Mission East's new Managing Director: Innovation and stability must go hand in hand
PORTRAIT: Betina Gollander-Jensen is appointed as the new Managing Director of Mission East from 1st of January 2021. She comes from a position as International Manager of Caritas and has previously been abroad with DANIDA and the UN in South Africa, Uganda, Sudan and Kenya.
Innovation and consolidation. Local cooperation and tight financial management. Focus on the individual in need and strengthen the entire organization.
These are all key words for Betina Gollander-Jensen, who will take over as the new Secretary General of Mission East on 1 January 2021. The words range widely, but so does the experience of the newly appointed Secretary General.
The 51-year-old Betina Gollander-Jensen comes from a position as international manager at Caritas Denmark. Prior to that, she was project manager and refugee coordinator at Amnesty International, program manager at the Danish Refugee Council, worked with biosecurity in East Africa for the Danish Serum Institute and sent out by the UN Refugee Organization UNHCR to South Africa, Uganda and Sudan. She has also been deployed by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nairobi, Kenya, for 5 years.
Betina Gollander-Jensen is now taking up the baton after Peter Drummond Smith, who was appointed Secretary General this summer. She succeeds Kim Hartzner, who co-founded Mission East 29 years ago and now continues in the organization as a fundraiser.
Mission East has passion and high quality in their work
We caught up with Betina Gollander-Jensen on Skype and asked her why she was applying for the position of Managing Director of Mission East?
- I know Mission East, and the reputation they have for doing a good job of helping the most vulnerable in the most remote areas, where few other organizations are present. It appealed to me to work for such an organization with a great passion and high quality in their work. It is especially the Christian values of helping the individual in need that inspire me. And to help them do their best to get out of distress.
It is no coincidence that Betina Gollander-Jensen throws herself into relief work. She herself grew up in a working-class family in Nakskov on Lolland-Falster.
- I myself am one of those who have had to be a pattern breaker. And I have enjoyed growing up in a society of opportunity, she smiles and continues:
- It is a huge driving force behind everything I do. For I believe that all people in this world have a right to the opportunity to live up to their full potential, as long as it is done in a sustainable and respectful way that takes into account others and our common good.
Mission East at a crossroads
This is exactly what she defines as Mission East's task: to support people in being able to live up to their potential as human beings.
What do you think you can contribute to Mission East?
- Mission East is a fantastic dedicated organization that helps a lot of people far and wide. The organization is carried forward by being founded by a family that is very dedicated. Now Mission East - as I see it - stands at a crossroads where we must innovate. There, I think I can help: Build on the good values that have characterized the organization since its beginning 29 years ago and stand on the shoulders of the huge relief work provided over time, and then reach out even farther.
Will equip local partners
Here, Betina Gollander-Jensen will draw on her experience, among other things, from the 11 years she has lived abroad. She will further develop Mission East's collaboration with local organizations:
- I strongly believe that we must help the locals - not only the beneficiaries, but also the local organizations - and build them up to become even better at sitting at the table in cooperation with local authorities and other NGOs. That's very much on my mind!
- There is a need for capacity building of local organizations, as the situation around the world is unfortunately going in the wrong direction in many places, often exacerbated by conflict, climate change or social injustice.
- It requires, among other things, that both we and local organizations cooperate with local authorities, which are ultimately responsible for changing policies and running institutions that enable us to have a more sustainable and lasting change, explains Betina Gollander-Jensen .
Efficient employees in a safe environment
It is no secret that Mission East is in a transition phase from being a family-run startup to an organization that stands broader in order to be able to reach further.
How does Mission East move forward in that process?
- I think Mission East is already well on its way. I do not imagine myself coming in the door and changing everything at once. Not at all. Many steps for change are already being taken, and my task is to support these new ideas and initiatives so that we become an even more agile, efficient and consolidated organization, providing the highest quality assistance and geared to the future. A future where Mission East is among the leading organizations in its field.
- The foundation for achieving this is that we have competent and efficient employees who have a safe environment to do their work and innovate. At the same time, we must be grateful to the many private contributors who trust the work of Missions East. Of course, we must continue to nurture them and at the same time seek even more support for our work.
Innovation and collaboration with private companies
Betina Gollander-Jensen is passionate about innovation and new thinking, but it does not stand in opposition to stability - on the contrary.
- Together with the board and employees, I will look at how we can make things more efficient so that we can prepare ourselves for the future. It will, of course, be a key task to create calm and confidence and consolidate the things that we are doing. We must look at the organization holistically and not just at one area. The things we do need to be done really well, and then we need to make sure that our finances are solid so that there is confidence that what we do also holds up in the future.
When this is in place, there is also room for new ideas - and she also has experience in implementing them in the relief work:
- Among other things, I can contribute with innovation and collaboration with private companies. I have experience with Danish startups, which has provided solar-powered purification of water and solar-powered stoves to limit deforestation and CO2 emissions. These are examples of how to create innovation, private sector cooperation and counteract climate change.
Sees the relief work from new angles
It is precisely the ability to be able to see the relief work from several and new angles that will be a breath of fresh air in Mission East, which can celebrate its 30th anniversary next year.
Here, Mission East will benefit from her experience from seven years for the human rights organization Amnesty International as a refugee coordinator with projects from the Children's Development Calendar in Mexico and Colombia. And the five years for the UNHCR in South Africa, Uganda and Sudan. Not to mention over five years for DANIDA and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Danish Embassy in Kenya. Four of the years at the Danish embassy in Nairobi, where she was responsible for Danish aid to Somalia and the refugee areas in Kenya. For the last one and a half years in Kenya, she worked in the Kenyan Ministry of Interior and advised the Kenyan government on refugee issues with a focus on donor coordination and aid efficiency.
Her family has had to endure a lot of change in the 11 years of service abroad - but travel has also offered adventure and excitement.
All people have the same needs
- I thrive in meeting other cultures and peoples, and I am simply happy to experience that people everywhere, have the same needs - we all love our children and wish the best for them, we all have need food and drink - and we need community to really thrive. It gives joy to experience that equality and solidarity between people, despite differences.
Betina Gollander-Jensen is married to Henrik Dahms. Together they have the children Johanna aged 16 and Jeppe aged 13.
And what does she do in her sparse spare time?
- In my free time I love to cook and go for long walks. Currently I go for a walk around Furesø Lake in Copenhagen almost every weekend. It is about 22 km. And then I love playing board games with the kids. Quite ordinary leisure activities that bring the big worldwide events down to earth, says Betina Gollander-Jensen.