Learning with InsideNGO: Margaret Mensah
Learning with InsideNGO: Margaret Mensah
"Learning with InsideNGO" profiles professionals who have taken advantage of our many learning opportunities. In this post, we profile Margaret Mensah of URC-CHS. Margaret has earned the InsideNGO Certificate in USAID Assistance Management, which demonstrates her expertise in navigating, interpreting, and applying USAID regulations. Margaret is the first and only practitioner, to date, to have earned this certificate through the “experience-based pathway,” which enables participants with at least eight years of experience in managing USAID Assistance Awards to provide documentation of their skills and experience in lieu of attending two of the three workshops required to earn certification.
Q: How many years have you been working in development?
A: I’ve been working in development since 2008. I have been at URC for a year and four months. Before that, I was at Management Sciences for Health (MSH) on the Leadership, Management, and Governance (LMG) project. Before that I was with Abt Associates Inc., where I worked as the Finance and Administration Manager for PSP One Task order 2, Banking on Health, and the SHOPS Project.
Tell us a little bit about your current job responsibilities.
I’m the director for administration and finance for the Quality Performance Institute (QPI) division of University Research Co. The flagship project under this division is the “Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems” (ASSIST). The ASSIST project is a five-year, $184 million cooperative agreement operating in about 25 countries, ending September 2017. I oversee all the administrative and financial aspects of all our country offices as well as the head office. I work with all stakeholders (USAID, subcontractors, consultants, field office, and HQ team) to provide accurate and timely financial reports and to ensure that all costs are incurred in accordance with the USAID cost principles of allocability, allowability, and reasonableness. I also manage all the administrative aspect of the division and the project, backstopping and troubleshooting for the field offices. I manage the field and ensure that they are spending according to the approved budget, within the period of performance and as agreed on. I indirectly supervise all the field finance and account staff and provide training and capacity building for grantees.
How did you learn about InsideNGO’s Certificate in USAID Assistance Management?
I learned about this through InsideNGO’s e-mail communications—the bulletins that I receive. As I read about the certification, I realized that it’s one of the few courses around that directly addresses the knowledge base of people in the development field, so I researched more about it and registered to begin the program in 2014.
What was your motivation for pursuing the certificate?
I’ve taken many training programs throughout my career, but when I read about the contents of this one, I thought it was the most connected course related to our industry. To people with little experience or no past experience in the development industry, this program affords them the opportunity gain knowledge to develop effective, efficient ways to approach USAID assistance management. For others like me, with some years of experience, it was good to reinforce and refresh my knowledge regarding US rules and regulations and compliance issues.
Your considerable professional experience meant that you followed the “experience-based pathway,” to the certificate, meaning you accelerated your eligibility to take the online certificate assessment. With such a strong background already, what did you see as value of this certificate for you?
For me, having been in the industry and knowing most of the rules and regulations, being given the opportunity to take this course through the experienced-based pathway was really effective; as I did not have to relearn the basics, but I was given the opportunity to refresh my knowledge and get the most up-to-date information.
This certification is very valuable to me. On the one hand its goes a long way to validate my knowledge and on the other hand I did not waste lots of time due to the accelerated nature of the experience-based pathway.
What would you tell a colleague who is considering starting to pursue this opportunity?
Several people have come to me about this. Since I have the budget in my department to be able to send people to this training, I have sponsored two people to study presently in my department, and I’ve lined up some others to take this program.
With this certification now being offered, if two people approach me with the same qualifications and level of experience, and one of them has taken this course, I think it would be a deciding factor for me. It validates someone’s knowledge in the area of development and their ability to manage USAID funded-projects.