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February 1, 2013

Six Questions with Opportunity International’s Technical Proposal Writer Allison Bearden

By Allison Bearden

How long have you worked at Opportunity?

I began in August 2010 as an intern and I accepted my current job in May 2011, so I’ve been in this position for a little over one and a half years.

What career path led you here?

I went to Westmont College, back home in California (I grew up in San Diego). I was a political science major and loved my international studies classes. I became deeply interested in microfinance when I learned about it in an international development class.

While in college, I was an intern for ByHand Consulting, a company that helps impoverished artisans refine their handicrafts so they can market them internationally. It was there that I first learned about Opportunity International’s faith-based microfinance work around the globe. I made a couple of connections with staff and through my home group at church. I interviewed for Opportunity’s internship program, was accepted, and moved to suburban Chicago, hoping that there’d be a job at the end of it!

Technical Proposal Writer Allison Bearden

What does your job entail?

Well, each day is a bit different. The main part of my job is writing proposals in collaboration with my supervisor, Vice President Ken Koskela. As part of Opportunity’s International Business Development Department, I spend most of my time writing the narrative for technical grant proposals for corporations and bi- or multi-lateral organizations. That can mean anything appealing to the Gates Foundation, USAID or a tech company in Silicon Valley.

In a grant proposal, the “narrative” is anything that isn’t the budget or the number-crunching. I write about the objectives we’re dedicated to reaching in a given country or with a particular program, including the number of clients we’ll impact and the technologies we’ll employ to reach them.

You’ve gotten the chance to travel a lot in this job. Where have you been?

I’ve been to five countries in Africa and to Oxford, England, to work with staff of Opportunity – UK. I’d never been to Africa before coming to Opportunity and now I’ve been to Rwanda, Mozambique, Uganda, Ghana and Tanzania for proposal research.

What is your favorite part about the job?

It’s been an enormous privilege to meet the staff at our banks. It’s great to put faces to names that I often see in my email inbox and hear the vision and strategic thinking of our bank CEO’s as I conduct proposal research.

What’s next for you at Opportunity?

A crucial part of proposal development is crunching numbers for bank business planning, budgets and projections. I’d like to master all aspects of the proposal development process in addition to the writing.

Opportunity is a great place to work, and I love the role I have now, so I would like to continue to expand my role and responsibilities. I also think it might be wise to go back to school at some point, even part-time, to study rural poverty – to gain more background on why so many people become trapped in the poverty cycle. I’d also like to travel even more to further understand the experience and perspective of our clients.