Some Reflections on My Departure from Global Integrity

If you’re reading this post, you’ve likely read the news that I’ll be transitioning out of Global Integrity in the coming months. This is obviously big news for me both professionally and personally. Rather than lengthen the Global Integrity announcement with my personal thoughts, I thought I’d do that here instead.

Where’d This Come From?

I was never looking for a new job. I’ve been challenged and rewarded every day I’ve come to work since co-founding Global Integrity in 2005. But as with most opportunities in life, these things tend to evolve over time from a fragment of a thought or a conversation into something more concrete that bears serious consideration. For me, this process and decision go back to last year, and it wasn’t until recently that I decided it was the right thing to do for my family and me.

My leaving Global Integrity is also, I strongly believe, the right thing for Global Integrity. I’ve been keenly aware of the ticking of the clock towards potential “founder’s syndrome” territory. I was loathe to allow that to happen simply to keep myself in a job I found familiar. We’ve all seen non-profits that stagnate and plateau in their mid-stages due to the founder’s inability to exit stage left and allow new leadership to take over. I’m proud of what we’ve done at Global Integrity during these past nine years but I know it’s not magic. A new leader and the world-class staff will have equally good or better ideas, and it’s important to give those ideas space to mature and ripen without the shadow of the founder hanging over every decision. This explains why I won’t be staying on the board of directors either; there’s little upside (in my view) to having a founder lurking around the proverbial hallways. That said, I’ll always be there for Global Integrity and will be cheerleading and supporting in every way I can.

What’s Next

I’m thrilled to be joining the all-star team over at Results for Development (R4D). I’ve known their social accountability and governance team for many years and have had only the deepest respect for their work, led by the terrific and brilliant Courtney Tolmie, with whom I couldn’t be more excited to begin working.

Once the transition is complete, I’ll be joining R4D as a new managing director for its governance work, helping to guide a team that’s working on incredibly important projects, including what is arguably the transparency field’s most important in-flight study of the impact of transparency and accountability on service delivery (the Transparency for Development research project). There’s no master plan in place for what new things we’ll be doing, and that will take some time to work out with the team in a collaborative fashion. But in general you can expect a continued emphasis on social accountability work coupled with more of a push to link those grassroots efforts to global policy initiatives (think Open Government Partnership, post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals). I’m also keen to more directly leverage transparency and participation towards improved service delivery outcomes in key sectors such as health and education, tapping into the incredible talent in those verticals at R4D. And I have some exciting ideas around the ways in which social purpose co-working communities can be leveraged to catalyze innovation in government (building on the experience and success of creating the OpenGov Hub). Watch this space.

Where to Find Me

As the Global Integrity announcement mentions, I won’t be going anywhere immediately. I expect to remain at Global Integrity throughout much of the rest of this calendar year as a new Executive Director is identified and comes on board. When there is a more concrete timeline to share, we’ll of course do that. I’m deeply appreciative of both the Global Integrity board and staff for their support and energy during this process. 

In the meantime, you can find me where you always have on both Twitter and email (nathaniel [dot] heller [at] globalintegrity [dot] org).

(Update: you can read the R4D announcement here.)