Inspired by his coursework and conversations with his classmates, Douglas Silverman ’16 is pursuing his interest in global relations through internships with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.
Building on his background as a sociology and Asian studies double major, Silverman worked with USAID’s senior futures adviser, Dr. Steven Gale ’69, as the first-ever Futures Intern at the USAID’s Global Development Lab in Washington, D.C., just four blocks from the White House. Silverman explains he was part of a futures team tackling “the key contemporary challenges that many developing countries face all around the world — namely a rapid rise in urbanization, dramatic demography shifts, the explosion of Internet use, and technology breakthroughs in health care delivery, manufacturing and digital money transfers.” All of which, says Silverman “are improving the quality of life for millions across the globe.”
Futures analysis, he notes, “is a powerful tool for managing complexity and uncertainty by systematically looking at trends and their plausible combination or scenarios five and 10 years out.” The approach incorporates both qualitative and quantitative information,” says Silverman and has “been successfully used by the private sector, the military and the intelligence community.” It seeks to answer the basic question: “What will a country look like a decade from now and what should we be doing now to stay ahead of the curve?”
Focusing on Ukraine and Haiti, Silverman developed potential scenarios by analyzing social, economic and political “drivers” of future change. Although he hadn’t previously studied either country, he “quickly realized that the analytic fundamentals of how to approach any country future had already been ingrained into my thinking over the last four years at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.”
After immersing himself in the historical context and contemporary data for each country, Silverman learned from Gale how to transform the raw information into a balanced, informative and effective report that was used to inform USAID programming decisions.
“My time in Washington, D.C., as a USAID analyst was a real eye-opener. The fast-paced internship at USAID allowed me to further develop and sharpen my analytical skills. It forced me to learn quickly, to use all my abilities, and be extremely dedicated,” he says. “I would do it all again in a flash, it was an awesome experience!”
In his current position at the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations in New York City, Silverman assists the committee in its goal of “facilitating high-level person-to-person relations,” which “quite literally, advances our relationship with China,” he explains.
“For a typical think-tank, hosting a high-level meeting or an event is often considered the highlight of the year — not the staple of the organization’s efforts,” he continues. “At the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, hosting political delegations, topical dialogues, military briefings, and academic exchange programs are weekly occurrences.”
With this lens into China-U.S. relations, and new challenges and experiences each day, Silverman is building a depth of understanding that will serve his future ambitions. Having studied abroad in eastern China as an HWS student, he hopes to explore it further with graduate work at John Hopkins University’s Nanjing program.