Development Adviser (DA) Placement Workshop


  1. Ice Breaker (15 minutes)
  2. Input Session (30 minutes)
  3. Position Design (30 minutes)
  4. Candidate Profile (30 minutes)
  5. Preliminary Workplan (30 minutes)
  6. Next Steps & Discussion (15 minutes)

Icebreaker – First / Worst job

  • Initiation: Have everyone write down their first or worst job.
  • Moderator: Read out each job, while the group tries to figure out who is who.
  • Team: The ‘right’ person reveals her-/himself and briefly talks about her/his job

Rationale: Development Advisers (short DAs) contribute with their technical know-how and (international) expertise. However, they are most often new to the incumbent country (cf. first job) and; hence, will have to learn about intercultural specifics through the host organisation. For instance, while German DAs are renowned for their efficiency and structured work approach, our perception of time or sometimes brutal honesty as well as sarcasm can lead to tensions.

This workshop aims to align expectations and to build an understanding of what a DA can offer and which limitations exist. Additionally, while some DAs might have just concluded their Masters, others are seasoned professionals. The selection criteria depends largely on the incumbent work environment. For instance, we all might agree that there is nothing worse than when we were young and tried fighting a conservative system. Similarly, when we grow older, dealing with overly zealous youngsters, who do not want to listen, but rather fail and try themselves; for the better or worse (cf. worst job). So, a youth organisation developing an app might be better of with a digital native, while within conservative governmental structure, we might have to adhere to the concept of seniority.

It should be noted that DAs, prior to their departure from their home country, participate in a comprehensive on-boarding process. Here, they acquire state of the art methodological procedures, which will allow them to together achieve the best outcome. Nevertheless, when a person decides to become a DA, s/he also wants to learn about different working approaches from the Global South. I believe that learning from the Global South is as much important as given our knowledge we gained in the Global North. In sum, placing a Development Adviser is a mutual beneficial bond.

Input Session

Integration in capacity development strategy

Level of integration Formally Contextually Independently
Contribution to program’s objectives to overall goals to general development aims
Description Partner organizations is integrated in the capacity development strategy
of the program; the entity contributes to the change process (Theory of
Change) of the program
DA supports partner organizations whose contribution to impact/change
does not lie within the area of responsibility of the program, yet
contributes to the module or program objective.
Development opportunities are leveraged and the partners’ needs can be
addressed more directly
Funding Through the program Regional expert funds Regional expert funds

DA Assignment Models

The following models are just examples. There are various other options available and the approach extremely flexible. The needs of the partner organization, its beneficiaries, and contextual variables all influence the design of THE appropriate setup.

  • Classical Model:
    • Description: full integration into one specific partner organization
    • Benefits: direct capacity development and resource mobilization
    • Challenges: dependency, weak linkages to program, and conflicting roles
  • Multiple partner model:
    • Description: partner network collaboration towards a mutual agreed goal
    • Benefits: stakeholder management and high flexibility
    • Challenges: heavy planning and coordination efforts, cost / benefit ratio
  • Regional model:
    • Description: DA working in various locations on a specific topic
    • Benefits: multiplication of results, wider knowledge distribution
    • Challenges: heavy planning and coordination efforts, cost / benefit ratio
  • Program or pool model:
    • Description: several DAs with complementing skills working with various partner organizations
    • Benefits: holistic consultancy approach, utilization and access to a wide array of skills
    • Challenges: competition among partner organizations and DAs, recruitment challenging
  • Tandem model:
    • Description: Team of DA and national staff or national expert
    • Benefits: easier to overcome cultural and language barriers, builds stronger trust within partner
    • Challenges: counter-part might be seen as less important, perception of domination

Baseline – Organizational diagnosis

The following elements should be evaluated before contractual obligations are made:

Mandate: matching institutional orientation (e.g., vision, mission, purpose, and mandate)

Societal setting: Scope of influence, beneficiaries and target groups

Policy setting: autonomy of decision making and conflicting political affiliations

Culture: values and norms, structures and relations of power

Resources: quality and quantity of resources (cf. counterpart and workplace)

Management: Information, steering, feedback, incentive, and monitoring systems

Governance: decision-making, coordination, planning, M&E, and knowledge management

Risk Management: structures to identify, document, and monitor risk; early warning system

Position Design

DAs – Assets to your organization

Development Advisers work on various levels within partner organization(s). However, no matter whether it is a micro, meso, or macro one there contribution can be subsumed under the following categories:

  • Organizational development: creates an innovative-friendly environment by providing opportunities for people to function as human beings rather than as resources in the productive process. As a results, the organizational capacity is improved and professional skills are enhanced.
  • Technical expertise: supports service and product innovations through knowledge of international market trends and strong background on a wide array of topics. Thus, a partner organization gains a new perspective on existing challenges.
  • Stakeholder management: provides access to an international community of development partners, academic institutions, and industries through a multi-stakeholder approach. In turn, a deepen relationship with development partners and the international community more in general is created.
  • Knowledge transfer: DAs leverage strong methodological standards and resources and can, hence, address challenges through a variety of tools and methods.

DAs – Building Capacity

This part can be done in a small group setting. The teams should develop a slimmed down log-frame matrix. Below an example is given:

Definition Example
Outcome Results achieved through improvements in organizational, technical,
methodological, or networking capacities.
PO has launched an innovative product in the designated target market.
Output Direct results of the activities, which should enable the desired
PO, mentor, and DA designs project plan from entrepreneurial venture.
Activity Activities carried out by the PO, with the support of the DA, to achieve
DA works with PO supporting aspiring entrepreneurs by locating mentors.

Candidate Profile

Knowing your candidate is not just about her/his skills, it is also about attitude, passions, and personal goals. There must be a good fit! Placing a DA means that a partner organization might has accepted the cultural and societal differences they will witness; however, are those realistic? It helps to draft a persona with the participants and give it a reality check. Further, the information can be shared during the recruitment phase or even as part of the role description itself.

Partner organizations may know a fair bit about the market from where they seek advise, maybe because they have worked with the country and society in the past. In which case, jot down everything you think you know about it. For example, details about demographics, character traits, mindset, etc.. Though, there might be this negative connotation of discrimination when talking about age, sex, ethnicity, etc.. Nevertheless, cultures do differ widely and addressing potential issues upfront will minimize challenges.