Sharing the story of development

May 14, 2012
Raina Delisle
André Frenette

André Frenette was sitting on a bed in Goa, India, when he had the interview of his career.

"I'm on the phone for an hour and 10 minutes doing an interview for a communications job with CIDA while I'm studying development communication in India," he recalls with excitement. "It was absolutely surreal and here I am."

Last fall, before Frenette left for his residency in India as part of his MA in Intercultural and International Communication, his ideal job came up: director general of communication for the Canadian International Development Agency.

"It's been a dream of mine for many years to be at CIDA, so I applied," recalls Frenette, who has been a public servant for 20 years and recently submitted his final paper for his master's degree. "Here I am in a program that deals with intercultural and international communication with a strong development component, so I thought, 'This makes total sense.'"

In February, Frenette started his new job with an objective to better share the story of development with Canadians. From helping widowed Afghani women develop employable skills and earn income to support their families, to educating Cambodian farmers on the use of market information, CIDA has many stories to share as it follows its mandate to reduce poverty in developing countries.

"My job is to engage Canadians in the good work that CIDA and the government of Canada does internationally in the field of development," he says. "I think it's important for people to use a variety of ways to get informed on what their government does and is involved in, especially in an important field like this one."

Inspiring and informative stories of development are already shared through social media and CIDA's rich website, and Frenette and his communications team are leading the effort to implement new interactive tools to further engage Canadians.

"We want to share not only the results story, but provide the narrative behind what it is that we do and why we do it," explains Frenette, who previously worked for the Department of Canadian Heritage as director of international relations and then associate director general of communications. "For researchers that are interested in development and for students in high schools and universities, this information is  very important.

"Engaging and connecting with Canadians is, I believe, a fundamental role of government especially on an issue as important as development and poverty reduction. I feel that RRU has provided me with the necessary foundation to achieve this mandate. For this, I am very grateful."

Frenette adds that the India residency was a highlight of his educational experience and was immensely helpful in his work. It was in India that the notion that sustainable economic development, the role of women and communication are key components of poverty reduction was reinforced for him.

"Sharing a three-week intercultural learning experience in India with André was quite an experience," says Prof. Michael Real. "His intelligence, hard work and humour contributed significantly to the quality of the experience for all 34 of us. 

"It is very gratifying to learn that the MA in Intercultural and International Communication can play a significant role in advancing his career so quickly. It brings great satisfaction to me as a professor and to our program to see the difference we can make in the lives, opportunities and careers of our learners."

Prof. Zhenyi Li, head of the Intercultural and International Communication program, adds that Frenette's appointment suggests there is an increased awareness of the necessity and value of intercultural and international communication for an organization as well as a nation. Li says CIDA and Canadians will benefit from Frenette's leadership. "I think CIDA made a right choice."