After an extensive career working and living in Kenya, managing a start-up charity that included lobbying for a co-funding agreement with the Kenyan government, James now lives back in the UK with his young family. James holds degrees in International Development, and Philanthropy and is currently studying for an MBA. He has been CEO of Pestalozzi World since 2020.
Here James discusses his experience and skills and why he took on the role of Pestalozzi World, CEO:
James, what made you decide to join Pestalozzi World as it’s CEO?
I’ve worked on programmes around rural schools in the developing world most of my career and I have met so many intelligent and able children. Children’s abilities are the same everywhere but opportunity is not. Pestalozzi World is addressing the inequity I saw first-hand.
The charity has supported social enterprises and developed a school to derive trading income to support the Zambian Village. This kind of crossover of entrepreneurial spirit with social impact is very attractive to me.
I joined weeks before the birth of my first child, Pippa, and I think this significant life moment influenced my decision to join an organisation nurturing our future leaders and role-models.
What aspects of your career prior to joining Pestalozzi World gave you the required experience for the role?
Living and working in Africa has given me a great insight into management cross culturally. It made me aware of the importance of listening and that the best ideas come from those who are closest to the ground realities and who have the context needed to understand how to navigate culture. Local leadership is something Pestalozzi World also values.
I hope to be a lifelong learner. I have a degree in International Development, Philanthropy and am currently studying for an MBA. All of these courses have contributed practically to my roles and have complimented experience picked up in practice.
What experience/skills have been especially useful in your role as CEO of Pestalozzi World?
My previous charity was a start-up and as is common with smaller charities required a broad range of involvement with different areas of the charity’s operations as resource was scarce. I have been involved with programme design, delivery, fundraising and governance-always bridging strategic focus with rolling my sleeves up and supporting activities wherever needed.
Pestalozzi World has a small team in the UK and the broad range of experience I have has helped me recruit well and push on development across the organisation. This would have been more difficult if I had been a specialist fundraiser or finance manager without exposure to the full breadth of charity operations.
What in your business/professional background prior to Pestalozzi World are you most proud of?
Whilst living in Kenya I lobbied successfully in parliament for co-funding agreements with the Kenyan Government. Since then these relationships have flourished and now Dig Deep has a plan for county-wide interventions whereas we were then operating on a parish level scale.
I am also proud to have been part of boards for other charities as it allows knowledge and experience to be passed on for the benefit of other organisations and their clients. It also gave me insight sitting on the other side of the table and improved me as an executive. I encourage anyone who will listen to me to offer their skills and experience to charities in this way!
Have you an area of specific interest in Pestalozzi World’s work?
What do you see are some of the key challenges Pestalozzi World will be facing in the next few years?
Pestalozzi World has been supported by a small group of very dedicated donors since its inception but we now need to diversify our income and appeal to new ones. To do this we have rebranded and focused more on being an outward facing organisation. We are busy looking for corporate partnerships and like-minded individuals who want to support education. We are looking for the next generation of Board Members too to help us drive our vision forward for expansion.
What do you see as the most exciting opportunities for Pestalozzi World?
Our monitoring and evaluation data confirms that the programme is delivering considerable impact. We educate children from the age of 10-18 and then it takes time for our alumni to complete their university educations and establish themselves in careers. Many of the stories of success are just reaching their full maturity but it has been a pleasure working to present them to our supporters.
With confidence in our ethos and our value we are now looking to the future with a view to expanding our impact. Our Zambian village and the school we have built, which is generating trading profits from fee payers as well as educating our scholars, offers an exciting model for financial self-sufficiency. The charity’s use of invested reserves to make the investment in the school in Zambia has significantly reduced reliance on our funding and is indicative of Pestalozzi World’s willingness to think outside of typical donor-recipient binaries. The school’s business plan has the potential to deliver a full subsidy to the Zambian Village with some further investment.
What would you say to someone considering applying to join Pestalozzi World’s Board?
Get in touch! We need the next generation of Board Members to help deliver our Vision. Our Board is comprised of friendly and experienced people of many different backgrounds, skills and competencies. Our role of co-ordinating a family of international organisations lends itself to many interesting and rewarding briefs building their capacity, overseeing investments and shaping our future direction. We have enormous potential for increased social impact and the decade ahead will see us plot a course to deliver it.
And finally James, why were you dressed up as Santa?!
I had the great pleasure of visiting our Indian Village on Children’s Day. Instead of the children entertaining us, roles were reversed and all of us staff dressed up, did a dance or sang a song-much to the enjoyment of the children. It was my first outing as Santa but not the first, or the last time, I have dressed up in the name of charity for the amusement of others!
Thank you to James for sharing his story with us.
If you are interested in joining our charity as a Board Member and would like to know more about our vision for the future, then please get in touch.
You can email James directly on: firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about what Pestalozzi World does across the world, please read more here: ‘What we do’