It’s a real pleasure to introduce this latest edition of Insight, and to introduce myself as I take up my post as the British Council’s new Chief Executive.
The British Council builds trust and the UK’s reputation abroad. It has a place in the hearts of millions of people across six continents and over many decades. That collective experience, deep expertise and trusted global network are incredibly valuable. The challenges that lie ahead are easily as great as any from the past. There’s never been a greater need for the British Council.
The impact of Covid-19, with its pressures on both our commercial income and the UK’s public finances, has meant the last 18 months have been amongst the most difficult in the British Council’s history. Despite the challenges, we are transforming the organisation to deliver the impact we want to see in the future.
We are determined to play a key role in helping the Government to deliver on its Global Britain agenda, supporting the whole of the UK as it builds back stronger from the pandemic.
That work is not always easy. Recent events in Afghanistan demonstrate the challenges some of our colleagues face on a day to day basis – working in some of the toughest places on earth, where cultural values really are on the front line.
Over the last weeks our focus has been on helping current and former colleagues to leave Afghanistan, as well as supporting those who have arrived in the UK or in a third country. I will be working with my team, at the most senior levels within the UK government, to push for progress on relocation for our colleagues still in Afghanistan.
I’m joining the British Council at a challenging time. I have had a varied career, including time as a journalist, banker, book publisher and consultant. The bulk of my career has involved building and leading the management consulting firm the Oliver Wyman Group.
I have spent the last 30 years grappling with issues around culture, inclusion, people development, organisation, delivering impact and value, competing effectively and growing, technology and digital development. I hope to bring that experience to bear in my leadership of the British Council in the years ahead.
As a nation, the UK can achieve a great deal by working with like-minded, liberal, democratic countries. But we must also work constructively with countries that have different values and political beliefs.
By operating within the spheres of culture, science and education, the British Council is able to build the trust, networks and mutual understanding that enable constructive dialogue on trade, security and global challenges like climate change and Covid-19.
We have important work to do in the years ahead and I am confident that will succeed in creating more trust and a more prosperous, secure, stable and equal world.