What does it take to be the Director of an international network of NGOs in current times? This was the question that the CONCORD Board set about answering when it was looking to replace its Director.

CONCORD is the European Confederation of Relief and Development NGOs. It is made up of member organisations consisting of 28 national platforms, 25 international networks and 4 associate members, who together represent more than 2,600 NGOs, supported by millions of citizens across Europe. They are a member-led Confederation which means that the members give the strategic direction of the network.

Oxford HR worked with CONCORD at the end of 2018, to find them a new Director to be the leader of the largest NGO network (working on development issues) in Europe. The elected candidate needed to be strongly committed to civil society as a collective force for positive change and to be experienced at navigating the complex architecture of the EU. A track record in leadership was also essential, as CONCORD defends the interests of NGOs in the areas of EU international cooperation policies and funding, based on Board and General Assembly’s orientations.

The CONCORD Board had a preference for a female candidate for the role and asked Oxford HR to search for strong women to be interviewed. We found several and brought two women and one man to the final panel interviews by CONCORD’s Board. Out of them, Tanya Cox, was selected as the strongest candidate for the role and appointed.

Tanya was already working within the Confederation as Head of Office at Plan International and when she was approached to apply for the role of Director at CONCORD, she was thrilled. She had always felt that it was an amazing network, with a committed and dedicated set of members and the possibility of leading and guiding this was a very exciting one for her. It was a step up for Tanya in terms of both management and budget, but most particularly, the Europe-wide reach through such a high number of NGOs involved made the CONCORD Director role very interesting; it would create the opportunity to influence change in the EU context through the role of NGOs across Europe. It would offer the possibility of strengthening the important role of civil society as actors of change.

As such, she had no hesitation in making the change and the job felt like the perfect one for her – a homecoming. The fact that Tanya was approached to apply for the job, gave her a confidence to do so and to grab this amazing opportunity to make the next step in her career.

Tanya joined in Jan 2019, at the mid-way point of a 7-year strategy, which was a double-edged sword as it was an opportunity to effect change but also a huge challenge. On discussing CONCORD’s role and impact with people in the EU institutions and with members, the Confederation realised it was not making the most of all the expertise within CONCORD; they didn’t have the profile they should have; they needed to be more visible and more challenging of the EU institutions. Members wanted more impact, better quality and great agility. Tanya was keen to support the Confederation to make these changes, which would support CONCORD’s contribution to achieving the transformative agenda of the SDG goals.

In terms of undertaking this transformation, Tanya feels that this year is to be one of consolidation. The global pandemic has unsurprisingly made things harder with processes inevitably slowing down, but they continue on with the changes that needed doing and are looking forward to assessing the second half of the year in terms of what they have achieved to date, and what still needs to be done.

Over the next couple of years, reinforcing team spirit and a sense of common purpose is very important for Tanya, combined with looking at diversifying their funding streams. She wants to be instrumental in ensuring members are working more closely together, have opportunities for thinking out of the box, for innovating and for ensuring agile ways of working.

Tanya loves the role she has taken on and finds that no two days are ever the same. There are always more alliances you can build, more avenues you can explore and more transformative change to be achieved. And that’s what makes this her role of a lifetime.

Tim Brann

Tim Brann

Tim started working with Oxford HR in 2018, having graduated with a BSc in Product Design from Brunel University London. Although initially trained as a Product Designer, he has worked on a diverse range of projects across graphic design, 3D installations and website design and development. Tim has a keen interest in design as a tool for positive social change, especially among children's social care, and has pursued this through previous work for the GravityLight Foundation, small not-for-profit startups, and now at Oxford HR.