Debate Driver: Paul Guenette

Who is he?

Paul Guenette

Mr. Guenette at a recent CSIS event

Paul Guenette is the Executive Vice President for Communications at ACDI/VOCA, a leading development contractor, and has designed and implemented integrated sustainable development programs over the course of a career that has spanned 40 years and 70 countries. His experiences include long-term assignments in Senegal, Mauritania, Indonesia, Barbados and Kenya, heading agribusiness programs that incorporated activities in policy reform, business group strengthening, commercial marketing, equity financing and investment promotion.

Mr. Guenette began his development career in Senegal through the Peace Corps, and continued to travel back to West Africa on assignments with the U.S. Agency for International Development. He previously worked with Development Alternatives Incorporated and Deloitte’s Emerging Markets Practice.  He earned his M.B.A. at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and his B.A. in theater arts at Kalamazoo College.

Recently at CSIS:

Mr. Guenette recently participated in CSIS’ Careers in Development series, chairing a session entitled Agribusiness, Food Security, and Global Development. He summarized a unique professional track record, beginning with a bachelor’s degree in theater arts and bringing him, most recently, to an “NGO that means business.” His talk also emphasized the important role of public-private partnerships in development, and urged a room of roughly 60 young professionals and members of the Washington development policy communities to diversify their skill sets.

Today, 80 percent of financial inflows moving to the developing world come from the private sector, and the remaining 20 percent is supplied by official development assistance. According to Mr. Guenette, this illustrates the importance of tapping private sector capacities and capital to catalyze sustainable change. Spending a significant amount of his career abroad kept him under pressure to continually seek the next big opportunity to improve himself and gain new, timely skills, Mr. Guenette said. “Each time I came back to DC, I had to recreate myself and my value to find a good position.” He urged young professionals to be relentlessly opportunistic – “if an opportunity comes your way, and it feels okay, take it.”

Mr. Guenette stressed the importance of field experience for young professionals building their careers in development. He highlighted ACDI/VOCA’s excellent international volunteer opportunity database and programming, including the Service Learning Corps for current or recently matriculated graduate students. Mr. Guenette is an alumnus and adamant supporter of the Peace Corps, and heavily credits that first abroad experience with shaping the course of his career.

Careers in Global Development” is a monthly series featuring U.S. senior-level, multi-lateral and NGO officials who have worked in the field of development for at least twenty years. The series is aimed at young professionals who are interested in working in development, and will include a one-hour dialogue on both the specific expertise of the speaker, as well as the career path and influences along the way. Click here for a full interview with Mr. Guenette.

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