Patrick Linn MPA ’16 had always dreamt of joining the Peace Corps. He knew it would afford him the opportunity to live and work in a community that otherwise wouldn’t be accessible. He applied for the Peace Corps in 2009, but waited a few years before departing to ensure that he and his wife could volunteer in the same location. The wait was well worth it.
Linn and his wife worked in the Kedougou region of southeastern Senegal, aiding in environmental and community health. They trained the trainers who would go on to educate local gold miners about mercury reduction programs. Linn worked on a very data-oriented research project, which taught him about the importance of not overstating claims. With development, Linn explains, comes a healthy amount of skepticism.
“It’s easy to think that a program or policy can be scaled up and used in any context, when in actuality, its initial impact was shown in a very specific context,” Linn said. “I’ve learned the notion of skepticism and a desire to see rigorously developed evidence justifying a program as well as a hesitancy to allow just any program through.”
As he prepares for a career as a public policy fellow, Linn carries with him lessons from the Peace Corps.
“‘Do no harm,’” Linn said, “is a fundamental principle of any development work.”