Bernadette Sexton: Honesty and good governance

Bernadette Sexton, practice leader for public administration & governance at Maxwell Stamp PLC. Photo by: personal collection

Bernadette Sexton has been helping developing countries improve governance for more than a decade. One of her latest projects, funded by the U.K. Department for International Development, is helping the youth in conflict-torn northern Uganda to find jobs.

Sexton, who leads Maxwell Stamp’s public administration and governance division, is one of today’s most influential development leaders under 40 in London. She and her peers have inspired change that transcends borders.

Devex is recognizing 40 of these young London-based trailblazers in international development. They are social entrepreneurs, government leaders, development consultants, business innovators, advocates, development researchers, nonprofit executives, philanthropists and investors.

We asked Sexton about her leadership and vision for development cooperation in the years to come. Here’s what she said:

What accomplishment in promoting good governance are you most proud of?

As part of the peace and recovery development programme in Uganda funded by DfID, we are currently supporting the Northern Uganda Youth Development Centre in the provision of opportunities for young people in the conflict-affected region. Essentially, we support the centre to develop youth employment interventions linked to market needs by way of addressing poverty and reintegrating youth affected by conflict into the economy. In doing so, we have developed and are implementing a curriculum which meets the needs of the private sector whilst promoting equality of access for disadvantaged youth. Results are further measured through employment generation indicators.

How do you adapt your leadership style to fit a client?

Any leadership style requires an adaptation for cultural sensitivities, whilst remaining true to the objectives of the programme. At the best of times, leadership in development is a complex environment, within which a myriad of stakeholders operate, each with individual vested interests. Stakeholders include the beneficiary government, donor (bilateral, multilateral or individual), and citizens of the country. When you add diverse cultures, delicate political and economic institutions, and often fragile states, an idea of the level of intricacy emerges. In such an environment, and above all, the appeal of honesty and a good work ethic should never be underestimated.

How do you see yourself contributing in the coming years to strengthening democracy in the developing world?

The best development programmes I have been involved in combine the interaction of a host of actors where the public and private sectors, government, and NGOs combine efforts to relieve poverty and strengthen democracy. Where silos exist, results are moderate. I therefore see my future contribution in designing and implementing governance programmes on behalf of donors which explicitly link these stakeholders.

Additionally, by working with a range of donors, I find you get an overview of what works/does not work within international development from the perspective of the beneficiary citizenry. What works can then be tailored, piloted and rolled out.

Read more about the Devex 40 Under 40 International Development Leaders in London.

About the author

  • Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.