"An international assignment can be a real eye-opener."

Robert Haas is a volunteer with the Senior Experten Service and has already completed his first assignment for the African-German Youth Office. The former diplomat and ministry official accompanied Team works! participant Svenja Bloom to Uganda this spring.

The interview

Mr Haas, where exactly did you accompany Svenja Bloom to on your senior expert assignment?

Our assignment was in the rural communities around Gulu, Uganda’s second largest city, which has a population of around 300,000. But we also had contact with lots of people in the city itself. Svenja’s placement was with GWAD, which is an NGO aiming to improve the living conditions of the poor rural community - especially women.

Team works! assignments are always done in a tandem team. What attracted you to the idea of supporting a young expert?

I have 40 years’ practical experience in development cooperation and I was already very familiar with the GWAD organisation. Svenja has a wealth of theoretical knowledge and I thought it would be very interesting to support her during her assignment and help her gain first-hand experience of the organisation’s work to back up what she already knows.

An international assignment can be a real eye-opener. Young people can discover that other approaches and mindsets are possible too.

What were you able to learn from Svenja? How did you benefit? And were you able to share any knowledge with her?

Svenja works for a German NGO that primarily deals with fundamental development issues and often takes a very critical stance. I’ve been more influenced by what you might call “official policy”. I feel that being able to share our knowledge with each other during an assignment on the ground meant we were both able to expand our horizons. We both learned from each other, which is precisely the way it’s supposed to be.

Robert Haas and Svenja Bloom with some of their GWAD colleagues. Standing between the two ox is Solomon Rackara, who also went on a Team works! assignment - to Münster, working for Eine Welt Netz - after Svenja’s assignment.
The photo shows five people: Robert Haas, Svenja Bloom, Solomon Rackara and two other men. They are looking at the camera. There are two ox in the middle of the picture.

How do you think young experts can benefit from a placement in an organisation abroad? And are there any advantages for the organisations too?

Even if you work for a forward-looking organisation in Germany, you’re bound to be influenced by German business culture and the environment in which your organisation operates. An international assignment in a similar organisation can be a real eye-opener. Young people can discover that other approaches and mindsets are possible too. That encourages them to reflect and compare. And when they return home, their organisation benefits from an expert who’s learned to see the big picture and make suggestions that might be good for the organisation. In its international business, for example, but elsewhere too.

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