Alumni Spotlight: Skye Dobson, Slum Dwellers International (SDI)

Name: Skye Dobson

Degree: Master of Arts in International Affairs

Year Graduated: 2011

Career: Non-Profit

Occupation: Director of Learning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Slum Dwellers International (SDI)

Skye Dobson is a development professional with over ten years of experience working on community-driven slum upgrading and urban development in African cities. Dobson is currently the Director of Learning, Monitoring and Evaluation for the transnational Slum Dwellers International (SDI) network, which brings together slum dweller social movements in over 30 countries. She is presently based at the SDI Secretariat in Cape Town, South Africa where she coordinates data and knowledge management systems for the network and manages program and strategy development, as well as donor and partner engagement. Dobson is an Australian national and holds a Masters in International Affairs from The New School in New York.

What brought you to The New School? What was your professional and educational background before you came?

After completing a Bachelor’s Degree in African Studies at Hunter College, I applied to the MA program in International Affairs at The New School. I knew I wanted to work in Africa in the development sector.

What are the most important things you learned through your program? How did what you learned translate into the work you did after graduation?

Studley Graduate Programs in International Affairs (SGPIA) had a direct impact on my career and life trajectory. At SGPIA, my peers and professors inspired me to focus on urban issues. Critically, they exposed me to research and experience that helped me understand that community organizing and social movements would be central to the social transformation required to address the scale and depth of urban poverty and inequality. I chose classes and research projects that allowed me to delve into these areas of study and was able to test the practical application of this knowledge as part of the International Field Program (IFP) in Uganda in 2010. Having read so much about SDI during my studies, I was honored to work with SDI’s Uganda affiliate as an intern and I continued to volunteer for them upon my return to New York. I decided to write a thesis on slum dweller driven housing projects in the East Africa region. My research and experience with SDI during my time at SGPIA led to a job offer upon graduation.

What is your current position? How did your program at The New School prepare you for it?

I am currently the Director of Learning, Monitoring and Evaluation for the transnational Slum Dwellers International network, which brings together slum dweller social movements in over 30 countries. I am presently based at the SDI Secretariat in Cape Town, South Africa where I coordinate data and knowledge management systems for the network and manage program and strategy development, as well as donor and partner engagement. I specialize in M&E for social movements and the use of community-gathered data for inclusive and collaborative urban planning. In recent years, I have applied these concepts to the field of climate change adaptation and resilience planning and have published a number of articles on these topics. Prior to my current role, I served as Executive Director of ACTogether Uganda, the supporting NGO to the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda.