David Huysman

We had a discussion with David about his career and expert insights. Below are edited excerpts from our conversation.

What was your first paid job?

Basically it was a paid internship with the European Institute of Public Administration twenty years ago. I was a project assistant for the eEurope Awards and we had to select digitally innovative projects in online government and online health. This was in the early days of e-government. Public administrations and hospitals could submit a project, and we would award the best and most innovative projects.

What has been your greatest professional achievement?

When I was team leader on a project to train civil servants in the Central African Republic, from the outset everyone thought we were going to fail. They said it would be a waste of time. But we surprised people: we exceeded our own expectations and the project was later recognized for its innovative methodology with tangible results.

In 20 years’ time what single important change would you like to see?

Better use of evaluation tools, data and AI. In particular, the aid evaluation methodology based on OECD criteria (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) needs to make better use of data and new technologies to measure results, evaluate real impacts, and inform decision-making.

What opportunities exist now for young people that did not exist when you were a student?

From the French perspective, there are certainly different opportunities for French people — not more opportunities, but different opportunities. And I do think it’s even harder to find work.

What has been the greatest achievement in terms of social or economic development in the last five years?

The number of people living below the poverty threshold has decreased. Though the pandemic has probably set this back.

What remarkable innovations have there been in your profession or area of expertise?

There have been many: digital payments made quite an impact, especially in some African countries. Now, Covid-19 is forcing development consultants to innovate and use tools we didn’t really use before. I think many development agencies are still fairly reluctant to do home-based work, but frankly, in some cases work can be done remotely.

What are two of your strengths that have made you effective in your work?

I’ve got a lot of creativity and I’m a fairly good networker. 

Who do you look to for career inspiration?

No one really. I’m quite keen on reading articles and seeking out innovations. Though I can say I admire people who can convert failures into learning experiences.

What advice would give a young professional looking to start a career in your profession or area of work?

One, have perseverance because it can be hard to get into this field of work. Two, specialize in some areas. Three, be willing to accept volunteer and unpaid work at first.

Do you have any other interests?

My main hobby is sailing, and I recently started piloting with the aim of getting my step one license some time in the next year.