November 2022 Student Spotlight
Master of International Affairs student Lindsey McCormack tells us about her work as Director of Development for Rights CoLab, her experience in the MIA program, and more.
Congratulations on your current role as Director of Development for RightsCoLab! Could you tell us a bit more about the organization and their work?
Thank you! It’s been great to enter an organization that is so young—Rights CoLab launched in 2019—and still taking shape in many ways.
Rights CoLab partners with people who want to launch new initiatives in one of our core areas: reimagining civil society; integrating human rights into business standards and practices; and leveraging the financial sector to promote human rights. We work with partners for up to two years, and then help them spin off their projects into independent entities, or wind down if they have already fulfilled their purpose.
Many of the projects that Rights CoLab has helped launch intersect with interests of the Marxe School community. There’s Reimaging the International NGO, which started as a global effort to interrogate power structures in the sector and is now prototyping new ways for INGOs to operate. There’s the Task Force on Inequality-Related Financial Disclosures, which aims to develop metrics to help businesses and investors understand their social impacts. And we are just now launching a regional human rights center for East and Southeast Asia, which is being led by Taiwanese civil society leaders.
You have over 12 years of experience in resource mobilization working for various international organizations. Could you tell us more about it and what drew you to this field?
Resource mobilization encompasses everything that brings support to an organization or cause. That means there are lots of different kinds of jobs and many ways to enter the field. In my case, I started as a grant writer because I like talking with people and writing articles—in fact I worked as a journalist before my first grant writing job.
On a practical level, I started grant writing to supplement my freelance reporting income. But I also liked how a fundraising role puts you at the center of conversations about what an organization should be doing and how it wants to grow. You work with senior management and frontline staff across multiple departments, which gives you a unique perspective on the organization. You end up being a connector both internally and with external partners and donors.
Also, the field has become more dynamic in recent years as people have started to interrogate power relations and accountability in resource mobilization, which has led to the emergence of the community-centric fundraising movement and other approaches to bringing a social justice lens to the work.
What are some of your favorite and memorable projects/ initiatives that you have worked on previously before?
When I was at International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region—now called Fòs Feminista—I found myself working on lots of proposals to help local partners recover from disasters, including the Zika pandemic, hurricanes, and earthquakes. I became interested in the field of disaster preparedness. One of my favorite projects focused on strengthening the operational and structural preparedness of a sexual and reproductive health clinics in Belize and the Dominican Republic. The project combined public health and community organizing, and we also worked with Engineers Without Borders to develop trainings for laypeople on preparing small clinics for disasters and recognizing when buildings have been damaged. By the way, if you ever see a building with a big X-shaped crack on the wall, don’t go inside.
What do you like about the MIA program thus far? What are some classes or lessons you’ve been taught that have been particularly pertinent to your career goals?
Love it—my fellow students, the professors and staff, it’s been great so far. Coming back to school as a mid-career student, you really appreciate the chance to learn more about ideas and institutions that you’ve encountered over the years. The International Institutions and Global Governance class with Prof. Robbins, Social Movements with Prof. Mampilly, the Research & Analysis sequence, all have been eye-opening.