We believe that leadership is not solely focused on individuals but is more collaborative in nature

Save the Children has been operating in Nepal since 1976 and has made significant contributions to child rights helping Nepal make strides in addressing child mortality, malnutrition and child marriage, among other issues. Heather Campbell is the Country Director of Save the Children for Nepal and Bhutan. In a conversation with the HRM, she explains how Save the Children is working in Nepal to achieve its objectives, organizational policies and practices, and the challenges it faces currently. Excerpts: 

Q: Save the Children is present in Nepal since 1976. Can you tell us more about the work that the organization does? 
A: Since 1976, Save the Children has been unwavering in our belief that every child deserves the right to survival, education, and protection in Nepal. As part of our Country Strategic Plan, we are prioritizing several key areas. Firstly, we are collaborating with children and youth to promote climate change initiatives. Secondly, we are investing in innovations and strategies to reach the most marginalized communities, while leveraging shock-responsive social protection. We are also addressing the learning loss resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, ensuring that children can safely return to school, and building resilient education systems to withstand future shocks. In addition, we are shining a spotlight on the mental health and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of children and adolescents.

Our integrated nutrition programs aim to meet the nutritional needs of children and young mothers while addressing malnutrition and its long-term consequences on both physical and cognitive development. Furthermore, through our Global Fund Grant, we are implementing programs to respond to diseases such as Tuberculosis, Malaria, and HIV in Nepal. It’s worth noting that Save the Children has programs in all 77 districts of Nepal, ensuring that we reach and serve as many children and communities as possible.

Q: Save the Children was recently awarded the “Excellence in Employer Branding Award” in the HR MEET 2023. What makes Save the Children the organization of choice for many development practitioners in Nepal? 
A: I can think of many things, but then, the topmost reason definitely would be the enabling and positive environment that Save the Children provides. Our staffs are leaders in their own fields, and at Save the Children we provide them with the resources, tools, and development opportunities to lead cutting-edge actions. We ensure that our ‘talent’ are provided with the investment that they need to grow. Also, one of our values is to celebrate achievement – big or small, as we prime our staff as leaders, we also ensure that staffs, despite their position have a say in decision-making. The open and honest culture, collaborative decision-making, autonomy, and enabling work environment are what make Save the Children the organization of choice.

Q: Do you think for an organization to grow, it needs to celebrate and recognize the achievement of staff members? 
A: Of course! Save the Children staffs are the backbone of the organization, and in the very truest sense, their dedication, work ethics, and commitment to making a better future for the children of Nepal is what makes Save the Children one of the most sought-after organizations in Nepal. I believe that acknowledgment of work or contribution, be it small or big, if rewarded and celebrated supports building trust, mitigating conflict, increases commitment, strengthens accountability, and drives results. Remember that great teams are made of great team members.

Q: What is Save the Children’s definition of leadership?
A: At Save the Children, we believe that leadership is not solely focused on individuals but is more collaborative in nature. We encourage every member of our organization to practice ‘collaborative leadership’ which is an amalgam of shared values, vision, and participatory decision-making. I believe when we practice collaborative leadership, it not only paves the way for an enabling and positive work environment, but then it encourages a culture of innovation, creativity, and most importantly accountability where staffs themselves demonstrate greater accountability to deal with complex situations with a solution-oriented approach, keeping the best interest of the organization, and our mission at heart. But most importantly, collaborative leadership helps us to adapt and become more agile to situations and challenges, where we can bring together collective wisdom to make meaningful decisions.

Q: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) seem to be a mandate for almost all organizations. How does Save the Children look at DEI? 
A: We don’t look at DEI as a mere tick-box exercise but take non-negotiable steps to ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion are reflected in all levels of Save the Children’s – operations, programming, advocacy, and partnership. There is greater realization and acknowledgment that in Nepal, we still have groups and individuals, historically marginalized, and have been denied a level playing field. This curbs their access, influence, and participation, and are often denied opportunities to lead, contribute, and innovate. Through our DEI policies, we are working towards challenging these social strata and challenging harmful norms and systematic barriers to ensure that individuals regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, ability, or age, have equal access to opportunities to develop their skills, participate in decision-making, and advance their careers.

Our human resources (HR) team has taken deliberate measures to ensure an inclusive work culture that values and embraces diversity. This includes recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce, providing training and development opportunities to staff, promoting gender equality, and creating an environment that is safe and respectful for all. Therefore, we focus on consistent and intentional practice, to ensure that our commitment to DEI is reflected in our actions and decision-making.

Q: In the face of the current global economic downturn are there any challenges in maintaining operations and resources? 
A: These challenges are inevitable. But then, we at Save the Children have always believed that organizations like ours need to have an agile system. This means we need to adhere to the spirit of localization.

Q: Can you elaborate on this? 
A: The goal is to shift power to our partners, ensure the sustainability of our actions, and complement the government’s vision of localization. We through our graduation model of partnership have been practicing this shift, which will ensure that we best utilize the resources, and optimize operations via a nimble approach.
Also, we believe that federalization is an opportunity to meaningfully implement this shift and to build on resources locally, with strategic gatekeeping and support from organizations like us. This thought is a continuation of many such conversations that Save the Children has initiated internally, and we are confident that this thought leadership will be the answer to sustainability which adheres to the principle of localization.

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