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The weird intersection between the NGO world and the arts

Shortly after graduating from architecture school in the midst of the pandemic season, my thesis advisor invited (and mentor) invited me to join his newly founded NGO, ABC. You'll probably be hearing me talk about ABC a lot more in the coming few weeks and months, but from the start, we knew that there was a lot to learn about the NGO world: our experience in academia and design just wouldn't cut it.

Flash forward to a couple of years later and I'm in the middle of my second training program, which is organized by a Blood:Water and For Impact. During our first online training session with them, I started taking visual notes. Then, I completed it and emailed it to the organizers and my fellow trainees. They loved it—like, a lot. I didn't expect that doodle to get so much praise.

Also, earlier in the summer, I had done another training where we were told to do some playful sketching exercises. The drawings I made then caught the attention of one of the trainers there, and she got me a gig in her NGO. Now, I have conflicted feelings about the role of NGOs, especially in developing economies like Ethiopia. And creatives are often invited to do some peculiar, sometimes downright depressin, projects within these organizations.

But at the same time, both of those experiences just further proved to me that people value simple drawings that can capture the gist of an idea: visual communication is appreciated almost anywhere, apparently.