Unconventional ways to work in development: taxi and documentary edition

Undergraduates often ask me: “how can I get started in development?” These days, I am tempted to give them some unconventional advice: drive a cab.

One of my graduate students, Nathaniel Cogley, did just that–drove taxi in San Francisco. At night. While in school. With the money he made, he funded a two year trip to Africa and, at the end of it all, a superb documentary, From Dakar to Port Loko:

This film reminds me of joyful months spent in the field, talking to people about their everyday lives. We hear the Senegalese take on U.S. foreign policy, how to make a dime in Gambia, how to conserve a forest (and track orangutangs) in Guinea-Buissau, and what it takes to heal an amputated arm in Sierra Leone.

If you want to set up a screening at your university (I recommend it) contact Nathaniel.

The film is marketed to universities and high schools by Berkeley Media. If you want your library to purchase a copy, tell them to look here. It comes with full public performance rights. If you’re not a library or an educational institution, you can get a copy from Nathaniel directly. The music, by the way, rocks.

So remember, there is more than one path to working abroad. Be creative. And don’t forget to tip your cab driver.

3 thoughts on “Unconventional ways to work in development: taxi and documentary edition

  1. I never drove a cab, but I worked on a construction site. And in an office. And in a boosktore. Often at night. While in school. With the money I made, I got to eat. And pay rent. And buy textbooks. This is on top of the staggering piles of debt I choose to take on in order to pay tuition. Because I wanted to work in this field.

    Nor was my situation unusual – I suspect Nathaniel’s is.

    If you had told me when I started that I’d also need to self-fund trips to Africa while the interest continued to grow on the student loans I’d have to defer just to “get started in development”, I’d have told you and the rest of the development industry to go fuck yourselves.

    This hopefully was intended as a light-hearted framing device to introduce the story and amazing film. But for every student who has had to pay their own way – either to school or the field – it only smells of smugness.

    I’m glad Nathaniel had the opportunity and the luxury of being able to to do this. I’d be even happier if every student had similar opportunities.

  2. “(and track orangutangs) in Guinea-Buissau”

    Eh? Is that a zoo or is that something to do with all the tigers which aren’t in Africa?