Questions and Answers: An interview with Patrick Fine, Chief Operating Officer, FHI 360

What excites you about joining FHI 360 and what are you most looking forward to?

The most exciting thing for me is the opportunity to work with such an accomplished and committed group of people who know how to deliver results. There are not many organizations that bring together the breadth and depth of expertise and experience that make FHI 360 what it is. But it is not just technical expertise and good practice. FHI 360 is an organization with heart, filled with people who genuinely care. I love that.

Tell us about your background before joining FHI 360.

I’ve always had a love of people, language and culture. So when I graduated from university, Peace Corps was a natural step for me. That started me on the path that has brought me to FHI 360.

Why did you choose a career in human development?

I think that human development chose me. My early travels had a powerful influence on me. I was drawn to places rich in history and culture, but not necessarily rich in material wealth. Probably the most life-changing experience I had was in Pakistan’s Hindu Kush mountains, where a group of Kuchi nomads found me seriously ill in a remote mountain hut and spent several days nursing me back to health.

The kindness and hospitality I have encountered from strangers in many places taught me the value of caring about each other and that the things that separate us pale in comparison to our basic humanity. This belief in humanity is at the core of what motivates me. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that it is not just important from a moral or human perspective, but that it is also essential to build a world that is worth living in: one where our nation — and other nations — are safe and prosperous. Perhaps drawing from my rural Missouri roots, I tend to look at the world as a community and believe that it is important to be a good neighbor. That means helping your neighbor in need.

What do you see as some of the biggest challenges in human development?

The good news is that the world is becoming more prosperous: education levels are rising, health status is improving and opportunities are expanding in many countries and communities. There has been tremendous progress on meeting the Millennium Development Goals. The work the development community has been doing is paying off.

But a more prosperous world brings its own set of challenges: addressing climate change; increasing food security; expanding access to energy accessibility; equipping youth with the skills and attitudes needed to create livelihoods; combatting pandemic disease and public health threats created by more urbanized, prosperous societies; governing increasingly large and sophisticated economies; and responding to natural and man-made humanitarian crises.

Most of these challenges are interrelated and require sophisticated, integrated solutions. One of the things that drew me to FHI 360 is that it brings expertise and experience to bear across the spectrum of human development.

Are there any recent innovations in human development that are particularly exciting to you?

There is so much going on today in the development community, and I’m excited about the role FHI 360 can play and is playing in promoting innovation and good development practice. For example, we are only beginning to unlock the potential of technology in areas as diverse as paying teachers in a remote rural school to diagnosing and treating health conditions through telemedicine. On the management side, there is tremendous scope to develop more rigorous methods for monitoring and evaluating our work to increase accountability and effectiveness. I think that the development community, as a whole, underinvests in research and development (R&D). I’d like to find ways for FHI 360 to mobilize resources for the kind of R&D efforts that are common in business.

Are there any additional points you would like to make?

This is an amazing time in history. We have unprecedented opportunities to do good and make the world a better place for ourselves and our children. At the same time, we face new and daunting challenges. Few places are better equipped to make a positive contribution than FHI 360.

For more information about Patrick Fine’s appointment as COO, please visit the official press release here.

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