When I am home I don’t see the growth of the plants. Go away for even a week and when I come back it’s a joy to see the growth.
Keith Edwards is Principal Partner/NGO Consultant at Kaepe Solutions, a business management consultant company. Keith has more than 28 years of experience in capacity building and risk management, including compliance and internal audits, awards administration, and support services’ standard operating procedures. In addition to his role as an InsideNGO trainer, Keith served for four years on the InsideNGO Board of Directors.