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Edmund Page: “Collaborating across five continents”

Edmund Page: “Collaborating across five continents”

Refining the vision and reaching out

Edmund Page tells Leading Change how being a Queen’s Young Leader helped him refine his leadership style and connected him to networks around the Commonwealth.

There are over a million refugees in Kenya and Uganda, and, according to Edmund Page, “the numbers are always rising, but the funding’s going down”.

Edmund – who is originally from the UK but has lived in Kenya since 2011 – founded the Xavier Project to enable these refugees get an education. But starting a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in a new country comes with “a lot of different challenges”, says Edmund.

“It would have been great to have somebody, or a group of people, who could give me direct guidance on those challenges.”

Refining the vision

Embarking on the Leading Change course in January 2015 made Edmund “stop and think about things in a very different way”. He was inspired from the very first module, so he disseminated the learning among his team through workshops.

“That helped me and the Xavier Project to totally realign and reflect on ourselves as an organisation, so we refined our vision,” he explains. “We decided at that point that we’re education based.”

Referring to the Start with Why methodology, by Simon Sinek, he explains that his “how” was education, but the “why” was refugees.

This new clarity of vision has trickled down to the Xavier Project’s mission statement, annual objectives and work plan. And the Xavier Project has expanded considerably.

“We began a contract with UNICEF to enrol 4,000 refugee children in primary school,” says Edmund, “and we are opening two more hubs in Kakuma Refugee Camp with UNHCR.” He adds that in Uganda, Xavier Project has started working in the Rwamwanja Settlement.

The workforce has grown from 18 to 28 full-time programme staff, 25 part-time community workers and 12 support staff – across Kenya and Uganda.

Networking

In June 2015, Edmund came to the UK to receive his award at Buckingham Palace and spend a week with the other Queen’s Young Leaders. He was inspired by “their energy and their dedication” and he learnt from them too.

Fellow Queen’s Young Leaders from Kenya – Abdikadir Aden Hassan, Caren Nelima Odanga and Samuel Karuita – put him in touch with their contacts in the Kenya Parliamentary Human Rights Caucus.

“They are very good at activism and plugging into politicians over here [in Kenya] and they showed me a few tactics on how to do that,” he says.

A group of students holding their certificate on the Xavier Project's entrepreneurship course

Students on the Xavier Project's entrepreneurship course, Kenya. Image credit: Xavier Project

But Edmund also used his time as Queen’s Young Leader to “plug into” politicians in the UK, booking several meetings on a trip to London in September 2015.

He spoke to three parliamentarians, including one from the All-Party Group for Refugees, who showed some interest in making education a key intervention in the global refugee crisis. 

“It opened my eyes to how people on the other side of the world are making quite big decisions that affect the refugees I’m working with now,” says Edmund.

And he had a conversation with the Department for International Development (DFID) about their five-year approach to migration. “I wouldn’t have been able to do that without Queen’s Young Leaders,” he says.

Commonwealth networks

Edmund was one of several Queen’s Young Leaders invited by Common Purpose to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November 2015.

“Migration was the theme of the conference,” he says. “We were asked to set something up within a week and we set up the Commonwealth Migration Network.”

He points out that migration is becoming an increasing challenge, as the number of climate change refugees rises and adds, “There are some crises that get a lot more attention from the media and donors than others.”

The idea behind the Commonwealth Migration Network is to make the global response to migration fairer and more effective. “And,” says Edmund, “to get members to share stories about migration challenges.”

Edmund’s increased interest in, and links to, the Commonwealth have also influenced Xavier Project’s direction. “We’re thinking if we expand to a third country, we would like it to be a Commonwealth country.”

He has been maintaining his networks with Queen’s Young Leaders through the Legacy Panel and the Alt Commons course, set up by Dr Karen Salt – an expert on global power structures, who tutors on the Leading Change course.

“The Alt Commons course was excellent!” he says, “and culminated in a day in Cambridge.” The plan now is for participants to “franchise the experience out” by running similar sessions.

The Legacy Panel was set up by a group of 2015 Alumni, including Edmund, to enable Queen’s Young Leaders to work together into the future. He says it has had a good first year, with structures and processes being established although there hasn’t been much progress on specific projects.

“I think the second cohort will do a better job as they have been prepped for it since the beginning of the year,” he says. “We learnt quite a few lessons we can pass on to them. Collaborating across five continents is not easy!”