It’s a Meet the Team blog post kind of day, and today, we’re highlighting Valencia Wilson, Senior Impact Consultant here at ResultsLab.
Valencia has over 13 years of experience in strategic design, monitoring and evaluation, and impact investing programs within the US and in Latin America. She has also worked with a variety of public, private, and non-profit organizations such as USAID, the World Bank, the Pan-American Development Foundation, and La Agencia para la Reincorporación y la Normalización in Colombia. Valencia has a passion for peacebuilding, human rights, and innovation. She received her Master of Arts degree in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service and her Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies from Virginia Tech.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in evaluation and data use?
Over the years, I worked on a wide range of international development projects from large banks and multilaterals improving financial access to small non-profits focused on human rights and capacity building projects within the US and Latin America. For all these projects, I do what is within my power to elevate marginalized voices and bring them to the center and ensuring policy decisions account for the populations that would eventually be receiving some sort of social and/or economic benefit from the implementation of these policies.
I found that the contextual and analytical component of how policy decisions are guided by program evaluation and the reliability of the data that is collected allowed me to engage with clients and the local communities. I strive to ensure that the right questions are asked, and the responses received truly reflect the population’s needs.
Q: How have the roles you’ve held in the past contributed to how you work now?
My prior roles required me to use my technical skills, but I also needed to collect and interpret data to improve the overall structure of a program to maximize our impact. These roles also relied upon me to understand complexities within large multinational companies/organizations and to swiftly engage with our clients with completely different priorities. Knowing my audience was critical then, and it still is. Since many of my projects were geared towards Latin America, I had many cross-cultural experiences that allowed me to develop the client’s trust and understand their biggest challenges. Some of those challenges involved how their business or service area best portrays and visualizes data in a way that was easy to digest, delivered key insights, and provided a springboard for future discussions.
The way I work now heavily relies upon my previous global project experiences. It is imperative for me to understand a business/organization as an entity and its key motivations. Understanding the business also provides a guiding light on how my audience receives the data, and how to continue our collective progress.
Q: What’s your favorite quote/mantra?
“If you are not willing to risk the unusual, then you will have to settle for the ordinary”. – Jim Rohn
Q: What are your top 3 favorite podcasts/books/blogs to follow?
I love reading so my favorite books are those that involve self-discovery, fulfillment, and perseverance:
- The Alchemist
- Black on Red: My 44 Years Inside the Soviet Union
- Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany
Q: What is something people in your industry/niche have to deal with that you want to fix?
Many in the industry are very invested in innovation, and they should be. With that said, the organizational excitement over innovation needs to be balanced. Many organizations receive much attention towards new programs, products, and services that are coined as ‘innovative’ for a community, but there may be potential negative impacts on community that a service was initially intended to improve.
A greater focus should be placed on building stronger bonds with the communities and accepting that immediate needs may not always align with what the donor believes a community’s immediate needs are.
Q: What are your hobbies?
Reading, traveling, and snowboarding. Each one of these activities has a challenge embedded into them whether it is challenging your own perspective or taking on new heights in unknown environments.
Q: Tell us something we don’t know about you.
One way I enjoy learning about new cultures is through art and music. With that, I have recently taken up salsa classes and have enjoyed every minute of it. I have developed relationships that I would not have otherwise and further embedded myself in the history, culture, and art of not only Colombia but throughout Latin America.
Thank you, Valencia, for letting us pick your brain and get to know you better. Be on the lookout for our other ResultsLab teammate features in the upcoming months, and be sure to follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.