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Many of us cannot wait to look at the year 2020 through the rear-view mirror. It has felt like an exhausting road trip to an unknown destination, with the doors locked from the outside. However, as the year end approaches, with a vaccine on the horizon and even a hint of optimism about a free trade deal with Europe, at least the mood music on the car radio is improving.  

At Oxford HR we have always been fans of virtual and flexible working – we have seen it as a great way to help build a diverse staff team and encourage a strong work life balance too. We work with Associates around the globe who are generally experts in their field and help us deliver executive search projects, supported by our research team and deep networks. This year we have had to take that philosophy to the maximum with everyone working virtually for most of the year. We have been busy developing that Associate network, and are proud to have Dr Rachel Barlow, Elena Ardelean and Dominic Bond join our European team this year and we are busy recruiting across Africa and Asia right now, since we have seen steady growth across those regions despite the obstacles.  

We have also appointed new members to our staff team – Erik van Weert joined us in January as our Deputy Director for Europe based in our Netherlands office and has already made a significant impact in developing our work with SNV in particular, as well as managing our team based there. Our team in Europe have partnered with some of the best-known names in the sector including Plan International, Practical Action, BRAC, Global Water Partnership, GOAL, IFAD and MSF to recruit members of their leadership teams.  

We have also developed new and rapidly growing practice areas alongside our expertise in international development, in UK Charities, Board, Environment, Climate and Conservation and several others all built around our mantra ‘search for a better world’Our work in the UK on Board development, for instance, led to six England Advisory Committee members appointed to RSPB from truly diverse backgrounds and supported by an online video campaign.

One of the challenges of working remotely for our clients has been to ensure the rigour of the interview process is maintained, especially when that is also run virtually. Responding to this, and in line with our desire to develop our presence in leadership consultancy, we have been developing a new range of Leadership & Change services, headed up by David Cook, our Organisational Psychologist and his developing team of Associates, Christel Fourie, Samantha Scott and Claire Keogh. By developing a range of assessment tools for interview panels, and a range of coaching and leadership development services, the OE team have already won plaudits from many of our clients for their work despite the challenge of running these processes remotely. In several instances this year we have seen more than one candidate appointed from a shortlist because our client has been so impressed with the detailed analysis of the candidates and the strength of their relevant experience and approach. We’ve also beefed up our accreditation and background referencing services too, to increase our capacity to provide some detailed context on each candidate and are delighted to have just won a one-year contract with the African Development Bank to provide this service across all their leadership appointments. 

As a consequence of strengthening our search through deeper global networks, a wider group of expert Associates and researchers, improved leadership assessment and accreditation and a responsive approach to remote working, we’ve also seen a number of our clients increase their engagement with us. This year we are really proud to have appointed over 70 leaders worldwide in the development sector and especially with clients such as WWF where we have appointed members of the Regional Safeguards Team for WWF International in Africa and Asia, as well as two Trustees for the main Board and with members of the network too – WWF Belgium and the Netherlands. The strength of the partnership has been based on a strong knowledge and understanding of both the operations of WWF, but also of the special dynamics and requirements of their network. The level of trust developed with the WWF teams and our strong knowledge and understanding of the organisation, has been fundamental to this successful partnership this year.  

Across all our appointments we have seen nearly 60% of the hires go to women, and with 25 years of experience as a business focused on diversity in the sector, this is not a moment for complacency either. Our business strategy is to place ourselves as close to our clients and candidates as possible around the world, to reflect the communities you are all working in, both in our own staff teams and in helping you recruit and develop your leaders.  

Our partnership with Just One Tree has led us to planting trees every time we place a leader into a new role and we’re delighted to have planted over 1,000 trees this year in Madagascar. We have been really touched by the positive response this has engendered among our candidates as well. Across Africa and from our new Nairobi office we’ve also been delighted to welcome several new key clients including Global Fundthe African Ministers Council for Water, UNDP / Ministry of Youth – RwandaTrade Mark East Africa, FSDA and African Council on Water. We are also hoping to announce new Associates shortly in Southern Africa. In India this year we’ve been delighted to work with the India Alliance (a joint venture with the Wellcome Trust and the Government of India to place their new CEO, and with the Mlinda Foundation to recruit their new General Manager and across Asia more generally working with the Green Climate Fund and IRRI on a number of key strategic leadership roles. 

Looking forward to 2021, we’re hoping the next part of our journey is going to include an opportunity to develop our presence in Asia with the appointment of a new Regional Director there, and to look to the USA where we hope to see a more development friendly administration building bridges once again, rather than putting up walls. 

From all of us at Oxford HR we want to thank you for working with us this year, whether as someone looking to develop as a leader in the sector or as a client looking to strengthen your leadership team, we are proud to represent you and are definitely looking forwards – to the next part of this adventure.  

David Lale
David Lale
Group CEO at Oxford HR

David is the Group CEO of Oxford HR having worked alongside and within the charity sector in executive search and recruitment for over 25 years. David is passionate about supporting and transforming the ‘for purpose’ sector. He has a particular interest in innovation and re-thinking the way the sector works. He’s also Chair of Charity People, the specialist UK Charity recruiter, and former Chair of Tiny Tickers, a charity supporting babies with congenital heart disease. He is a guest lecturer on the Trustee Academy training programme and has recently been honoured with an award as a Global Leader in Corporate Responsibility. He holds an MBA, is a Fellow of the RSA and currently studying for a Degree in Computing and AI.