Rising up the ranks: 30-year aid veteran is Concern Worldwide's new CEO

Dominic MacSorley, Concern Worldwide's new CEO starting March 1. Photo by: Concern Worldwide

The man who joined Concern in 1982 out of curiosity for the world will now lead the Dublin-based international humanitarian organization.

Dominic MacSorley will start work as Concern Worldwide’s new CEO March 1. He will replace Tom Arnold, who has served as the organization’s chief since 2001.

“I am deeply honored to accept this position, and ready to get to work,” MacSorley said.

MacSorley will take on the organization’s top post more than 30 years after joining Concern on Sept. 12, 1982. He was practicing law in Belfast when he decided to join the organization at the age of 25. His main goal: to travel.

“Like most young people, I just wanted to see more of the world before I settled down. I saw an ad in the local paper for Concern — looking for volunteers to work overseas for two years and I applied,” MacSorley said in an interview with PBS in 2002.

He only thought of working for two years, but got interested deeply in development.

“Quite honestly, I felt I found my niche and so I never went back to law,” he said.

In his decadeslong career with Concern, MacSorley has served in some of the most conflict-ridden and disaster-vulnerable countries around the world: Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Somalia and Sudan. His first aid work was in Thailand, assisting more than 350,000 Cambodian refugees.

“It’s ironic in a way that I went overseas to get away from ‘the troubles,’ conflict and prejudice of Northern Ireland … only to end up in more extreme situations of conflict overseas — Cambodia, Rwanda, Burundi, Kosovo, Afghanistan,” he said.

MacSorley’s dedication to humanitarian and development work has gained him a number of recognitions. For instance, in 2010, he was invested with the Order of the British Empire for his international humanitarian work. Last year, the Northern Irleand All-Party Group on International Development cited him for his “outstanding vocational commitment to international development.”

MacSorley, who has served as Concern Worldwide U.S. director of operations for the past 10 years, “leaves behind a larger, more dynamic, and effective organization than he found,” Concern Worldwide U.S. Chairman of the Board Thomas J. Moran said. “He will bring the same boundless energy and intellect with him to Concern’s headquarters in Dublin — and I have no doubt his impact there will be immense.”

MacSorley is the only member of his family that didn’t take up medicine as a profession. His father and four brothers were doctors; his mother and two sisters were nurses.

“I never seemed to know what I wanted to do, except that I didn’t want to study medicine,” he said.

For MacSorley, it’s not enough to be an expert in your field to excel in aid work  it’s “equally important” to have strong personal and social skills.

“In highly charged, political and often insecure environments you need to have patience, compassion, sincerity, and above all, a sense of humor,” he said.

In the immediate aftermath of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, Ed Kenney, communications manager at Concern Worldwide US, recalls how MacSorley led a team “profoundly affected” by the disaster.

“Watching Dominic step in to lead that team was like being in a clinic … the challenge he faced required not only laser-like focus, virtually 24 hours a day, but also diplomacy and logistical gymnastics … sensitivity, emotional intelligence and the ability to balance compassion and directness,” he told Devex in an email.  “The situation demanded that he do all these things at the same time, all day, every day. It wasn’t exactly effortless for him, and not always graceful, but it worked, not least because he knew when to deploy his infamous sense of humor and fun, even in the earliest days.”

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About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.