As I reflect back on my first week as Chief Operating Officer with FHI 360, the first thought that comes to mind is that the people at FHI 360 know how to make a newcomer feel welcome. During my first week, I heard some of the ways that FHI 360 staff characterized the organization, its people and their work: exciting, amazing, creative, thoughtful, a place filled with talented and resilient people. Based on my interactions and experience, I would add committed, driven and serious to the list. If you care about effective human development, this is a place you want to be.
Many people sent me welcome messages that described their groundbreaking work in health research, HIV/AIDS, education, family planning, livelihood and job creation, environment, finding innovative solutions to real-world problems through technology, social marketing and behavior change, and strengthening institutional capacity. The scope and depth of the work is overwhelming, and one quickly understands why “360” is in the name.
It also became clear that the organization is constantly asking important questions as it looks to the future. One is how best to reinforce a country-led business model that partners with local institutions and civil society. I arrived just in time to join a discussion about placing program development and implementation as close to the clients (both sponsors and beneficiaries) as possible. Another is identifying strategic investments, both in terms of program direction and organizational effectiveness. I like the fact that as an organization experienced in conducting empirical research, FHI 360 is oriented toward using data to inform its decisions, and I’m hoping to leverage my experience at Millennium Challenge Corporation to promote an investment orientation.
It will be hard to beat such a warm welcome but dealing with the challenges of running a large, complex and purpose-driven organization will surely keep things hot!