Today Agros makes the exciting announcement that Hans P. Theyer has been selected as President & CEO, effective June 1, 2009.
By way of introducing Hans to the Agros community we recently asked him to respond to the following questions.
What drew you to the Agros position?
The possibility of helping and serving the poor in both the regions where Agros is already working, and in regions where Agros is considering to one day expand.
Agros has a model that actually breaks the cycle of poverty for rural communities. In developing economies, this cycle of poverty and suffering is passed on from generation to generation and sadly is not a condition children can easily overcome.
The key to breaking cyclical poverty for the rural poor is in taking a long-term, holistic approach. This must certainly include empowering families to work and increase their income, as well as helping them to build long-term assets. But in order for the economic component to be successful we must also look at the whole person within the whole community.
To use a familiar analogy, what Agros does is not only teach families how to fish, but how to sell the fish, and to care for the pond. And most importantly, Agros does this in a way where the families themselves become owners of the pond!
We already know that bottom-up strategies that empower rural families over the long-term are more effective than short-term, individual interventions. And for the rural poor, those families depend so much on land for food, security and shelter. Being able to own your own land for these families is not just a dream, it’s essential!
These are just a few of the reasons why I’m honored to be able to join and serve this unique mission!
And then from a personal perspective, working for Agros is a dream come true. Working at Agros is a place where I can integrate the personal, spiritual and professional realms. I come from a background in Latin America where men define themselves in terms of their careers and professional accomplishment, and this does not necessarily go hand in hand with personal growth and serving others.
As you think about the days ahead for Agros, what excites you the most?
It is hard to prioritize — there are so many things. Let me share just a few.
Today I was looking through pictures from our Program Director, Laurie Werner, of families in El Salvador signing their land title deeds after paying off their land loans. Even from a distance I can feel what this means to them and how, previously, obtaining land ownership was a far away dream. But now the dream for these families has come true.
As I’ve had the chance to interact with (Agros founder) Skip, the board and the Agros executive leadership team, it has indeed been a pleasure as they set such a high personal and professional example. I have also interacted with several Journey With a Village partners, and have seen how their eyes and smiles brighten when they speak of their experiences and their connection to their “extended families” in the villages. I can sense how enriching these partnerships are to villagers as well.
I also remember how the Agros staff welcomed me so warmly just a few days ago and I must admit this is one of the most dedicated and knowledgeable teams I have ever seen.
Lastly, for me as well as for my wife and two sons, this opportunity is a joy and a blessing.
Tell us about your past work experience and how it relates to Agros?
First, I believe that my experiences with rural realities in so many different countries give me a good understanding of the challenges our villagers are facing and how Agros’ holistic approach can offer a lasting solution. I have had the chance to work in South East Asia, China and India, as well as throughout Latin America. While these regions are all fairly different from one another, they also have commonalities and similar challenges in their underserved communities.
Secondly, with a background in business, economics, and most recently having brought leadership to Microsoft’s rural computing efforts for emerging economies, I feel I can bring Agros a balance between strategic vision and a results-driven approach, knowing that strong partnerships, relationships, and teamwork are essential.
I have also worked both in the field and in corporate headquarters, giving me an understanding of “both worlds”, a valuable asset for managing our Seattle and country teams in the five countries where we operate.
Lastly, I have worked with and led multicultural and interdisciplinary teams, creating partnerships between many diverse entities, which is also the case at Agros. Creating effective partnerships across cultures, languages, and geographies is a key part of what Agros does.
As you look forward, what do you see in store for Agros?
A time for growth and larger impact! As I recently shared with the Leadership Team, Agros’ work is not only unique and effective, but transformative for everyone involved. Agros has done a good job sharing the work with their current base of supporters, but I believe we have an opportunity to gently but firmly take Agros’ light from under the basket and let it shine in many new places!
Globally, there are so many issues that cry out for sustainable solutions. Whether it’s the world food crisis, environmental sustainability and over-consumption of resources, or the increasingly linked economies of the developing and developed world; we are in a time where Agros has much to offer.
Alleviating poverty is hard work. There are no quick solutions and so much depends on the generosity of supporters. However, I simply believe that Agros’ work is too effective, too transformative, and too important to not work as hard as we can toward that dream of “mil-Agros” (In Spanish, “a thousand Agros Villages” and/or “a thousand miracles.”)
Any last thoughts you wish to share?
Yes. I want to thank Skip, Susan Moulton and the Board, as well as the Agros Leadership Team and staff for how they have already welcomed me. And I can’t wait to meet our hard- working field staff and country directors.
I also want to thank our donors and partners for their support in making Agros the blessing it is for so many today, as well as for the many more rural, poor families we wish to touch. I look forward to meeting and getting to know our current family of supporters, as well as reaching out to new supporters and partners.
You all deserve my very best professional, personal and spiritual effort to assist in this transforming journey called Agros. Thank you.