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The Client

The Sahara Conservation Fund works to conserve the wildlife, habitats and other natural resources of the Sahara and its bordering Sahelian grasslands. They want to emphasize the need for scaled up, landscape-level approaches, that integrate wildlife conservation with the realities of human development, with a vision for a Sahara that benefits all inhabitants.

“Deserts are not barren wastelands. They are geographically spectacular, culturally rich, and home to an amazing array of exquisitely adapted plants and animals, many of which require urgent attention.”

Key Objectives

Oxford HR worked with SCF in 2019 in finding and placing their new CEO.


  • Executive Search
Gazelle in the Sahara

After a comprehensive search process and a shortlist of excellent candidates, John Watkin was offered the role of CEO.

The outgoing CEO was also the founder of SCF, so the team:

“always knew finding a successor would be a big challenge. SCF operates in remote and uncertain environments in an overlooked part of the world, so we were looking for someone not only in tune with our mission and values, but just as comfortable in the field as in the board room.”

John speaks highly of the support received from Oxford HR, as does Tim Woodfine, a member of the Board at SCF.

We received excellent and timely support from Oxford HR throughout the entire process. Each step was simple and clear, and it was evident from the outset that it was a real team effort. From the time taken to explore and understand our recruitment brief to keeping us informed about progress, supporting the interview process and through to post-appointment advice, we found it a comprehensive and invaluable service.

Tim WoodfineBoard Member, SCF
John in SCF branded truck in the field

In his first year in the post, John aims to update the strategic plan – “In order to achieve field conservation, relevant systems and procedures need to be put in place both for the Paris office and in the field to ensure conservation goals on the ground are achieved.” He notes that this will help SCF attract the necessary funding to take its mission to the next level.

And of the team at SCF, John speaks highly. “I have been hugely impressed by the existing team members in Chad, France, and Niger who implement the many conservation projects in SCF’s portfolio. With the shift to a new CEO, there are obvious challenges as the organization is evolving from a small entity, to one that needs to establish systems and protocols to meet the demands for growth. Emphasising that these systems are not reinventing the wheel but, are being put in place to improve the management and accountability of the organization has been met largely positively.”    

Photos © John Newby / Sahara Conservation Fund

Throughout the recruitment process I have been assisted greatly by Oxford HR’s team that enabled me to prepare for the various tiers of interviews as well as understanding the history of the organization and gain a sense of the team already in place.

John WatkinCEO, Sahara Conservation Fund