January 2008 Newsletter: Welcome, Jill Lester and Highlights of 2007
Welcome, Jill Lester!
Jill Lester, a highly successful executive from Australia with senior experience in government, the private sector and nonprofit governance, will become The Hunger Project’s new CEO in mid-January 2008.
Joan Holmes announced the search for her successor as CEO one year ago, and the search was exhaustive. As Joan stated last year, this is one of the most important transitions in our history; we have completed an era of creation and are now making the transition into an era of building and evolving. “The next phase in the evolution of leadership in a successful organization is leadership as builder. This is a leader who develops specified skills and structures required for the growth of an organization — more solid, more sustained, more powerful growth — so the impact can be greater.”
Jill Lester’s experience strongly qualifies her for this position. Common threads running throughout her career have been the building of strategies to cope with significant organizational change, community consultation, and reputation management.
Jill served for more than 10 years as a senior executive at Australia’s largest retail bank, the Commonwealth Bank, with 35,000 employees. She developed and led the bank’s positioning strategies through three major transitions: from government ownership to full privatization through public share offerings; the transition to a new CEO; and a merger with Colonial Bank, which was the largest merger in Australian corporate history. Jill also played a key role in the establishment and development of the bank’s philanthropic subsidiary, the Commonwealth Bank Foundation.
Jill has a master’s degree in development economics and degrees in education, history and psychology. Prior to working with the Commonwealth Bank, she served in a variety of government posts, including work with Aboriginal communities and as a diplomat with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Her roles have required extensive travel, particularly throughout the Asia-Pacific region, India and Africa. In recent years, Jill has played an active role on the boards of nonprofits, including the Australian Red Cross, where she chairs its International Committee. She has also served on the Ministerial Advisory Council of AusAID, the Australian government’s overseas aid program.
Jill is highly respected for her ability to listen to and anticipate the needs of diverse stakeholders, to create powerful communication strategies that keep everyone moving forward together, and for her emphasis on building supportive and motivated teams in the workplace.
“It’s tremendously exciting for me to lead this outstanding and visionary organization in the next phase of its development,” Jill said. “I look forward to working closely with the board, staff and investors, as together we focus on the achievement of our vision, live the organization’s values, and ensure that our strategic intent keeps pace with evolving circumstances.”
Jill is married and has two grown children, who live in New York City.
Highlights of 2007
XL Results Foundation Partnership: At the third annual Clinton Global Initiative meetings, XL Results Foundation announced a US$5 million commitment to The Hunger Project to expand our strategy for ending hunger in rural India.
Demonstrating Scale-up in Ghana: This year, we established a regional office in the Eastern Region to decentralize our operations, moved four epicenters into the construction phase, and mobilized five new districts, launching 14 new clusters of villages. A 10-year independent impact evaluation of the epicenter model and its scale-up in the Eastern Region of Ghana has begun, led by professors at Yale and Berkeley.
Local Government Reforms in Bangladesh: Country Director Badiul Majumdar was named by the acting prime minister to a commission to recommend a new law for strengthening local government.
Combating HIV/AIDS in Malawi: Oxfam Novib renewed its financial commitment to fund the HIV/AIDS component of our program in Malawi — the first program of voluntary counseling and testing in rural Africa.
Growing Influence for Gender Equality: As an expression of the growing recognition of our leadership for the empowerment of women in India, The Hunger Project-India led the nation’s first celebration of International Women’s Day, with Veena Devi, one of our trained elected women representatives, speaking alongside Sonia Gandhi.
New Partnership in Mexico: The Hunger Project formed a new alliance with 12 organizations to complete a training of trainers in our principles and methodology. The participants include government officials, members of the partner organizations, and local village leaders.
Innovative Monitoring and Evaluation: The Hunger Project put in place an Internet-based system for monitoring and evaluation to measure the impact of our programs at the village level around the world.
Inauguration of First Epicenter in Mozambique: A delegation of investors from five countries joined President Joaquim Chissano at the opening of the first epicenter in Mozambique, in Chókwè. The construction of a second epicenter, in Manhiça, is nearing completion.
Breakthrough in Fund-raising by Partner Countries: Our nine Hunger Project Partner Countries increased their fund-raising by 72 percent over 2006, sending more than US$4.8 million to programs. The breakthrough focused on institutional investors and entrepreneurs.
30 Years of Ending Hunger: On the occasion of our 30th anniversary, over 1,200 people gathered to acknowledge our groundbreaking results so far, and celebrate our expanding worldwide cadre of more than 180,000 leaders trained and committed to produce even greater results in the future.