1. What has been your previous role before joining Oxford HR?
For the last twelve years I was Sabre Education’s Chief Executive Officer, helping to grow Sabre from a single community micro-charity to one of Africa’s leading early childhood education organisations. My role encompassed strategy development, charity governance, education programming and funder relationships, and was extremely varied and highly rewarding. At Sabre, we worked in close partnership with the Ghanaian Ministry of Education to support the introduction of active and play-based learning in the early years, and collaborated with Teacher Training Colleges to develop networks of model practice classrooms to help student teachers gain the skills and confidence to succeed in as newly qualified teachers. Through a long-term partnership with global engineering firm Arup, we also developed and rolled out a new style of kindergarten school, built to sustainable principles using performance-based design.
2. Why have you made the switch from your previous CEO role to joining Oxford HR?
In early 2018, I moved into a part-time role with Sabre to enable me to support my children’s decision to take a break from school and do their learning at home. After a really valuable strategic review in late 2019, I decided it was the right time to pass on the reins to a new CEO, who would be able to dedicate more time to the role and unlock the full potential of Sabre’s programmes and scale our impact. Having worked with Oxford HR as a client, I appreciated the quality of service and the impressive values of the firm and jumped at the opportunity to join the team. By placing inspirational leaders in some of the world’s most purpose driven organisations, Oxford HR is making a significant contribution to the sustainable development goals and I am really excited to join such a committed and high performing team.
3. What do you feel your previous role can bring to our clients?
I feel that I can bring first-hand knowledge of what it takes to be a CEO in an impact-driven NGO. I have directly experienced the constant juggle between ensuring diverse and sustainable income streams, delivering excellent programmes often in collaboration with multiple partners from public and private sectors, whilst also building the capacity of an organisation and investing in core services. I understand the need for excellent governance from a committed and engaged board of trustees, as well as the importance of setting strategy and regularly measuring the organisation’s performance. I have been involved in many in-house recruitment processes, and have also worked with Oxford HR on four appointments, so I understand the drivers and concerns of our clients.
4. How did you find making the switch to Consultancy from NGO leadership?
Before joining Sabre Education, I worked as a consultant for Crown Agents and the UK Department for International Development, and also undertook consultancy assignments for Sabre in support of national education reforms in Ghana, so I have had some prior experience to draw on. The change is really refreshing, and I am relishing the opportunity to work with partners in a new capacity, whilst still being able to contribute to the issues that I care most about.
5. What issues keep you awake at night?
The three big issues on my mind right now are related to education, climate and diversity.
On education, I feel that right around the world our education systems need to rapidly adapt to the future world of work, and we need to equip our children with the skills they will need to thrive in an increasingly uncertain future. There is lots of great discussion around 21st century skills, yet many of our education institutions are increasingly constrained by standardised testing and ever more controlling government mandates. I am a big advocate for the approaches championed by the late Sir Ken Robinson on creativity and purpose, and sincerely hope that his legacy will continue to influence education systems change around the world.
I think climate is one of the issues that will be at the forefront of most people’s minds right now, and I really hope that the pre-COVID momentum on the issue of climate breakdown isn’t lost as we all grapple to find a new balance in our lives. As a parent, I have very real concerns about the state of the planet my children and grandchildren will grow up in, and am encouraged by examples of shifting investment priorities and innovative collaborations, as well as some incredible leadership from young advocates who are making their voices heard and holding those in positions of power and influence ever more accountable. We all have an equally important role to play in safeguarding the welfare of our earth and all who inhabit her.
The #blacklivesmatter and #metoo movements have really highlighted the issues of inequality and the lack of diversity in leadership which continues to afflict our society. In many ways the international development sector is a beacon for good practice on diversity, and yet there is still a long way to go. I was shocked to learn recently that only 3% of UK charity chief executive roles are held by leaders from ethnic minorities, and that a third of the largest UK charities have all-white senior leadership teams and boards. I am proud of the stance that Oxford HR takes on diversity and equality, and hope to play my part in promoting diversity in the leadership and governance of our clients.
For me, all three of these strands come together under a concept called the Children’s Fire, which I first learned about from the inspirational Mac Macartney of Embercombe. The Children’s Fire is a challenge, a pledge and a plea: to do no harm to the children of all living things, human and animal alike. Alongside my work with Oxford HR, I will work with organisations to use the Children’s Fire pledge to align their culture, values and business processes with a commitment to social and environmental responsibility, and a more child-centred, nature-based and equitable future.
6. How do you feel, in your role at Oxford HR, that you can assist organisations with their search for leaders that can bring about systems change?
I believe that my work with Sabre Education and the Ghana Education Service, and before that the time I spent seconded to the National Directorate of Customs in Angola, have helped me to understand the qualities needed to support systems change. Working with and through government partners requires patience, a long-term outlook and a degree of diplomacy.
Often for NGOs and implementing partners, the simpler and seemingly more effective route is to forge ahead with their own endeavours at their own pace. Whilst this might deliver results in the short term, it does not take into account more complex issues of sustainability, stickability and ownership which are required for longer term systematic gains. Leaders in this space need to be able to juggle the competing priorities of funders, trustee boards, and government partners, and effectively communicate their vision and commitment.
7. Has homeschooling your own children changed your opinions on the global education system?
Yes! Our home learning journey was a fascinating one on so many levels, and I really came to appreciate first-hand the true value of play and learning through nature. We were very conscious not to try and recreate school at home, as it was the routines and pressures of school that had been push factors in our children choosing to move away from mainstream education. We instead found some great outdoor learning groups to join and met regularly with a small group of other home educating families.
It was a real privilege to be able to create the space to support our children’s learning in this way, and it felt like we were all on a learning journey together – before being prompted by our then five year old daughter, my wife and I didn’t even know home education was an option!
A lot of the activities we focussed on were around creativity and finding ways to bring a foundation of literacy and numeracy into these more imaginative and hands on tasks. I now know that there are many examples of school settings that promote these kinds of approaches and are moving to more ‘project-based’ collaborative learning, and am really encouraged by this, especially as our children have now chosen to return to school.
We are all really grateful for the time we spent together on home education, and with the recent UK schools closure due to COVID-19, it also helped us all to take a more relaxed and gentle approach to ‘lockdown schooling’.
8. What are your ambitions for the next 5 years, both personally and professionally
Over the next five years, I hope to help to grow Oxford HR’s work within the education sector and with trusts and foundations. I am passionate about helping purpose driven organisations to build the leadership capacity to bring about system change, to transform the life chances of future generations, and contribute to the achievement of the sustainable development goals. Within this work, I also hope to promote greater diversity and equity with the sector’s leadership and support fantastic candidates to find roles in which they can unlock their full potential and make a real impact.
I also hope to grow a network of partners who are committed to working with the Children’s Fire, and in doing so help them to reflect on and recalibrate their businesses and organisations to work in ways that safeguard our planet and all the species that inhabit her, for the benefit of future generations.
Finally, I hope that we will have completed the conversion of our 200 year old stone barn in Cornwall, creating a wonderful family home, which embodies our commitment to using natural and sustainable materials and respects the integrity of the original building. The barn sits within a mature apple orchard, and it would be nice to think that within five years, we will have also gotten to grips with caring for the trees and become somehow proficient in making apple juice, cider vinegar and even cider…!
Dominic joined Oxford HR in 2020 as a consultant after spending 12 years working in the international education sector, accumulating a wealth of strategic leadership and education expertise. During this time Dominic led Sabre Education’s growth from micro-charity to become one of Africa’s leading early childhood education organisations, working in close partnership with the Ghanaian Ministry of Education. In the early stages of his career, Dominic worked as a consultant and programme manager for Crown Agents supporting the delivery of fiscal reform projects in Mozambique and Angola, and as a consultant to the UK Department for International Development.
Dominic has strong experience of organisational development, growth strategy, impact measurement and governance in the non-profit sector, and has worked on a range of development issues including education, water and sanitation, conflict resolution and fiscal reform. Dominic is passionate about helping purpose driven organisations to build the leadership capacity to bring about system change and transform the life chances of future generations.
Dominic speaks Spanish and Portuguese and holds a Master’s degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies. He lives in Cornwall with his wife and three children, where alongside his work with Oxford HR he is renovating an old stone barn and caretaking a wild apple orchard.