Fall 2021

Q A &

Sani Daher, Creative’s new Chief Operating Officer.

Get to know Sani!

with Sani Daher

ing its footprint into more technical areas and regions and I am thrilled to be part of the Creative team.” Daher joins Creative fromDAI, an imple- menter of development programs. Daher rose quickly through the organization, from a field position in Jerusalem to the company’s headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland. He started his career in global development in 1999. Daher left a prominent role in biomedical engineering because he saw an opportunity to do something useful for his home country of Palestine. He joined DAI to advise Palestinian pharmaceutical companies on international manufacturing standards so they could obtain the rigorous certification to export their prod- ucts. Five firms accomplished this goal. “As a person who grew up in a developing coun- try, I know and appreciate the critical role local ownership plays in the success of programs,” Daher says. “It’s my philosophy that you hire great local teams and empower them to figure things out—to chart their own way forward— and stand ready to be supportive.” Among his recent positions, Daher was Chief Operating Officer of DAI USG, in which he oversaw global operations for more than 75 U.S. government funded-programs and managed a global workforce of more than 2,500 development professionals. Daher earned a master’s degree fromNorth- west University’s Kellogg School of Manage- ment, a master’s degree in mechanical engi- neering fromOklahoma State University and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering fromOklahoma State University. n

What has kept you in development for more than two decades? Sani: I get much satisfaction in putting local teams together that help tackle national challenges that otherwise may never be addressed. Local teams take special pride in solving their own prob- lems, whether at a national or local level. There is no better moment than when you see local staff stand proud as they celebrate the results of their program. How can we best reflect local ownership in our design and implementation of programs? Sani: Simple. Hire good local teams that can stand on their own. Take a step back, monitor and support progress. The initial designs normally come from USAID. Empowered project teams may, at times, negotiate tweaks to the design as conditions change on the ground. It’s important that we in HQ support them as they seek to make adjustments. In the area of program implementation, what key client priorities/trends have been most impactful on strategies and tactics over the last five years? Sani: I have seen more and more all donors innovate newways to engage local and international private sector where possible. There has been some good progress on this front across donors, and it’s important for us to support these efforts. How do you see the develop- ment landscape changing over the next five years? Sani: The U.N. sustainable development goals as a strategic framework is causing shifts in the way donors think about the results and howwe get there. Today, you see much more emphasis

on private and local resources, which is key to leveraging the limited donor funds to meet the required investments to accomplish the U.N. goals. Equally important, as a result of donors seeking to leverage their resources, the ownership of these development initiatives is much broader and that helps ensure success. I believe these trends will continue and grow in importance, and we must position ourselves to support these efforts. Fortunately, Creative is growing. How do you scale operations to meet demand but still be efficient? Sani: That is a great question. There are two points I would like to make. First, if we set up metrics of efficiency for the sectors and new business to monitor, they will then be able to scale up or down as they see fit based on market conditions without the interference of executive management. Second, it’s important to look for multiple ways our professionals can contribute to winning and managing—and then cross-train staff. As an example, demand shifts from one practice to another over time. It’s important to equip and empower our teams to work across technical disciplines. Equally important is ensuring our operations support staff can implement a project in all operational areas from start up to close down. Achieving these two objectives will enable us to efficiently scale up our business. How do you balance between Creative as a mission-driven company and as a client- focused organization? Sani: The two go hand in hand. We are all motivated by the mission of our client to provide assistance and improve lives around the globe. Being organized as a for-profit firm provides a disciplined framework in which to pursue and deliver on our mission. n

Creative works to find innovative solutions in over 30 countries worldwide.

Photos by Skip Brown (Sani Daher); JimHuylebroek

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