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ASI Game Changers: Meet Ann in Spain

Our “ASI Game Changers” series introduces the people who make our work possible and allows us to learn about what drives them in their quest to create lasting impact in some of the world’s most challenging, complex environments. In this edition we are speaking to our colleague Ann Collins, Human Resources Adviser in Somalia.

  • Name: Ann Collins
  • Role: Human Resources Adviser, PREMIS / Rehabilitation Support Team
  • Location: Mallorca, Spain

What’s your big “why”? What’s the positive change/impact you and others in your field are trying to achieve and what are some of the challenges you face whilst doing so?

My thing has always been “people”. I am passionate about helping people reach their full potential. Seeing them become the best they can be, achieve things they didn’t think were in the cards for them and at the same time learning from them, their different paths and experiences, is so rewarding to me. Human Resources of course is all about people, and so it’s not a surprise that I ended up working in this field.

Sometimes, people like to complain they can’t find the right people for their business but sometimes it’s just about getting the best out of them. Often they do not know what it is that they do not know!  That’s where I come in – I love getting on this exploration journey and see where someone can get to once they start working on themselves.

Of course with HR, you always face the challenge that it’s often an afterthought and so it’s not rare that I get brought in quite late in the day and have to put my HR crisis manager hat on. That can be challenging but wherever there are people, there are opportunities and I just enjoy meeting so many incredible people around the world.

If you could write your own job title that best describes what you do here, what would it be?

There are many aspects to my work, so finding one single title is a challenge! Whilst I am primarily an adviser and a manager to my team, I also see myself as a coach and mentor, especially to colleagues. Being able to model company culture whilst learning from colleagues about their countries’ culture, adapting to various work environments, while transferring knowledge and watching them grow and adapt to new challenges – that’s what it is all about for me.

What do you like about working in a global development company?

Having the opportunity to work in places that many people will never have the chance to visit, gives me a whole new perspective on life; it grounds me. It is also rewarding to work with talented people from multiple backgrounds and to get the chance to meet changemakers in society including ministers, presidents, as well as “regular” people like you and I.

What’s the most exciting thing happening in your project/at work right now?

I think the most exciting thing I’ve probably ever done at work is put together and run a programme called “Women in Government”. We ran this under PREMIS (Public Resource Management in Somalia) to help women gain confidence and progress their careers in civil service – we focussed on lower-level and entry roles, not those who are half way there already. We did this in an attempt to nurture a new cadre of women rising to the top in Somali Government. Whilst the programme recently ended, I think the impact of this work will continue to be felt across Somalia and that makes me so proud. It’s been such a privilege working with many amazing and talented Somali women. Tangible impact is a big thing for me and this programme kept on achieving this! A perfect example was this extremely shy woman that slowly came out of her shell throughout the programme. She is now a Commissioner in one of the Federal Member States in Somalia which is an extremely challenging role for anyone let alone a woman in Somalia . She turned into a role model to many and her growth and progress through the programme continues to yield more impact by inspiring others. There’s many success stories we’ve had on the programme like it and it’s so humbling to be part of what feels like a really important movement in Somalia.

What movements or discussions inspire you generally right now?

Well, first of all, I think it’s great that there are so many movements taking place at once around the world. It feels like an exciting time for women and other groups and that we are able to have these debates. So, the fact that there seems to be movement in a lot of movements is inspiring. On the downside, there are also quite a few people who get involved in certain issues without having the relevant information behind their opinions. There is no doubt that social media plays a key role in providing information and shaping perceptions, but if I can do my little part in real life by dissolving some stereotypes then I am happy.

On a personal level for example, I try to get involved in small changes that I can make over time. It has always been important to me to speak with people with the view on how I can help inform their views through real-life experiences of my own. I live on a tiny island in Spain, and so very few people if any do the type of work I do. Of course, there’s always preconceived notions about what it might be like for a white woman in a Muslim country but I am proud that I can set the record straight, share my experiences and the wonderful stories I bring back from places like Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan or Kenya.

What volunteering or passion projects do you do outside of work?

I am part of an organisation called Time to Think, a leadership development and coaching company that empowers people to think beyond their limiting beliefs. For the last 25 years, I have been a Nancy Kline mentor and I am licensed to teach people how to produce independent thinking in their organisations, teams and lives. The guiding principle in this mentoring philosophy is that “The quality of everything we do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first”, a statement that has powerful implications. The consequent question is: “What does it take for people to help each other to think well for themselves?” That’s where I come in as mentor to help people gain clarity around this question and implement tools that help them achieve this.

My husband and I also have a bar and restaurant in a small Spanish village – whilst it’s not exactly a ‘passion project’, but hard work and a business that we run passionately – my husband more than I (laughs) – it is something I love doing. Many years ago, I moved to Spain on a whim as I’ve always wanted to live somewhere else and live adventurously with sunshine. For some reason I found everything I was looking for in Spain first and started my work as a consultant. My life can be very interesting at times, one day I’m serving a pint in Spain and the next I am working with women in Somalia.

What’s a quality a game changer should have and what’s your ambition to be one?

A game changer needs to be open and patient. It is important to trust the process as things do not happen overnight. You need to be open to the endless possibilities of life.

It is also important to give yourself and those around you time. There is always an expectation as an expert to deliver results immediately, but good things take time: “small steps” is one of my mottos!

You can change the game by changing the life of one person. Impact is relative. Changing the life of one woman for example, will change the life of the people around her and that’s huge as far as I am concerned. Sometimes it’s better not to focus too much on the numbers, but the purpose instead – even if it does “just” impact a small area or a small number of people. The potential to multiply impact is endless. A game changer should not forget that.

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