Job Description for the position of Director of the Royal African Society




Candidate Brief for the position of Director of The Royal African Society


Who We Are

The Royal African Society (RAS) is Britain's prime Africa organisation, based in London. Our goal is to promote Africa globally in the spheres of business, politics, academia, arts and education. As a membership society, we disseminate knowledge and insight and provide networks and culture. We work to promote understanding and equitable relations between Britain, Africa and the rest of the world, developing platforms for dialogue and interaction.

The RAS is a small organisation that currently employs 10 members of staff, all of whom are well motivated and work collaboratively as a team. RAS is now looking for a new Director who has the passion, knowledge and interest in Africa to lead the organisation to its next level of growth. The new Director will be someone who can combine the challenge of ensuring the RAS remains a financially robust organisation with the right mix of sustainable programmes, the appropriate skills team to deliver these, and who is comfortable with an ambassadorial, networking and fundraising role.


What We Do

  •   In partnership with OUP, we publish African Affairs, the world’s top journal on African Studies, and have access to the latest research through our joint membership of the African Studies Association of the UK.
  •   We administer the Africa All Party Parliamentary Group raising the profile of Africa in Westminster. Chaired by Chi Onwurah MP, the APPG has over 200 members.
  •   We run the leading news and analysis site African Arguments, which has 100,000 unique visits monthly from the world over. In partnership with ZED Books, we also publish the book series of the same name.
  •   We engage companies working in Africa through our high profile business programme.
  •   We host the esteemed Annual Lecture, as well as 70 public events with over 8,500 attendees every year.
  •   We organise two highly popular annual cultural festivals, Africa Writes and Film Africa, with a combined audience of 7,000, engaging diaspora communities and helping to mainstream Africa’s creative outputs.
  •   We run the new events listings and cultural blog What’s On Africa.


Job Overview

The Director will have primary responsibility for the successful leadership and management of the Royal African Society, delivering the RAS mission and charitable objectives. Reporting to the Council and its Executive Committee (Exco), the Director will work closely with both Council members and members of staff to set and implement the strategic direction and vision of the organisation in a sustainable manner. The role of Director will entail the responsibilities below:


Leadership & Management

  • Work with Council and staff to set and implement RAS strategic direction and vision, ensuring all staff share the vision and are inspired to implement it
  • Develop and implement a business plan to ensure a sustainable future for the RAS
  • Oversee the smooth running of the RAS and manage all staff, supported by the Head of Programmes, Partnerships & Operations (HPO)
  • Review current strategic plan (2016-20) and work with all RAS staff on its successful implementation
  • Oversee the planning, delivery and evaluation of RAS programmes
  • Ensure the programmes delivered by all RAS staff contribute to the organisation's mission and reflect the strategic direction and vision, as approved by the Council
  • Report to the Council and RAS members on the organisation’s affairs at quarterly Council and Exco meetings & the Annual General Meeting
  • Keep Council informed of major developments, challenges and opportunities that affect the organisation’s vision and overall strategy, as and when necessary
  • Foster effective communication between the Council, staff and other key stake-holders
  • Manage any potential risk (financial and otherwise) and ensure compliance with the RAS governing document, external regulators and any other relevant legislation

Communications & Networks

  • Act as the main spokesperson for the RAS in the media and elsewhere
  • Act as a thought-leader by sharing insight into African current affairs and enhancing the RAS profile
  • Build good relations with key African institutions and Diaspora organisations in the UK and globally
  • Act as the interface between the RAS and its main strategic partners and funders
  • Maintain close relations with the Africa APPG, ASAUK and OUP / African Affairs
  • Maintain strong relations with UK government departments that deal with Africa
  • Visit Africa to build contacts and networks as appropriate and budget permitting

Financial Planning, Management & Fundraising 

  • Work with Council to protect RAS assets with propriety and accountability
  • Develop and lead on a fundraising strategy that will ensure long-term sustainability for the RAS, involving all members of the Council, staff and other advocates in its implementation
  • Seek funding opportunities to extend RAS activities in line with its mission
  • Develop a new model to better engage businesses operating in Africa
  • Oversee the preparation of an acceptable annual budget to be presented and approved by Council
  • Oversee the administration of RAS funds according to the approved annual budget
  • With the HPO, ensure all RAS staff follow correct financial controls and monitor their expenditure
  • Support the HPO to ensure that sound accounting and book-keeping procedures are followed
  • Oversee the timely production and submission of the RAS Annual Accounts & Annual Return to the Charity Commission

HR Planning & Management

  • In consultation with the Council, determine staffing requirements for RAS management and the delivery of its programmes
  • Ensure that the RAS has in place appropriate HR policies and procedures and work with HPO to establish a positive, healthy and safe work environment in accordance with current UK employment law
  • Work with HPO to recruit, interview and select staff that have the right technical and personal abilities to further the organisation's mission
  • Work with HPO to ensure all new staff members receive a formal induction and that appropriate training is provided to both new and existing staff
  • Work with HPO to implement performance management for all staff, including monitoring on an on-going basis and annual performance review
  • Coach and mentor staff as appropriate to improve performance; discipline or dismiss staff when necessary following appropriate measures and procedures, in accordance with UK employment law


Person Specification

The Director will have a strong general knowledge of the African continent, its history and politics, and its relations with the rest of the world, especially the UK. S/he must keep up-to-date on the latest world news and trends and must be willing to speak confidently and authoritatively in public on a wide range of topics relating to contemporary African issues. S/he will be well connected to leading figures, both in the UK and Africa, working in the spheres of business, politics and civil society, academia and the arts. S/he is expected to react to important events in a rapidly changing world without losing sight of the longer-term vision and strategic direction of the RAS. The Director should have substantial experience successfully leading a company/organisation and will demonstrate the competencies below.

Knowledge & Experience

  • Knowledge and experience (at least 5 years) of successful leadership and progressive management in the context of a charitable organisation
  • Knowledge and experience of devising and implementing successful fundraising campaigns for similar-sized organisations or companies
  • Knowledge and experience of financial and project management and HR
  • Specialist knowledge of a particular African region or subject area backed by academic research and/or publications would be an advantage


Personal Attributes, Skills & Abilities

  • Strategic and Business Planning: Proven ability to develop strategies to propel the organisation forward, to maintain and build new funding streams, to create and carry out action plans with goals and priorities, and to evaluate the process and results
  • Collaborative Leadership: An inclusive and collaborative approach to working with with the Council, RAS staff and partner organisations to successfully lead the RAS and enhance organisational effectiveness, reach and influence
  • Communication Skills: Ability to communicate engagingly with a range of stakeholders and audiences; an excellent speaker, listener and writer, who uses effective communication appropriate to the situation
  • Diplomacy: Understanding of any relevant protocols that may be required, for instance with government representatives, and sensitivity to a wide range of cultures and individuals
  • Integrity: Commitment to the values and ethos of the RAS, leading by example and ensuring that the behaviour of all RAS staff aligns with the agreed principles



Consistent with the market for a charity of this size



How to Apply

The RAS will be accepting applications on a rolling basis. We aim to have a long list of candidates by June, so please express your interest as soon as possible. As we anticipate the candidate pool to be international, the interview timeline will be established once the long list is agreed.

The RAS and its Succession Committee are being assisted by a specialist consultancy, Philia International, in this search. We recommend that you express your interest in the post in confidence prior to making an application.

Please contact:                                 Lucy Blythe, Director, Philia International

                                                Via email:


To make your application, please send the following documents by email (same as above):

€        An up-to-date curriculum vitae, giving details of your career and relevant publications, public appearances, etc.

€        A personal statement describing your interest in the post, what you would like to achieve as Director, and your availability for interview in London in late June and July.

€        Specific and detailed evidence of how your skills, experience and knowledge meet the criteria listed in the Person Specification (if you lack experience or evidence in any area listed, please state how you would gain the knowledge or competency needed        in order to succeed in the role).

€        The names and addresses of three referees (ideally, these will include at least one referee who can speak to your in-depth knowledge of Africa, and one who can corroborate evidence of successful strategic and business planning).

       Referees will not be approached without the prior agreement of the applicant.


To assist our administration, please include your name in the subject header of your email when you send your documents, like so:  Subject: [NAME] RAS search

Your application will be acknowledged within two working days of receipt.

Applicants not meeting the minimum requirements of the role will be informed immediately that their candidacy will not be taken forward.

Long-listed candidates will be informed by 28 June with details of the subsequent interview process.


Updated 10 May 2017