Alumni Spotlight #27 Jordan Perrault

skaermbillede-2016-12-06-kl-21-36-52In this Spotlight interview you can read about Jordan who graduated in 2012 with a major in Human Geography. Before and during his studies at Lund University Jordan has traveled and worked in the Middle East. Jordan shares his thoughts about the BIDS-Programme and how analytical skills and perspectives on global problems also can contribute to projects beyond the BIDS-programme.


Who is Jordan?
“I’m originally from Canada, where I’m living now, I’m tall in an awkward kind of way and after three years in Sweden managed to be able to only order pastries and coffee in Swedish. I was one of those lucky students part of the inaugural group to go through the BIDS-programme in 2009. I came to the program after living in Damascus, Syria and thought it presented a good opportunity to take a look at what I was witnessing and failing to understand. I still don’t understand anything, but I have a better sense of what I don’t know.”

Specifications during the BIDS-programme
“I did a major in Human Geography, but also focused on Economic History ultimately doing my thesis on the transformation of informal to formal economies through the use of property rights regimes. I did not do a minor field study, though looking back wish I had. I did have the opportunity to return to Lebanon in the summer of 2011 to complete 2 month intensive study in colloquial Arabic. While in Lund I spent a lot of time playing ultimate with Akka, and exploring all of the libraries I could to find pleasant reading spots – turns out Arimans is best as it also serves drinks (coffee for studying, other stuff for arm chair philosophy).”

BIDS experience
“While we got to experience some growing pains in the first year around course content and approaches, what ultimately defined my BIDS experience was the accessibility of both instructors and other students. The programme encouraged a running dialogue around both the subject we were studying, but also how we studied it. As we reached the third year I really valued the opportunity to be challenged by – and challenge – the people I studied with. The experience of watching people travel around the globe and smash their ideas against reality was amazing and it definitely forced me to be a better thinker and probably a more decent human. BIDS seemed to attract passionate people who were motivated by a desire to have a positive impact on the world around them – it was inspiring to watch as people discovered what that actually meant in practice.”

BIDS’ influence and importance
“I was pretty biased about a couple of things before I arrived in Lund. Growing up I was brainwashed to think that university is about learning how to learn not getting a ticket to employment. The BIDS-programme did this in a fantastic way, pushing me to see how multiple perspectives on any global problem force us to conceptualise several layers of complexity at the same time. Moving into the world of being employed, this has allowed me to take on challenges in a more holistic way. As well, with the research and social science perspective on learning that BIDS encouraged, I have found that I have been armed with a set of analytical skills that may not have come from more disjointed studies.”

“By forcing us to think of everything as a research project, the programme challenged me to be really clear about my assumptions and pushed me to base analysis on what I can verify or not (instead of generalise based on a small set of theories, or a narrow field of thinking). Likely other programmes do the same, but what I found useful about BIDS is that it narrowed the scope of focus to Development Studies which provided a platform to test several different ideas and ways of thinking. While chaotic at times, BIDS created an environment that was open ended, but structured enough that I walked away having developed skills and knowledge that enabled me to take on some interesting challenges I would have otherwise been unprepared for. In other words, I think better about the world and know how to become more informed when I need to be. I also now know what epistemology is even if I still need help spelling it.”

Development related activities
“I went into BIDS thinking development was a thing for poor countries. Fortunately a couple of key professors fixed that and I now see that every community and country struggles with issues of long and short term development. While I have not been engaged in the development industry or international community, after moving back to Canada I have been involved in a number of projects related to community lead change and personal empowerment. Using what I learned in BIDS, I approach what I do at work now as a process of people-first collaborative community building. Development theory has helped me in that it informs how I think about the future as a result of actions taken today; that shows up a lot in my current job where I have to propose measurable ways of enabling positive change.”

Activities after BIDS
“After BIDS I moved back to Canada and worked as a carpenter again. I eventually got a job facilitating a program focused on youth-led change. In that job I got to use many of the participatory planning tools and concepts of community engagement that I learned through BIDS. Currently I work for an industry created charity and I’m managing a project that aims to bring industry, educators, and youth aged 16-19 together to develop work ready skills in a practical and hands on way. I can trace the approach I’ve taken to developing the programme’s concept and strategy to many of the things I learned in BIDS including theory around inequality and empowerment, non-profit organizations, and many of the analytical and evaluation based skills I gained through projects.”

“I really enjoy the challenge of looking at how we can get from point A to B in a way that makes a life that is secure and meaningful accessible to as many people as possible. As the world is more connected this means that we are forced to act in a way that is conscious of neighbours that are both near and far. I’m hoping to have the chance to experience how people are dealing with this challenge in as many places and ways as I can.

Advice for future BIDS-graduates
“I wished I learned the difference between being critical and thinking critically earlier. Thinking critically to me means that thoughts can be put into action for the betterment of all. Being critical feels awesome but ultimately has no substance.”

Interview conducted and edited by Karla Andersen



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