680141 - Press Conference - 03_06_2016 - 16.20.26

Introduction of our new Chief Operating Officer (COO): Stefan Feller

We are proud to welcome Stefan Feller as the new COO of our GS Foundation.

He is looking forward to working with us on exciting projects and sharing his vision:

“Stefan, you are now looking back on the first days in your function as “Chief Operating Officer” in our GS-Foundation. Can you tell us about your initial impressions?”

When I received the offer to contribute to the GS-Foundation, I already knew that further developing our successful work is an important challenge. The GS-Foundation has earned a reputation of being a reliable partner, for those who commission our work, such as the German Federal Foreign Office, but especially for countries which we support in their daunting tasks. Whether currently in Nigeria, Moldova, the Ukraine or Georgia, or previously in Gambia and Cambodia, the respective circumstances always vary, and are always difficult. Threats of instability loom here, conflict and war are raging there, and our partners expect decisive and concrete support. As a result of my longstanding experience in organizations such as the United Nations or the European Union, or in direct work for the German Federal Foreign Office, it was imperative for me that we have to utilize a team-oriented approach for our contributions. We are part of a multitude of actors with mandates to assist. We are partners of countries who aim to improve their abilities addressing their challenges, with our assistance. It is key that we take a human-centred approach, and that values are driving us. The GS-Foundation has convincingly demonstrated that we contribute to a larger effort. In turn, this leads to that we are asked for more. Expectations towards us are rising. Another reason for an increase in demand simply rests with the growing evil of instability, war, and terror in our world. Our work, our promotion of peace and the rule of law is becoming ever more important. My work focuses on supporting our managing director and our country teams in succeeding with this growth. I am thrilled by the experiences throughout my first days and weeks, and I am enthusiastic.

“Do you have the impression that the GS-Foundation is all set for these developments?”

We are a small team, which is an advantage in itself. In our country teams we deploy high-performing staff. Here in the back-office, in Essen, we are a small group securing the success of these projects. From here we communicate with our host countries and with our contracting authorities. Looking beyond the specific purposes of our projects, we also benefit from the invaluable networking contacts maintained by our specialists. Networking is one of several core tasks within my own work. Communication is the lifeblood enabling our ability to provide sensible contributions to a larger effort. Communication allows us to quickly respond to calls for help, coming up with possible solutions. Our ability to communicate also sits at the heart of our capacity to engage a pool of experts. Experts for projects, or for shorter forms of engagement such as advice, and training. The culture of communication is important to me in order to secure the credibility which we have earned in the past as an attractive partner. My second core task is to support our existing project teams on strategic and operational levels and to help in their success. Last but not least, I am part of the small team here in Essen. Facilitating an environment which allows my colleagues to work with satisfaction and motivation, this is very important, too. The foundation on which  these elements is built is good. This makes me believe that we are well set for our present tasks and the immediate and long-term future.

“Why would experts want to work for, and in, the GS-Foundation, Stefan? Do you already have some initial impressions, and some thoughts how to create this environment?”

First and foremost: Our organization is based on values. We are founded on the same values which sit at the core of German foreign policy. These, again, are the same values which we find in the “DNA” of the United Nations, or the European Union. They put human beings, human security, human rights, the rule of law and democratic principles of governance front and centre. We are committed to protecting minorities and vulnerable groups. Promoting gender equality, women’s rights and an equal role of women in all functions of society is as important for us as the protection of all forms of gender identification. Finally we are committed to protecting children, and their rights. Those who want to work with us are driven by the passion to live these values. Secondly, we offer reliable conditions for fulfilling work. Transparency and adequacy of remuneration is included in this. We are priding ourselves with being a cost-efficient organization, offering acceptable overhead costs combined with flexibility and quality. Our staff and our experts know that. We are driven by motivation for our topics, and our compensation package for working with us is based on German public standards. If one compares us with other organizations “out there”, please understand that our values do lead to us to priding ourselves with being reasonable in our compensation for work. We want to see a maximum of effect reaching our beneficiaries. This is leading to a mix of being attractive as an employer or contractor and being humble. Intrinsic motivation and inner peace of mind is part of our package. In this, I believe we are emanating from a first period of growth pain. For me it is imperative that we have all our staff fully on board in order to allow us to transfer the enthusiasm and pioneer spirit of the founding phase into our future. All staff in our organization are special and I am grateful for the first impressions which I could have.

“What does this mean specifically for the pool of experts? Is this a pool of retired police officers?”

The pool of experts started as a pool of retired police experts and senior police leaders. At the same time, our pool is subject to change, following needs. Our pool hosts retired policewomen and men with longstanding professional experience including in diverse international deployments. Thus, we use an important resource of knowledge how to assist stakeholders in our host-countries within their own processes of improvement and transformation. However, elements of Security Sector Reform are not limited to this, a comprehensive approach is much broader. Already today we employ cutting-edge experts in specific projects promoting a stronger role of women, strengthening the protection of vulnerable groups in societies, and protecting children. As we grow, we are constantly looking for specific expertise which can be hard to get within policing organizations, because it is rare. One example for this is maritime security. We actively look for specialists here for training purposes. I do also find it important to internationalize the composition of our expert pool, whilst at the same time maintaining something like a German identity. We want to offer a broader opportunity for non-German expertise. Of course, I would also want to see an equal representation of women and men in our pool. We strive for maintaining a pool allowing us to dynamically respond within a variety of topical areas. I also believe that the size of our pool matters: A small pool will suffer from limitations responding to upcoming requests. A large pool inhibits the risk of frustration for those who made it into the pool, questioning whether their expertise will ever be used. Again: We look for experts from all age groups, and this may include people with a career which is not only based on distinguished work for many decades as a public official.  

“That sounds very ambitious! What are your views on our projects in host-countries?”

Well, without ambition one should not be surprised if one ends up in a different place than hoped for in the first place. That is why things always begin with a vision, which is then turned into a strategy, and finally into bold and pragmatic action. This principle holds true for our assistance projects as well. On one hand, our project leadership ensures by way of their reputation, former rank and their vast experience that we can deliver our tasks in a most effective and efficient manner. That is what we have promised to our partners in countries which we assist. Our leadership does this by using comparatively small and tailor-made project teams, working, engaging, and being highly visible in countries which we assist. A second important task of our project teams is to actively network themselves into the existing larger structures. This is crucial for implementing our services according to demand and expectation of our hosts. It is also important for coherence within the international community, and finally it is vital for representing the corporate identity of our GS-Foundation in our host countries.

“Is there anything else you would like to mention?”

Thank you. Maybe I would also like to mention our ability to work together with many partners. I find this quite extraordinary in my own experience. I won’t mention any partner organization by name, or specifically, just because the list already is impressive. It wouldn’t be fair to All if I would single out a few. We are revamping our website; you already find some examples there. But one feature of my early days here is that contacts to partners and to potential new partners are a large part of my daily workload.

Maybe you come back to this after my initial 100 days? I could look back on my initial impressions and we could compare notes.

“Stefan, thank you very much!”


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