When I was a director of a property investment company in the UK, I never envisaged becoming the director of an international mission school in Kathmandu, Nepal, especially because I flunked school. But when you make yourself available to God’s purposes, He often takes you to places you could not imagine to do tasks you never thought possible (Ephesians 3:20).
I came to Nepal with my family in 2012 to work with Kathmandu International Study Centre (KISC). My task was to help them fundraise and oversee the development of a new school campus. When I looked into being involved in mission overseas, I imagined myself working in a remote village sharing the gospel whilst my wife, a doctor, practiced medicine. However, I was clearly led by God to work in a school for children of mission workers.
To be honest, I did not think that was a real mission in the beginning. But when I visited the school for the first time, I immediately knew I was where I should be, where God wanted me to serve. Even through challenging times and major earthquakes, I have not wanted to labor anywhere else, knowing God is with me.
KISC was established in 1987 by two mission organisations, INF (International Nepal Fellowship) and UMN (United Mission to Nepal). It was initially established as a study centre for secondary school children of mission workers because without appropriate schooling, many were leaving the field to secure education for their children. Now, KISC is a primary and secondary school for around 200+ children from over twenty countries. The school is accredited by the government of Nepal, with international accreditation from Middle State Association (USA) and British Schools Overseas, as well as being a Cambridge International Exam Centre. As a ministry to Nepal, KISC established a teacher training programme for Nepali teachers working in remote locations, called EQUIP (Education Quality Improvement Programme). The ownership of the school was handed over to a local NGO, HDCS (Human Development and Community Services) around 15 years ago.
In 2013, soon after I arrived at KISC, the leadership of KISC went through a serious breakdown. The SMC (School Management Committee, effectively the Board) Chairperson, the CEO, Head of Primary and Secondary all left within a matter of months due to some serious allegations and divided relationships. As result, I was appointed joint-Director with two other colleagues. The breakdown was caused by a “perfect storm” of circumstances, rather than one issue. Through reflection over the following year, it was clear that ineffective governance was a key factor in many of the issues. From that point, I was particularly inspired to ensure governance structures, procedures, and policies were robust, and to make clear the relationship between the board and administrators.
In 2020, I finished working in KISC after overseeing the new school campus development and the recruitment of a new director. But I have stayed in Nepal to work with INF International, in addition to taking on the Chairperson role of KISC’s SMC. It was around this time that I was introduced to GTP and several of their resources on governance. I attended some of the Zoom trainings available during lockdown with some of my fellow board members. For those who were unable to attend, I shared the recording of the webinars and several have responded to say how good it was and how it gave pointers for areas we need to work on.
I also read some of the books recommended, such as Call of the Chair and The Council: A Biblical Perspective on Board Governance. These give a great theoretical overview and practical advice for good governance. On the recommendation of GTP President & CEO, Dr. Gary Hoag, I completed the GTP Diagnostic Tool, which I found to be particularly helpful. It has provided a practical tool that has enabled a simple method for a “health check” of our board. This has been invaluable.
KISC’s SMC comprises around 9-10 people and is made of 6-7 nationalities at any one time, all with different experiences and expectations for governance. It is a legal requirement to have a Ministry of Education representative who is not normally a Christian. These factors make for many challenges.
It was clear that the members of the SMC were not clear on their roles and responsibilities so the GTP template Five Models of Board Governance proved useful in clarifying what these are for us as a Board of Governors. When COVID restrictions eased, the board met in person to have two days of governance training to clarify each person’s roles and responsibilities, and have a wonderful time of prayer and worship (although the government official did not attend that part).
Aside from that, I immediately introduced the Board Annual Commitment, Board Meeting Evaluation, Board Self-Evaluation, and a revised Board Policy Manual, after completing the Diagnostic Tool process in 2020. With non-Christians on the board and working in a cross-cultural group, we contextualised and adapted these templates provided by GTP to make them useable within our organisation and to ensure they are workable and sensitive to the environment.
As I enter my final year of service in Nepal, I have gone through the Diagnostic Tool again to build up on what we’ve already started, consider further improvements to the governance of the school, and ensure that my successor takes over a healthy organisation and board when I hand the Chairperson post over.
In a recent conversation with Dr. Hoag, he encouraged me to work intentionally in order to finish well. To this end, I plan to recruit my replacement, introduce the Whistleblower and Conflicts of Interest Policies, and encourage the SMC to use a contextualised version of the Discerning Direction Document to provide focus in our next training session. I even introduced INF to GTP and hope that they too will benefit from their resources and support.
I want to encourage anyone out there reading this to take the time to do the GTP Diagnostic Tool and download the Templates that surface for your situation. Do this and you will find helpful resources you can adopt or adapt to your situation. And reach out to GTP if you have questions.