Changemaker- Ian Wishart
15 July 2013 at 10:49 am
Ian Wishart is the CEO of Plan Australia, an influential international development agency which is part of a global development network with a focus on children.
This week we profile Ian in Changemakers- a weekly column which examines inspiring people and their careers in the Not for Profit sector.
Ian has a long history in international development, both responding to emergencies and in long-term development work running development programs in impoverished communities. He has completed assignments all over the world including Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Rwanda, Mozambique, Laos, Cambodia and Somalia.
What are you currently working on in the organisation?
Plan International is currently finalising our ‘Because I am a Girl’ campaign for 2013. This is a campaign where we highlight the discrimination and disadvantage that girls face around the world and invite people to take action to change that. Last year we were successful in having the United Nations recognise, for the first time ever, a special day for girls on October 11.
This year we aim to make the celebration of that day bigger and better. Plan International is a champion for the rights of boys and girls but the statistics are clear, girls are less likely to enrol in school and more likely to be forced to drop out. We therefore need to ensure more girls get a basic education which is their basic right. That’s what the International Day of the Girl will be all about.
What drew you to the Not for Profit sector?
I had grown up in the developing country of Papua New Guinea and seen the disparity between my privileged life and the lives of local kids who had the misfortune of being born into situations of poverty. I always had a passion to do something for children like that so it was natural that I should look to the Not for Profit sector to try and fulfil that sense of vocation or purpose.
How long have you been working in the Not for Profit sector?
What was your first job in the Not for Profit sector?
My first job in the Not for Profit sector was as an international emergency worker. In this role I was despatched all over the world to help organise the international response to crisis. I ended up in Cambodia helping people displaced by the Khmer Rouge, then South Sudan dealing with the civil war, before heading to Rwanda to assist people after the genocide in that country. Looking back there was no doubt it was a very full on time, physically and emotionally, but at the same time, immensely rewarding.
What is the best thing about working in the Not for Profit sector?
The best thing about working in the Not for Profit sector is the satisfaction you feel when all the hard work has a fantastic impact for people. In my role I have seen very poor people have the joy of fresh water. I have met young people who tell me what getting an education has meant to them. I talk to girls who tell me they have avoided a forced marriage and stayed in school because of Plan International efforts. That sort of satisfaction cannot be readily found in a for Profit job.
What do you like best about working in your current organisation?
What I love about Plan International is that it is a champion for children. It sees the situation of children that are born into poverty and says – that’s not right, something should be done about it, and then gets on and does something. It works in 50 developing countries to improve the lives of children and to help them reach their potential. This gives it an amazing global coverage to an inspiring vision for children.
I consider my greatest achievement to be…
I don’t really have a great memory for personal achievements but a recent achievement for my organisation Plan International was to win the 2012 PWC Transparency Award for the strength of our annual reporting. We wanted to better demonstrate our transparency and accountability and had worked hard on improving our report. It was therefore very rewarding to be recognised in this way.
I’m always being asked …
I’m always being asked how do I get my first job in international development. Students just finishing their degrees and people looking for a career change often ask me this. Its a challenging one to answer as the number of jobs in international development are relatively few compared to the numbers interested. The other thing that has happened over the years is that the professional requirements for entry have risen. While when I joined it was enough to have some basic business skills and an interest in the area these days many young people are completing Master’s in International Development before they apply. This makes it very competitive to find that first job in an international development agency.
I’m very bad at …
I’m very bad at saying no to a humanitarian crisis. If something bad has happened for children around the world like a tsunami I immediately want to get involved. These days I need to remind myself that I am not the young pup I used to be. Plan International has front line staff, that are best placed to handle the immediate life saving response. My role these days is to handle the media and act as a spokesperson for my agency and in this way be a voice for the children rather than the one directly giving them help.