Interview with René Rösler (financial systems development, Laos)

What is your professional background?

I’m a fully trained bank clerk and I also studied business administration and economics with a special focus on international development cooperation.

What is your job as a development worker?

I work in the microfinance sector and support the establishment of village banks as well as an umbrella organisation for village banks. In Laos I work with the partner organisation both at local level and at provincial level. Our project is pursuing a multi-level approach (micro, meso and macro levels), which means we have to consult closely with the national level project management.

Why did you decide to become a GIZ development worker?

I think that the challenges of development cooperation in partner countries can only be effectively mastered if the needs at local level are fully understood and taken into account. As a development worker on the ground I play an important part in ensuring that this is the case. That’s why I find the job so important and the work and interaction with local colleagues at this level incredibly exciting and enriching.

Tell us about a typical working day.

I can break down my working day roughly into three main priorities. At local level my work involves regular visits to the village banks where I support and advise the national experts. I always seek direct contact with the village bank committees, which are made up only of villagers, who have other day jobs, for example as farmers. In addition to delivering advisory services, I get to know the day-to-day challenges faced by village banks. The second priority area of my work is advising the umbrella organisation of village banks, which represents the interests of village banks at regional level and also aims to improve the quality of the individual village banks. The third part of my work involves close cooperation with national level project management. Since GIZ is supporting the village bank approach in several provinces of Laos, regular exchange helps us to get to grips with more complex development issues together, and enables us to learn from one another.

How do you find working for GIZ’s Development Service?

My experience to date has been very positive, thanks primarily to the excellent cooperation with my partner organisation. The contribution development workers make is very much appreciated here.

What has been your most important experience as a development worker?

I’ve seen first-hand that, in order to achieve good development cooperation, there must be a knowledge transfer from local to national level. Since development is an ongoing process, it’s not enough to use one-off impressions or past experience as the basis for national programmes and strategies, since these would not truly mirror the needs of the actual target group.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work for GIZ’s Development Service as a development worker?

Without at least a rudimentary knowledge of the national language I wouldn’t be able to understand or interpret many processes and important cultural subtleties. That’s why a high level of cultural sensitivity is so important. In addition to the many technical and social competencies that today’s development worker is expected to have, a bit of serenity and balance helps me cope with the day-to-day challenges under working conditions that aren’t always easy. A development worker should also be genuinely convinced of the worth and validity of the project concept.