Meet Wendy McCallum

Wendy McCallum

Mentor South Africa

Name: Wendy McCallum

Country: South Africa

What is your background?

I am a Development Economist and have 17 years’ experience in economic development and planning. Development economics is a field of economics that focusses on the development and implementation of policies, plans, practices and projects to improve the economic and social situation of citizens of developing regions.

I have worked as a public servant, at national and local government level, and as an independent contractor. I hold a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Economics, a Postgraduate Diploma in Future Studies and Master of Philosophy degree in Development Finance. It is this unique combination of economics, development and finance, with a futures-orientation, that inspires to imagine and work towards creating a world where all of the Sustainable Development Goals are achieved for all.

Why did you choose to become an ICLD mentor?
I have worked with the ICLD over the past few years, contributing to different training programmes. When the opportunity to work as a mentor presented itself, I jumped at it. I am convinced that that ICLD’s approach to municipal partnerships for exchange and learning, supported by training key people in local government structures, can strengthen local participation and planning processes for positive societal impact. Being a mentor gives me the opportunity to facilitate parts of the change process that can result in improved lives and livelihood of people.

What do you like about being a mentor?
I have the skills, knowledge and experience to support local governments in structuring and streamlining the ways in which they work towards making more inclusive impact. I particularly enjoy helping local government teams plan and implement change initiatives, using a range of tools and techniques that I have tried and tested over the years. Plus, “I love it when a plan comes together!”

What are the success factors for building dynamic, inclusive and professional mentoring culture?
I do not profess to know more than any team member. My philosophy is that I learn as much from others as they may learn from me. In engaging with different teams, I continue to learn and refine my methods and frameworks, which means that I am better positioned to support local government processes into the future.

Understanding different contexts is key, and so I spend time trying to understand what is important for different groups of people in different settings. In understanding different priorities and processes, I can more effectively support conceptualising and managing effective change processes.

What is the most challenging things while being a mentor?
Everyone has unique skills, knowledge and experience that they are able to contribute to a team. It is sometimes challenging to ensure that the voice of the reticent not only is heard, but is actively and appropriately assimilated into change processes and plans. I believe it is collective insights that stem from diverse perspectives that strengthen the planning and participatory processeses that can effect change.

What is your passion in life?
I am passionate about improving the lives and livelihoods of people, for a more equitable and inclusive society. I was a teenager during the dawn of democracy in South Africa. The promises of this democratic dawn continued to be haunted by the hangover of Apartheid that robbed the majority of the population of social and economic opportunities. Working to actively reduce inequalities and poverty, as espoused in the Sustainable Development Goals, is what drives me to do my best each and every day and to make as much a difference as I am able to within my ambit of influence.