Spending part of my career in working abroad has transformed my world view to say the least. The opportunity to see how the public sector works (or doesn’t work) in countries outside our western experience has been eye-opening to say the least. Importantly, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to see how to re-start a public sector after war. How to start a new line ministry/department from scratch (which appeals to my inner-entrepreneur to no end). How to design organizations when only on person (the king/queen/sheikh/or relative thereof) makes the decisions. How to factor in the strong undercurrents in the political economy. And tackle human and organizational capacity issues that have mostly disappeared in our home countries. They don’t teach this content in MBAs!
They say you never forgot your first posting, unless of course you happen to be a toddler. Still, one can’t help but feel it left an indelible mark and a certain wanderlust that still can’t be contained today.
In the process of looking for new challenges, I found myself supporting the Government of Afghanistan and its Independent Election Commission (IEC) to run the 2005 parliamentary election. With over 100,000 personnel and tight deadlines, it was a unique experience working in the public sector.
As we got close to the Election Day, I was posted to Herat in the Western Region to oversee the preparations and elections operations for the four provinces Herat, Farah, Ghor, and Badghis.
After the Election process was complete, I was sent out to the South East to close down operations. At the same time I started consulting to the Afghanistan Statistics Office and UNFPA to help them plan for a national Census.
Following on from the work in Kabul, I then consulted to the South Sudanese Statistics Office, in Juba, to strengthen their ability to hold a national census as part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
Following the peace agreement ending the Second Sudanese Civil War, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement chose Rumbek to serve as the temporary administrative center of the Government of Southern Sudan. So part of my work was to strengthen the capacity in this office.
We all remembered the day the Tsunami hit Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Indonesia on 26 December, 2004. Little did I know that a year later I would find myself consulting to the Ministry for Reconstruction in Banda Aceh.
My next tour of Afghanistan involved less consulting to the government and more running the Programme Office for a national road building programme.
It was an honor and privilege to be able to see most other parts of the country while working on the roads programme and to see how important roads are to health, governance, and education outcomes.
After Afghanistan I found myself consulting to the Palestinian Civilian Police Department and the EU police mission to strengthen the Organizational capacity to maintain law and order.
The large scale police support programme I managed involved a number of strategic themes: organizational design and development, police training and mentoring, equipment, and law and order infrastructure such as training facilities and prisons.
After finishing my graduate degree in International and European Security Policy in Switzerland (think International Relations with a tilt towards Security Policy). I was brought onto a large transformation programme by an international consulting firm that was engaged by the Department of Municipal Affairs in Abu Dhabi to improve its governance and management capabilties.
From 2011-2015 I was dedicated to building a public sector management consulting organization within the UN itself. This involved designing a ‘partner-led’ consulting organization who were responsible for reinforcing country operations with management consulting experience and helping them run their consulting engagements. Early successes included consulting engagements in South Sudan, Afghanistan, Palestine, Kenya, Somalia and Costa Rica. I was also glad to have had to opportunity to work with McKinsey and Co. in a joint partnership advising governments on infrastructure productivity.
From late 2015, I started the UK-based management consulting firm, Antylles Ltd with some colleagues (tho I still also consult to clients as an individual if it suits them). Here we continue to consult the public sectors around the world but also consult directly to Donor governments and international organizations to help strengthen their ability to do their work. We continue to support countries such as Norway, Afghanistan, United Kingdom, Somalia, Iraq etc. More on this in the following sections: