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  • Writer's pictureWhitney Kippes

Leading Yourself

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Sometimes we just need a bit of a refresh, and boy does the global development world need one right now. There is a model - which is slowly and steadily changing, about time - of what success looks like in international development.

And no, I'm not talking about "working ourselves out of a job."

I'm talking about the archetype of the white male chief of party who spends his life globe trotting from country to country with his (presumably flexibly employed?) spouse and children (enrolled in the local British school). There are about eighteen different problems that I have with this visual, beginning with colonialism and ending with patriarchy, but the problem that frustrates me the most today is that there is so little room for doing anything outside of it.

What does success in this career look like if you don't want it to look like that? And when you want to scrap the whole model, how do you define what's going to make sense for you?


Redefining what success looks like begins with dismantling the elevation of this as an ideal, which - thanks to a lot of incredible work by many individuals and organizations - is starting to feel more like a reality. These are the questions we're asking about what our role in international development looks like:

  • Are we adding value or just taking up space?

  • Is there someone else who should be owning this work?

  • How can we serve as an intermediary between those doing the work and those with resources to fund it?

  • What harm does this version of success do in the world?

It'd be nice if there was a concrete answer to these questions, but this is and likely always will be an area where shades of grey reign supreme. It's not about knowing the answer, it's about moving toward the answer while supporting those around you.


Question your sources. Like why the leadership of even the organization professing to disrupt development doesn't include folks from the Global South? (website)

We can't have nice things. Kelsey Nielsen, a white woman who helped to co-found @nowhitesaviors has been stealing money and threatening her Ugandan co-founder , Olivia Alaso. (IG post)

Define how you want to grow. Beginning with those leaders you admire . (worksheet).

Consider what needs to be done in your own home. And question why you might be more eager to " help " 5,000 miles away rather than volunteer local or support your own community. (article)


Want to feel more connected? Consider joining one of our Boss-to-Boss cohorts. These peer networks are designed to foster community in our inherently competitive world.

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Bid Boss Consulting, LLC (“Bid Boss”), a women-owned small business providing capture, proposal, and new business skill development support to humanitarian and international development organizations,

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