Meet the team: Elizabeth Mohan, Senior Manager
Elizabeth is a Senior Manager based in the MENA region. Elizabeth’s work at Integrity focuses on supporting technical design and programme delivery across Integrity’s portfolio, particularly in Syria and Iraq.
Can you tell us about yourself, background and professional experiences?
Having lived and worked in Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, and Morocco, I come to Integrity with a strong geographical focus on the Arab world. This interest developed during my Bachelors’ degree. I went on to obtain a Master’s in Arab Studies with a focus on economic development from Georgetown University in the USA and a Master’s degree in Arabic from the University of Alexandria in Egypt.
I have worked on Monitoring & Evaluation and Research (MER) programmes in the Arab world for the past seven years. Since the outset of the Syrian conflict, I have focused on Syria programming related to civil society and governance, armed factions, and essential services. Most recently, I was the MER manager on a CSSF-funded access to justice programme in Syria for two and a half years, based in Turkey.
Why did you choose to specialise in research?
I believe that it is essential for research to be a part of every programme, especially in monitoring and evaluation. Having a qualitative understanding of why things are happening is vital, especially in FCAS contexts where situations change quickly. Nothing is ever as simple as a logframe, so it is important to have a full understanding of why we attain certain results in our programming.
During my Masters, I co-founded a consultancy called the ‘Syria Conflict Monitor’. Its purpose was to monitor armed faction formations in Syria in order to inform policy makers in Washington D.C. about who the opposition were, and what they were experiencing. At that time, the big concern in Washington was that ‘we didn’t know who the opposition were’. Our research attempted to debunk that myth, and between 2012 and 2014, we analysed over 3,000 formation videos on social media to map out who the opposition were, and what they wanted. For us, as students, it started simply as an interesting exercise and an opportunity to practice our Arabic, but the more involved we got, the more value we realised our data had in providing an evidence base to understand the conflict. We eventually sold the data to the Carter Center, and went on to pursue our careers in research, which is where I have focused most of my energy ever since.
I was initially drawn to Integrity because of its expertise in MER in the Arab world. However, Integrity is also the perfect size for being able to learn and work on topics outside of your specialisation, meaning that you are continuously learning something new. For example, I am currently working on an access to justice programme in Iraq, a country that I have not previously worked on. It has been a fascinating experience, as it’s easy to identify common themes between Iraq and Syria’s recent history. While the contexts are completely different, themes, such as the marginalisation and disenfranchisement of large swaths of the population, and the response of authoritarian regimes to any dissent, are sadly not unique.
Another reason why I chose to work for Integrity is that working as a staff is very different than being an independent consultant. As a consultant, your work revolves around a certain programme, and your reputation depends on the success of that programme. At Integrity, I feel invested in the company as a whole – from its upcoming pipeline to project management – and have the opportunity to learn about the business itself, rather than just a single project.
What do you most admire about Integrity?
What I most admire about Integrity is its people and collaborative atmosphere, as everyone is always willing to share knowledge. Integrity staff have a combination of technical skills, deep contextual knowledge, and, most importantly, a passion for the geographies they are working on. This combination creates a unique offering, which I believe is key for effective programming, particularly in FCAS.
You will be based in the MENA region whilst working at Integrity, what do you particularly enjoy about being based in-country?
There is a human aspect and a sense of comradery that is unique when you are based in-country. You feel very connected to your work and have the opportunity to meet people from everywhere, with different view-points, mentalities, expertise, and experiences. I think it essentially makes you realise ‘how small your footprint is’, and that there is so much out there to learn from everyone you meet.
What skills do you hope to learn at Integrity?
Whilst at Integrity, I hope to become a competent development practitioner across the board, and avoid becoming too ‘myopic’ in my specialisation. As a researcher, I want to understand how MER fits into better programme implementation. Finally, I believe that gaining solid Project Management experience is essential, as being a good researcher means nothing if you cannot, for example, allocate resources and devise an effective workplan.