New SNV CEO Simon O'Connell to lead with transparency, focus on partnerships and impact at scale


Simon O'Connell officially embarked on his journey with SNV as its new Chief Executive Officer on 1 December 2020. He emphasised SNV's technical expertise, strong focus on three sectors along with systems change, and decentralised leadership as three of the top reasons that motivated him about SNV's top position. 

'I am a profound believer that those within the contexts of where they live are best placed to know what the opportunities, solutions and challenges are. SNV's model and emphasis on decentralised leadership, deeply connecting with communities and then drawing out ideas and solutions from within those communities themselves is absolutely the right thing to do,' he said during his first CEO video message sent to SNV employees around the world. 

Simon supporting girls’ primary education in Somalia

Transformational change through partnerships

Simon started his international development career over two decades ago. He named his "fundamental belief in possibility" as the reason for doing so. 'I've had the opportunity and privilege to be in many different parts of the world. Whoever I've met, and wherever I’ve been, no matter how fragile, I've seen that there are possibilities for real, lasting transformational change... I want to enable as many people as possible to harness those opportunities for themselves. I've had so many opportunities in my life and want to do what I can to ensure that more people have the kind of opportunities that I've had,' he added. 
He described his career path as full of listening, learning and then connecting people. He is most passionate about bringing about transformational change through partnerships and working together with others. He puts particular emphasis on growing and nurturing individuals and teams.

Simon amidst community peace-building discussions in West Darfur

Leading with core values

He named humility, courage and transparency as his core values, which are also necessary to bring about transformational change through SNV’s work.

'As NGOs, we are stewards of other people's resources, we have an incredible responsibility there. A responsibility to be truthful in our stewardship of those resources. To be transparent about results; including those times when we don't get everything right. And through truthfulness and transparency, we have the opportunity to both build and become brokers of trust,' he explained.

In this video, he talks about leadership, SNV's role in the most fragile parts of the world, and his take on shrinking foreign aid budgets. 


COVID-19, family and the outdoors

When asked what he learned during this time of COVID-19, he mentioned a deepening appreciation for local community and for getting to know his neighbours better. After having spent so much of his life away, spending an extensive amount of time with his family has also helped him to be a better dad, he says, with ever greater admiration for his wife and all those who spend a lot of their time supporting children.

Simon O'Connell arrived in the Netherlands, where he will be based, late last week. He will be joined by his wife and two children in the spring and looks forward to meeting the SNV team around the world and see the work we do as soon as that’s possible. He closely follows politics and international affairs, enjoys many sports and the outdoors, and even looks forward to perhaps trying Dutch herring after some time.