Executive Director

chair's introduction

Harm Reduction International (HRI), a leading NGO that uses data and advocacy to promote harm reduction and drug policy reform is seeking an inspiring Executive Director to lead strategic growth, advocate for policy change, drive fundraising, build partnerships and shape the strategic aims and objectives of the organisation. 

On behalf of the Board of Trustees at Harm Reduction International (HRI), thank you for your interest in the role of Executive Director. This is an exciting time to join HRI. Our outgoing Executive Director, Naomi Burke-Shyne leaves the organisation in robust health with a track record of achievement in growing HRI’s funding of harm reduction, building effective partnerships and alliances, and making a difference to drug policies ranging from the death penalty to services for women, ethnic minorities and indigenous people. 

Equally important to the Trustees, Naomi and the team have together built an inclusive, collaborative, and committed culture that allows for mutual support and appropriate challenge in the service of the organisation’s objectives.

The Board of Trustees is ambitious for the future of HRI and is now seeking an equally dynamic, capable and inspiring successor to Naomi to continue the organisation’s journey, in line with their own vision for its future.

Lucy Burns, Chair of Trustees

About HRI

Founded in 1996, HRI is a leading international NGO that envisions a world in which drug policies uphold dignity, health and rights.  We use  data and advocacy to promote harm reduction and drug policy reform. We show how rights-based, evidence-informed responses to drugs contribute to healthier, safer societies, and why investing in harm reduction makes sense.

HRI’s independent analysis focuses on the uptake of harm reduction approaches worldwide, both in terms of policy and service delivery, to support advocacy in the scale-up of harm reduction. HRI tracks innovative harm reduction programmes for particular populations of people who use drugs, including women and people in prison. HRI’s monitoring of trends in harm reduction helps to inform the evidence-base in this area, and serves as a resource for people working in the fields of public health, human rights and drug use.


  • Convenes the harm reduction and drug policy movements including our biennial international conference (to be held next in Bogotá, Colombia in 2025).
  • Leads global monitoring and trend analysis.
  • Influences to achieve change in policy and practice.
  • Amplifies impact through tools and technical assistance.

Racial justice underpins everything we do, and we actively challenge the disproportionate impact of drug control on black, brown, indigenous, and ethnic minority communities. One of our objectives is to decolonise drug policy to reduce and ultimately end the impact of racism and colonialism on the health and human rights of individuals and communities. Our anti-racist pledge marks HRI’s commitment to anti-racist practices. 

The Role

The Executive Director sets the overall vision and strategic direction of the organisation and is responsible for all aspects of HRI’s operations, staff and financial management, supported by the Deputy Director and Director of Finance. 

The HRI team consists of 14 staff members working within our Conference Team, Public Health and Social Policy Team, Human Rights and Justice Team, Sustainable Financing Team, Communications Team, and Finance Team.


The Executive Director role at HRI is rewarding and challenging. It offers the opportunity to lead an expert, dedicated team whose work makes a real difference to drug policies and the lives of those affected by them. 

The timing of this appointment also gives the new Executive Director the scope to set the direction of travel for the next strategy cycle, and to work with Trustees and staff to articulate the organisation’s aims and objectives for the period 2025-2028.

The environment in which HRI works is challenging because of the ongoing need to demonstrate the importance of harm reduction and to persuade governments, donors and partners to invest in it. The successful candidate will need to demonstrate strong organisational development and fundraising skills, because fulfilling HRI’s mission depends on its financial sustainability.

The ideal candidate will bring strategic thinking, leadership experience and a commitment to harm reduction, as well as energy, sound judgement, and the ability to engage and inspire. 

This is a high-profile position and we are looking for a candidate who is comfortable with, and excited at the prospect of working with senior stakeholders, including UN staff, national government representatives and officials, global and regional funders and the media, and credible in those circles.

Key responsibilities

Reporting to the Board of Trustees, the Executive Director is responsible for shaping and driving the work of the organisation, in line with its mission, vision, and strategic plan. 

The Executive Director has responsibility for the effective management and financial sustainability of the organisation; for leading the team and developing HRI’s strategic vision and operational plans; for representing the organisation to external stakeholders and the media; and for championing an inclusive and collaborative culture that foregrounds racial justice and diversity.  The Executive Director must also fulfil all the legal, ethical, fiduciary and financial obligations of the role. 

The Executive Director’s key responsibilities are:

Organisational leadership and governance 

  • Shape, drive and champion the organisation’s vision, strategy and big picture thinking 
  • Maintain HRI’s role and reputation as a leading international influencer and convenor in the field of harm reduction and human rights
  • Provide strong, clear and proactive leadership on racial justice and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)
  • Champion an inclusive, collaborative, high performance culture that attracts, retains and motivates a diverse, expert staff team
  • Build and maintain relationships with key external partners and stakeholders, including NGOs, networks of people who use drugs, donors, UN agencies, national governments, and opinion formers.
  • Represent and promote HRI at its own and other conferences and networking events, United Nations fora, donor meetings, key civil society initiatives, and in the media.
  • Facilitate the Board of Trustees’ active engagement in scrutiny, strategic planning, and resourcing and financial management
  • Keep the Board fully informed of the overall health and performance of the organisation, and all relevant factors influencing this
  • Ensure the smooth operation of Board meetings and maintain a strong, balanced Board, with effective succession planning


  • Develop a realistic annual budget and operational plan for approval by the Board and prepare budget revisions as needed 
  • Ensure provision of regular financial management, monitoring and reporting to the Board
  • Provide financial risk assessment reports and mitigation strategies to the Board in a timely fashion 
  • Ensure the financial sustainability of HRI and its capacity to achieve its strategic objectives
  • Devise and implement fundraising strategies and plans to ensure that the organisation can meet its operational budgetary needs 
  • Identify and engage with fundraising prospects and sources, and cultivate relationships with current and prospective funders


  • Oversee all aspects of programme planning development and evaluation
  • Ensure that all programme components are strategically coordinated and contribute to overall organisational objectives
  • Oversee further development of a communications strategy that positions HRI effectively, protects its reputation, and identifies opportunities to promote its key messages and activities
  • Recruit and manage staff, and ensure appropriate organisational structures with clear roles and responsibilities 
  • Ensure regular performance evaluations, feedback loops, and training and professional development and education for all staff
  • Manage administrative matters relating to staff, including legal and health and safety requirements, and required policies and processes 
  • Oversee risk management and legal activities: letters of agreement, contracts, leases and other legal documents and agreements
  • Implement appropriate policies, including internal controls and accounting standards and procedures

essential skills

In addition to commitment to our mission and values, the ideal candidate will possess the following skills, experience and abilities.

  • Demonstrable experience of effective leadership, strategic, and budgetary skills gained at a comparable organisation 
  • Minimum of 8 years’ experience managing and leading teams, with a track record of building a collaborative, high performance culture 
  • Proven track record of implementing fundraising strategies, and of budget management to ensure financial sustainability 
  • Ability to to build relationships with external stakeholders, including donors, national government representatives, UN agencies, NGOs and community networks 
  • Strong diplomacy skills, and the ability to bring together diverse partners and to make a persuasive case for harm reduction 
  • Demonstrable experience of representing an organisation to external audiences at conferences, events and in the media
  • Demonstrable experience as a values-led, people-centred leader, with the ability to set boundaries and make tough calls if necessary
  • Proven experience of working closely and effectively with Boards of Trustees
  • Demonstrable experience of implementing EDI and anti-racist policies in an organisation and/or field 
  • Experience in one or more of the following fields at regional or international level: harm reduction; public health, HIV and/or communicable diseases; drug policy reform; poverty reduction or human rights.

desirable skills

  • Experience of working in the international NGO sector or in a related international organisation (e.g. UN agency) 
  • Experience of securing funds from one or more of the following: national governments, UN agencies, major philanthropic organisations or corporate donors
  • Understanding of the UN system, and working knowledge of UN agencies and processes related to public health and/or drug policy.
  • Ability and willingness to undertake significant international travel
  • Excellent spoken and written English, and presentation skills

Appointment terms

Hours: Monday to Friday, 37.50 hours per week and most staff work between 9.00-17.00 GMT. 

Salary range: £75-80k, dependent on experience 

Pension: Employer’s pension contribution of 5.5% salary 

Annual leave: 28 days plus all UK public holidays.

Location: HRI is a UK registered charity but it no longer has a permanent  office space in London, and instead operates as a virtual organisation. 

An Executive Director who is based in the UK is preferred but there may be some flexibility about location for the right candidate, subject to the workability of arrangements. 

Application details

Please send a cover letter (no more than 2 sides of A4) and CV to Chair@hri.global with a subject line of ‘Application, Executive Director’ before midnight on Wednesday 12 June 2024

Harm Reduction International is committed to employment equity and encourages applications from all qualified candidates, including people who use drugs, people living with HIV and people of all genders and racial and ethnic background. 

HRI is actively anti-racist – read our pledge here.

anti-racist pledge

We encourage applications from all qualified candidates, including people who use drugs and people living with HIV.

We are committed to being actively anti-racist.

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