My Summer With the UNDP

Rishitha Chennupati

When I quit my job and joined INSEAD, I knew that it was going to be a year of great opportunities and diverse experiences. I have always wanted to pursue a career in social impact and a summer internship during my MBA seemed to be the perfect option to test the waters. So, this summer, I was a part of the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction team (CDT) in Geneva. With a network of 177 country offices the UNDP is one of the largest global public-sector actors in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).

I had the opportunity to work with a team of incredibly collaborative, smart and grounded colleagues who were all united in their commitment to make a lasting impact in middle and low-income countries. In-line with UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UNDP’s Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction team (CDT) believes Disaster Risk Reduction & Recovery, Climate Change and sustainable Energy to be engines for poverty reduction, social progress, equity, enhanced resilience, economic growth, and environmental sustainability. Our team focused on projects that enabled countries to develop resilience to and help recover from disasters, mitigate climate change and promote affordable, reliable and sustainable energy services.

My role included the management of Disaster Risk Recovery, Climate Change and Energy portfolios by analyzing data on trends, financial expenditures and involvement in sub-sectors. I extracted key results by country and developed infographics for the annual report. I also coordinated communications between country level teams on Get Airports Ready for Disaster (GARD) training.

Highlights included...

  • The UNDP is an incredible place to work for, with opportunities to make a significant change in people’s lives especially in the least developed and developing countries.
  • Analysing the impact of various projects and identifying ideal areas for investment, given the limited budget at hand was personally very fulfilling. Knowing that your actions can have a tremendous impact on the lives of thousands of people also instilled an additional sense of responsibility and personal commitment.
  • Having the unique opportunity to meet extremely talented and committed people with firsthand experience working in several war-torn and disaster hit areas, spanning a long career at the UN was a great learning opportunity and immensely inspiring.

Advice for students interested in an internship in social impact or general advice for this sector

I think that it is important to have significant experience in the sector to pursue an internship or a full time role in social impact, especially in established organisations. Having said that, if one is genuinely passionate about working in the social impact sector, it is possible to pursue a career in this sector by leveraging your existing skill set. Being aware of the slow pace in these organization especially if one is used to a fast paced, results driven culture, will help one be prepared to develop workarounds to get things done at a faster pace.

About the UNDP

The UNDP is the United Nations' global development network. Headquartered in New York City, UNDP advocates for change and connects countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. It provides expert advice, training and grants support to developing countries, with increasing emphasis on assistance to the least developed countries.

UNDP works in some 170 countries and territories, helping to achieve the eradication of poverty, and the reduction of inequalities and exclusion. It helps countries to develop policies, leadership skills, partnering abilities, institutional capabilities and build resilience to sustain development results. The status of UNDP is that of an executive board within the United Nations General Assembly.