Faculty Spotlight: Q&A with John Magistro, Senior Business Development Manager at the UA Office of International Development
Tell us about your current role at the Office of International Development (OID).
I serve as the Sr Business Development Manager in OID. My primary responsibility is to identify funding opportunities in resilience and international development and to mobilize teams of faculty and students interested in submitting proposals in response to grant solicitations from USAID and other international research and development sponsors.
From 2007-2010 you were involved in establishing the Disaster Risk Science and Sustainable Development MSc Degree at Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia, one of the 12 Universities in the PERIPERI U Network. What have been the positive outcomes and/or impacts of the degree program for the students and for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in the region?
The goal of the project was to train a cadre of university professors and graduate students with the knowledge and skills to guide future generations of disaster risk management and sustainable development professionals in Ethiopia and more broadly across the African continent. The project produced 750 MSc graduates over the first four years and has had an enduring impact on the growth and professionalization of the Institute of Disaster Risk. Management & Food Security Studies at Bahir Dar University, establishing it as a preeminent leader in the disaster risk field nationally among scholars and practitioners now employed in government ministries, universities, and NGO organizations. Today, BDU is noted as a regional center of excellence in Africa in disaster risk scholarship, research and practice, and has recently launched a PhD program as well as providing public outreach through short course training for mid-career professionals, including community leaders, and disaster management specialists from government and NGOs. More information on the project can be found at https://rmportal.net/groups/drmsd_eth including a UAz-BDU project close-out video.
We also know that you have recently been instrumental in connecting the UA with the PERIPERI U network via the Centre for Collaboration in Africa at Stellenbosch University. What opportunities might this partnership open up for the HATS faculty network?
The Centre for Collaboration in Africa (CCA) at Stellenbosch University (SU) in South Africa hosts the PERIPERI U Secretariat. Dating back to our collaboration with Bahir Dar University, BDU became one of the first five original university members in 2006 of the PERIPERI U network. The ‘Partners Enhancing Resilience of People Exposed to Risks’ (PERIPERI U) represents a collaboration of higher education institutions spanning Africa, committed to advancing disaster risk-related scholarship in support of sustainable development (http://www.riskreductionafrica.org/). The original consortium, with funding from USAID for approximately 13 years, has now grown to include twelve universities from Algeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. The UAz recently established an MOU with Stellenbosch University and is proposing to establish an integrated network for resilience and disaster risk science to promote thought leadership that repositions disaster risk reduction within the broader frame of resilience. The UAz and SU are currently seeking funding to support this integrated network approach in three areas of joint teaching, knowledge sharing, and scholarship:
- Increase professional capacities in resilience and disaster risk management among UAz-SU faculty, postgraduate students, and affiliate partners (PERIPERI U) through joint enrollment and completion of accredited short courses in Resilience and Disaster Risk Science (RDRS);
- Enhance cross-cultural learning and exchange of knowledge among faculty, students, and affiliate partners (PERIPERI U) through joint participation in an open public seminar series on relevant topics in RDRS; and
- Improve scholarship in RDRS through collaborative research projects undertaken by UAz-SU faculty, students, and affiliate partners (PERIPERI U).
So, we’ve heard a lot about some of these “links” resources, like resiliencelinks, climatelinks, and agrilinks. And you have shared with the HATS core team some interesting articles and webinars. Perhaps with a couple of recent examples, can you share with us the value of these resources? How can we get connected?
In recent years, USAID has consolidated efforts to establish resource portals or knowledge sharing hubs disseminated through a family of “Links” sites, each emphasizing different areas of USAID’s programs, partners, and practitioners in international development. These sites showcase USAID’s research, learning, tools, resource libraries, news, featured project activities, current events, and sector topics in the form of webinars, blog posts, training events, etc., across a variety of sectors, initiatives, and programs. Many of these sites also have organized Communities of Practice with members as well as listserv newsletters that are invaluable sources of information with weekly updates, webinars, training events, notices of funding opportunities, and occasional job announcements. A sampling of the most well-known sites include:
- Agrilinks - a knowledge-sharing hub focused on agriculture-led food security.
- BiodiversityLinks - USAID's knowledge portal focused on advancing biodiversity conservation and development.
- Climatelinks - a global knowledge portal for climate change & development practitioners.
- Education-links - creates and shares successful and effective education programs.
- Landlinks - USAID's knowledge-sharing platform focused on land tenure and property rights.
- LearningLab - a collaborative learning community of development professionals.
- Marketlinks - provides market-based solutions for development.
- Resiliencelinks - a global knowledge platform for resilience practitioners.
- Urban-links - USAID's sharing platform for resources on sustainable urban development.
- Globalwaters - shares knowledge and ideas to solve global water and sanitation challenges.
What about the REAL Award? What types of information do they share in the newsletter that would be useful for HATS faculty members to pay attention to?
The REAL Award is one of several USAID learning mechanisms addressing food security and nutrition in a humanitarian assistance context, and housed on USAID’s Food Security and Nutrition (FSN) Network. FSN and REAL bring together food security practitioners to access and share resources, events, and opportunities to address the needs of the world's most vulnerable and food insecure.
The REAL Award is funded by the USAID Center for Resilience and “…was established to respond to the growing demand among USAID missions, host governments, implementing organizations, and other key stakeholders for rigorous yet practical monitoring, evaluation, strategic analysis, and capacity-building support related to resilience.” Development organizations implementing REAL include Save the Children, Mercy Corps, and TANGO International (based in Tucson). Similar to the “Links” sites listed above, REAL provides a listserv newsletter with weekly updates, webinars, training events, notices of funding opportunities, etc., covering featured topics in food security, nutrition, agriculture, and related sector activities.