Meet Our Trainers: Raymond Justice
Meet Our Trainers: Raymond Justice
This is the latest post in the “Meet Our Trainers” series, where we get to know InsideNGO’s trainers beyond the training room. Here we highlight Raymond Justice (at right), who is piloting our newest workshop, USAID Food Aid Operations. Ray is not just a trainer, he’s an expert practitioner, serving as senior director of compliance, operations & awards at Plan International USA.
Q: How long have you been working in international development and how did you get your start?
I have been working in international development since 2004. I started as an intern for ACDI/VOCA that fall and stayed for the next nine years, advancing in roles and responsibilities that led me to work in grants and contracts and compliance. I left ACDI/VOCA in 2013 to continue my work in international development working for URC-CHS. In 2015, I joined Plan International USA.
Tell us a little bit about your current job responsibilities.
I currently oversee Plan International USA’s compliance, operations, and awards department, which is responsible for providing award administration support to institutional donor funding; program and donor compliance support; operational support regarding the startup and close out of projects; and strengthened operations knowledge management through capacity building. I currently manage a team of two managers, and we are adding a third position this summer.
A normal day is very busy prioritizing the needs of a global organization while balancing commitments of the team. We strive to provide the best customer service possible to our internal and external stakeholders.
How did you get involved with InsideNGO?
I got involved with InsideNGO through a last-minute opportunity at work in 2011. InsideNGO needed someone to help with them a large training on USAID Rules & Regulations in Addis Ababa at the last minute. They reached out to Diana Esposito and Deborah Hanley at ACDI/VOCA; both recommended me as I had all the Ethiopia projects under my purview. I knew about local issues and what USAID was prioritizing in the country.
At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it. My wife, who worked at ACDI/VOCA as well, saw the potential and value of the opportunity. She convinced me in 2006 to take up working in grants and contracts and said that I would do well if I remembered what she taught me. Now in 2011, I had an opportunity to showcase what she, Diana, and Deborah saw in me. I boarded a flight for Ethiopia on a Saturday night in July to help facilitate a training for over seventy people. Since that time, I have continued to work with InsideNGO whenever and wherever possible.
Thanks to your initiative, InsideNGO will be offering a new workshop, USAID Food Aid Operations, in August. Why did you advocate for such a specialized topic?
At ACDI/VOCA, I supported projects like this for USAID Food for Peace and USDA. These projects are complex, demanding, and all-consuming. I became known as the “guru” who could work with these programs across the teams (field and HQ-based) to deliver.
Because I am a trainer for InsideNGO, my colleagues would sometimes ask questions about things like commodity management using Inland Transportation Storage and Handling (ITSH) funds. “What is this?” they would ask. I would then explain about how ITSH works and the requirements for what you can use those funds for by email.
There was always a need and it was not being addressed by anyone in particular, so why not work with InsideNGO?
What kind of an experience should these workshop attendees expect?
We are hoping to create the experience where someone, regardless of skill or knowledge and who works or supports these types of programs, can participate and learn something new or share some practical tips from similar experiences with their colleagues.
Food aid programs are challenging and complex with different regulations, requirements, and expectations and with many moving parts. In some cases, you feel like the clown at the circus juggling multiple balls while riding a unicycle! It is okay to feel that way.
We want to provide you with a base to work from so you can turn that unicycle into a full bicycle with training wheels and then can move on without training wheels. We want to build your operations knowledge management and capacity so that you can understand how to deliver better programs for beneficiaries and stakeholders that are compliant with the donors’ requirement and expectations.
This course will be informative, participatory, and exciting. I look forward to it and working together to grow it over time.
You’ve been an InsideNGO trainer for six years now. Is there a particular moment from past workshops that stands out for you—a funny story, a memorable participant, or a lesson learned about training that you’d like share here?
I think it was my second opportunity to deliver a training with InsideNGO. I was working with Milka Dinev and Keith Edwards. I knew Keith from my first training in Addis Ababa. After the first training, I was really hard on myself. Having taken Training of Trainers recently, I was feeling more confident in my ability to deliver as an effective trainer.
At the end of the three-day rules and regulations training, one of the participants left us a note letting us know how they scored the three of us. The note said that Milka and Keith both got a 95% and I got a 93%. I said to myself, “A-! Not bad and a step in the right direction!”