How I Flunked Retirement: Beyond the Walls of 1818 H St.

By Rachel Ansley

After accumulating decades of experience and expertise, what is the next step for those who still want to contribute?

Seeking an answer to this question is what brings many retirees to join the Partnership for Transparency Fund (PTF). After decades in the World Bank, these individuals passed on much of the newly found free time of retirement and joined a group of volunteers who give their time to support civil society organizations in their efforts to combat corruption and hold their governments accountable. PTF advisers jokingly refer to themselves as “failed retirees” and it’s not hard to see how they’ve earned the self-awarded moniker. 

The Partnership for Transparency, a twenty-one-year-old nonprofit based in Washington, DC, supports citizen and civil society engagement in anti-corruption work and development projects. Since its founding by a group of Bank alumni, PTF has supported over 250 projects run in fifty countries, ranging from Uganda to Moldova to the Philippines. This work has only been made possible by the dedicated cadre of volunteer advisers who do not only give of their time, but their financial resources as well. PTF’s volunteers make up the largest share of its funding sources, supplemented by grants from official donors such as the European Union (EU) and various US government bureaus and agencies. Needless to say, PTF also creates a close-knit social network of like-minded individuals and friends. 

Particularly against the backdrop of a global pandemic that brought the world grinding to a halt, PTF’s small size, flexible structure, and remote operations meant that advisers were perfectly positioned for a nimble and swift response to COVID-19. Now more than ever, advisers’ willingness to volunteer their time in support of PTF’s work demonstrates a commitment to the cause, a belief in the mission, and an enduring struggle to achieve work-life balance. 

Though the contributions of advisers cannot be understated, PTF strongly believes in putting our partners in the lead. The civil society organizations who partner with PTF are impressive leaders in their own right, and advisers support the initiatives local partners propose. 

A desire to give back, seeking a social network, belief in the value of citizen engagement, and inability to say no to close colleagues on a recruitment mission are among the most common causes bringing advisers to PTF. However, each member of the team has their own story. Here’s what they have to say about what brought them to PTF, and why they stay: 

“I was drawn to PTF first because of the people who were associated with it. I knew many of them, liked and respected them tremendously. So, when I was invited to join, I didn’t think about it twice. I am a proud PTF-er and am committed to its anti-corruption mandate and its drive to improve development effectiveness through civic engagement.” – Haleh Bridi, Adviser, Board Member, PTF Europe

“I was astonished at the creativity, commitment and effectiveness of PTF’s civil society partners, and in particular at how dramatic were the transformations often achieved as a result of quite modest grants as well as advice from PTF’s ‘volunteer army’ of advisers. Having been so impressed, I was quick to jump at the opportunity when PTF invited me first to join its Board and then serve as its Board Chair.” – John Clark, former Board Chair

“I joined PTF because I thought its objective of supporting civil society efforts to improve governance and service delivery was important and worthwhile, and I stay involved because I still believe it. I have tremendous respect for the civil society organizations we work with in Africa, learn new things all the time, and enjoy interacting with the PTF family.” – Aileen Marshall, Board Member

“Personally, it is the opportunity to connect in a meaningful way with communities that I was close to while in the Bank—in my case, Ukraine and Central Asia (Georgia, Armenia)—while connecting with colleagues who I enjoyed working with over the years. That we all think we can do the work better than anyone who came after us makes it all the more fun.” – Dirk Mattheisen, Adviser

“I dedicated my career to social and economic development agenda. After retiring I could devote more time to volunteer work, including more on local, community-level development. I stayed involved because I believe that early and continued constructive engagement of civil society leads to better, more sustainable development outcomes.” – Hasan Tuluy, Board Member

“The world has been very good to me; it’s now time to give back by volunteering for a good cause. Over the years I have become convinced that, in the absence of citizen efforts to hold their governments accountable, development initiatives, policy and instructional reforms, etc. are not sustainable. Volunteering with PTF to support such citizen initiatives allows me to help in a small way.  Plus, it’s so much fun to continue to work with some of my Bank friends and colleagues.” – Richard Stern, President

The spark that truly lit the fuse to launch PTF, and that has sustained it for more than two decades, is the passionate commitment to fighting poverty and enhancing human development that is the hallmark of so many people who worked for the World Bank.” – Frank Vogl, Board Chair

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the official policies of PTF.

Rachel Ansley is the Communications Manager at the Partnership for Transparency.

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