Scapegoat wanted: CIRDI baits a CEO

Photo by Ryan McGuire, gratisography.com

In March we wrote about the comical turn-over of CIRDI employees, contract workers, managers, and executives in the post The CIRDI trainwreck: where good careers go to die. We mentioned that the Executive Director position – filled for only a year by mining industry veteran Daniel Dumas – had recently been vacated.

Well, CIRDI is hiring again. (Again.)

They’ve posted a job advertisement for “CEO of CIRDI” on UBC’s recruitment site and elsewhere, aesthetically raising the profile of the position from “Executive Director” to “Chief Executive Officer,” as if the organization merits such lofty titles, or in an attempt to attract competence. Either way, cute.

Before you send your CV our way (it’s happened), and as you mull over the salary of $139,691.00 – $174,614.00 (68th to 85th percentile of UBC staff, faculty, and executives), consider the risks outlined in the job ad and in this post. It may save you a lot of trouble down the road.

CIRDI leadership remains tight-lipped about the reason for the vacancy, but one source informs us that Daniel Dumas was dismissed “without cause” from his position as the mining institute’s executive director. Moura Quayle, currently the director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues (CIRDI’s new administrative home), has stepped in as the mining institute’s interim executive director, and chairs its executive board.

CIRDI’s executive board is now looking for someone who is “politically astute” and brings “a minimum of 15 years senior management experience with a minimum of five years in an executive director or CEO position” to lead CIRDI from its current mire to the next. Mining institute leadership has no idea how to handle its directive, so they’re banking on hiring someone who’s way over-qualified.

Consequences of the CIRDI CEO’s error & poor judgement

Those leading CIRDI feel that “the Institute will have significant reputational benefits to UBC and its coalition members”: grossly misrepresenting the unbalanced binary they’re dealt.

At best, the mining institute can bring minimum reputational benefit to its partners. Not screwing up in CIRDI’s executive director position may mean a few million dollars cash or in-kind funding attracted to the coalition universities: barely ‘significant’ to UBC’s billion-dollar-a-year budget. And green-washed extractive sector projects, no matter how well polished by copy-writers and marketing professionals, hardly contribute reputational distinction to these universities.

On the other hand, with the flawed mandate the incumbent must steward to, and the complexities of its bizarre partner network, CIRDI is inadvertently designed to bring maximum reputational liability to the universities and its partners. Any experienced executive with even a casual knowledge of game theory or statistics would avoid fronting this.

So here’s the list of consequences of error and poor judgement, directly from the job ad; notice the pattern that emerges:

This position is critical to the success of the Institute, building its profile and credibility, achieving sustainability, building development relationships and ensuring the Institute reaches its mandate.

The position is responsible for dealing with complex confidential information where consequence of error is high. Errors in judgment could result in serious impact to the operational activities of the Institute, UBC, coalition universities, and the federal government. This high-profile Institute is operating in a politically sensitive environment.

The position is a critical point of contact and is expected to make decisions and recommendations impacting the overall program of the institute.  Incorrect interpretation or communication of university policy and procedures or lack of tact, diplomacy or sensitivity in dealing with stakeholders could potentially result in damaged relationships and credibility, leading to the potential irreparable damage for the coalition Universities, including their relationships with funders and the federal government.

The Institute will have significant reputational benefits to UBC and its coalition members. Mismanagement of this portfolio would have significant reputational consequences for faculty and schools associated with the Institute, for the Presidents of the coalition universities, and for CIDA and the federal government more broadly.

Mismanagement of funds or inaccurate tracking of significant in-kind commitments from coalition universities and strategic partners could result in a significant financial loss to the Institute, to UBC and to its coalition members, SFU and EPM.

Of course you saw it: this repeatedly focuses on negative consequences (of errors in judgement; incorrect interpretation of university policy; lack of tact, diplomacy, or sensitivity with stakeholders; mismanaging the portfolio; squandering funds; and failing to track financial commitments) to CIRDI’s own crew (the Institute itself; the coalition universities UBC, SFU, and EPM; the Presidents of these universities; funders; CIDA; and the federal government).

It’s a pattern of connecting potential errors made by this mining institute’s CEO to negative consequences for those with the most reputation to lose… but let’s examine the consequences of what the CEO is actually required to do for CIRDI:

  • Forming partnerships with companies with track records of criminal activity, predation, human rights abuses, or criminalization of community leaders — may impart a loss of reputation & credibility to this same crew of partners, universities, and government. (Or, might such partnership have very real consequences to those suffering, since accepting funding or affiliation gives tacit approval to the companies’ actions, rather than solidarity with those forced into harm’s way?)
  • Facilitating academic apologetics for the status-quo Canadian mining model (that consistently involves land evictions, undermining sovereign decision-making, murders of human rights defenders, and deregulation of the mining sector) — could challenge the legitimacy of this same crew of partners. (Or, might such rationalization only allow these abuses to continue, imparting horrific consequences to those whose rights, farms, voices, and futures are brushed out of the way?)
  • Organizing fora in which public-sector decision-makers of resource-rich nations are pressured or wooed into advancing the private interests of Canada-based mining companies, while intentionally excluding critique and voices of those with the most to lose — may bring reputational liability to this same crew of partners. (Or, might such imposition of an extractivist ideology ultimately hinder people and their governments who are earnestly working toward their own ways of ordering their world and resources?)

Hopefully it’s clear that there’s much more at stake than just reputational liability to the mining institute’s glitziest associates. What’s missing is recognizing that this mining institute, its industry-savvy CEO, and any errors in judgement present far greater liabilities to those who may not have corporate reputations to protect, but whose livelihood, well-being, and personal safety are at stake.

In this sense, CIRDI itself is the consequence of error and poor judgement by those who crafted its mandate, structure, and partner network.

The face of a hegemonic tool

Even how this mining institute’s leadership describes what they’re doing is troubling:

The ultimate outcome [of CIRDI] is to improve the ability of developing countries to utilize and benefit from their extractive sectors in order to stimulate sustainable economic growth and reduce poverty.

And CIRDI’s directors apparently believe this nonsense, oblivious that improving the ability of developing countries to use and benefit from their extractive sectors is patronizingly disdainful of the people’s ability in those countries to ‘develop’ or to exist on their own terms without the industry-funded intervention of Canadian predation passed off as an “international development institute.”

This institute, run by technocrats blind to the fact that they are parasitically living in and drawing wages from the operational and financial heart of the world’s extractive sector, can’t even find a way to describe what they do in a manner not condescending to the people in resource-rich, so-called ‘developing’ countries, and they can’t find a way to obscure the imperialist and hegemonic directive the federal government has given them.

hegemony (hɪˈdʒəm.ə.ni) n. 1. Domination, influence, or authority over another, especially by one political group over a society or by one nation over others. 2. Dominance of one social group over another, such that the ruling group or hegemon acquires some degree of consent from the subordinate, as opposed to dominance purely by force. (source)

imperialism (imˈpirēəˌlizəm) n. The policy of forcefully extending a nation’s authority by territorial gain or by the establishment of economic and political dominance over other nations. (source)

condescension (kɒndiˈsɛnʃən) n. 1. A manner of behaving toward others in an outwardly polite way that nevertheless implies one’s own superiority to the others; patronizing courtesy toward inferiors. 2. An attitude of patronizing superiority; disdain. (source)

apologetics (əˌpäləˈjetiks) n. 1. The field of study concerned with the systematic defense of a position, or of religious or occult doctrines. 2. Reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine. (source)

PSA: just avoid CIRDI

A final caution to anyone taking this UBC mining institute job ad seriously, and considering joining the broken organization: you will come off the loser. Your reputation will suffer with that of CIRDI. Don’t risk it.

We will continue to challenge CIRDI’s premise, contact its partners, expose its rhetoric, and warn communities of this mining institute’s mandate to run interference for the Canadian mining industry.

The portfolio is far more complex than the board or the universities are capable of handling: the CEO’s hands are tied by conflicts of interest between the federal government, the industrial partners (who’ll eventually control funding), the universities’ unpredictable administration, and public critics of the mining institute’s flawed proposition.

Esteemed potential applicant, you won’t last long as CIRDI’s face, and you will leave, on your own terms or otherwise, with your tail between your legs.

Full text of the original job ad [PDF – 314 KB]