Growing and Adding Value in a Virtual World: Social Protection and Jobs in Liberia
Over the summer of 2020, I completed an internship with the Social Protection and Labor Global Practice of the World Bank; specifically, I worked with the Liberia country team within the Africa South and West Unit. Broadly, I provided inputs and analytical assistance to two projects currently under implementation: the Liberia Social Safety Nets Project and the Youth Opportunities Project. To summarize briefly, the LSSN project was developed in the wake of the Ebola outbreak to strengthen the government’s ability to provide social protection to its most vulnerable citizens through cash transfers. The goal of YOP (one must become very adept in acronyms working with the World Bank) is to provide income-generation opportunities for the country’s youth: an astounding 64% of Liberia’s population is under 25.
Despite the disappointment of not being able to travel to Liberia, I viewed the internship as a unique opportunity to adjust to the increasingly virtual working world. It was exciting to work on such an important project: the cash transfer infrastructure being developed by the Liberian government will be used in the response to COVID-19 and provide insurance for the most vulnerable against the economic contraction. I was happy to apply the skills I learned over my first year of graduate school to contribute to the projects. For example, I created questionnaires for monitoring activities, provided feedback on survey instruments in development, and conducted a literature review on the Liberian agriculture sector to be used in future project proposals. As a “capstone” project I reviewed a specific component of YOP that involved value-addition of crops for possible improvements and presented my findings to the Liberian government team. I was lucky to participate in a World Bank course offered by the DIME Analytics Unit on managing surveys and impact evaluations, which culminated in the project of which I was the proudest: I developed the framework for an impact evaluation that will be used over the coming year to analyze the most efficient way to provide home-gardening training to cash transfer beneficiaries, filling a current gap in the evidence base. Overall the internship was a great experience thanks to my committed bosses and Liberian counterparts; it helped to hone my professional skills, while allowing me to contribute to a wonderful initiative taking place thousands of miles away.