delivering vision

about me

Proficiencies

Entrepreneurial, innovative, creative

Strategy, futures, systems

Collaboration, facilitation, brokering, networks

Technological fluency

Risk, resilience and crisis management

Building and leading infrastructure for change

lived experience

I’m a 5th generation Canadian settler with heritage from England, Scotland, Ireland and Germany.  My parents were educators. I was born in Toronto and grew up in suburban Barrie Ontario. Then a crisis at age 24 – while stuck in Toronto traffic. I had taken the first available job (technical sales for a manufacturing company) after obtaining a Mechanical Engineering degree from Queen’s University. But I wanted more from life – meaning, purpose, contribution. I quit my job, sold my possessions and travelled with a friend – witnessing first-hand a changing world in 1989: rising China, collapsing Soviet Union, simmering Middle East, and transforming Europe. Along the way we were touched and inspired by the generosity of a courageous Sudanese man who worked for Unicef in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. So I declined a job offer to work for a multinational corporation (selling fighter-jet engines), and instead chose to volunteer in a refugee camp in Swaziland. Over the next decade I was a front-line aid worker in conflict and refugee situations, and a manager at the headquarters of the international NGO CARE Canada in Ottawa.

"mechanical engineering degree", "queen's univerity", "front-line aid worker in conflict and refugee situations"

In 1999 I moved to the UK and began working with systems.  Over the next decade I promoted the Sphere standards for quality and impact measurement, and delivered over 80 contracts as an independent consultant. I worked for many multi-agency system change initiatives, three different UN agencies, and the Humanitarian Futures Programme at King’s College London. I designed and led training programmes, facilitated strategy processes, and advised on organisational development. I started a PhD at Kings, married a German, became European British, we settled in south London and had two kids.

"multi-agency system change initiatives"

I was selected to lead the Start Network as it emerged to become an explicit effort to improve the humanitarian aid system.  The following 9 years were a culmination of my career experience to date.  We explored different financial, organisational and technology innovations in creating a new economy for humanitarian aid including: pooled funds, parametric insurance, blockchain, tiered due diligence, impact and evidence – all built upon a membership network structure that provided the advantages of global scale to legitimate and empowered local organisations.  We successfully transacted a pioneering insurance policy for drought in Senegal and received a pay out.  We created the world’s first pooled ‘crisis anticipation’ fund, to deliver funding before an event occurred. We designed a credit facility.  We explored other forms of social finance including impact bonds.  We scoped out a family of funds structure for a network financing facility with support from the World Bank.   The Start Network today is a known and respected entity in the humanitarian aid system. It was an exciting and delicate balancing act – working with incumbent structures and incentives. Finally, after 9 years we achieved a significant milestone – spinning off a new independent charity to nurture the future growth of the Network.It was time to hand over to new leadership with fresh ideas and energy. I began to write a book about system change.

"improve the humanitarian aid system"

When the pandemic happened, things we had been thinking about at the Humanitarian Futures Programme those many years before were happening. I contributed to a startup technology company that provided Covid incidence data to the UK government.  I supported my wife and family as they transitioned to home schooling and home working, invested in my vegan cooking skills, grew vegetables in the backyard and worked on my book. Now we are about to embark on the great adventure of re-immigrating to Canada.

"start-up technology company"

Why I do what I do

I am driven to be a good husband, father and ancestor.  I’m optimistic and hopeful about the future, pragmatic and humble about the contribution that any single individual can make.  Underlying this is a sense of urgency, informed by my years of experience working internationally on some of the most difficult and important issues for humanity.  The Covid19 pandemic has made us all reflect on how we live. The climate emergency demanding collaboration yet societies fragmenting.  Stewardship institutions operating within a paradigm that was created in the past.  Racism, patriarchy and inequity preventing much needed change.  The impact and potential of digital technologies.  The pace and scale of global change making the future essentially unknowable.   Change is possible.  Evolution not revolution.  Crisis as opportunity.  Resilience as priority. Optimism as a moral choice.  Abundance. 

What I'm curious about

I’m curious about a lot of things, but currently my curiosity is focussed by necessity: the ability of finance to catalyse change: impact investing, venture philanthropy and innovation.  The design and leadership of change infrastructure – working with incumbents and current incentives in a way that creates a new abundant and resilient future for all.  Entrepreneurship and the power and stewardship of technology to make the world more balanced, equitable and resilient.
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