One Hundred Years of Hope

Founded in 1919, Save the Children is a global nonprofit whose mission is to make sure that every single child, no matter where they live, has the opportunity to have a healthy start, an education, and to be protected from harm. Carolyn Miles, previously the organization’s COO, and now CEO, is on a mission to […]

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How do you measure success in your role?

There are specific things we measure against with our two sets of stakeholders. The first is the children and families we serve. We measure our ability to make an impact on a group of people, in a country, in a project, in a particular program. We ask how we’re moving the needle on getting more kids into school, into staying in school, and in their success at reading. How are we moving the issue of education and reading in a specific country? And how are we moving it globally?

The second set of stakeholders is the donors. Save the Children can’t do anything we do unless we raise resources. It’s an interesting dynamic, because the people who pay for the services are not the group who receives them. Raising the funds to be able to do the work we do, whether those funds come from the government, from corporations, from individuals—funds received in five dollar or five million dollar increments—that whole constituency is critical to our organization. The resources are much easier to measure, frankly, than the first set of stakeholders.

How do you lead a large global organization made up of so many different cultures, people, volunteers, and full-time employees?

This is probably one of the hardest things that we have to do at Save the Children. Not only do we have 25,000 people working for us around the world in 120 countries, we also have many different pieces within the organization. We have members with vastly different cultures, and Save the Children International, which delivers all the programs outside of the member countries. We are one of the most diverse organizations you will find. We have a set of five values—accountability, collaboration, ambition, creativity, and integrity—and make sure everyone fully understands what those values mean.

You are a member of multiple boards, companies, and organizations. You also have a very diverse set of trustees on your own board at Save the Children, from business leaders to entertainment figures to venture capitalists. What’s the role of a good board member?

I think that the role of a board member—and particularly, the chair of the board, who works really closely with the CEO—is to support that CEO publicly, but to question them in private. Having been on both sides of that relationship, I know that’s incredibly useful and helpful. That chair should be a cheerleader in public and nudging the CEO, in private, to aim higher. They should be asking the pointed questions, but not in the press and not in the board meeting.

The board’s role is to be partners with the senior management team and CEO. They should have a give-and- take relationship where they’re acknowledging the really good things that the team is doing and nudging them to be even more ambitious.

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