Episode 39: with Kelsey Hoppe discussing international risk, gender, and intersectional security

Kelsey Hoppe is the Chief Executive of Safer Edge, a risk management company, specialising in equitable security – making security accessible, inclusive and appropriately diverse. Safer Edge provides learning and risk management services to organisations that work in challenging environments – whether that is across the street or around the world. Kelsey brings an innovative perspective to the world of security believing that organisational security and the security of the individual are inextricably linked. All safety and security must therefore be intersectional and use a collaborative approach to succeed.
Read more here: https://www.saferedge.com/single-post/what-is-intersectional-security

The International Risk Podcast transcript

Harriet Tyler  0:09 

Hi, you’re listening to The International Risk Podcast. This podcast is for CEOs, board members, risk and compliance officers, security advisors, and anyone interested in improving operations. I’ve completely lost my train of thought.

On this podcast, we have traditional to the walk from renowned risk management experts to Red Bull daredevils, there is something to learn about the way we perceive, manage and mitigate risk from all of our guests. How can we have a more inclusive system, right? Like how can we stop having all these branches of people that need special security because of all their special vulnerabilities and start saying those perspectives that perspectives needs to be like integrated into the approach? Your host, Dominic Bowen, will ask the questions that you will want the answers to. If you know, Dominic, then you know, he is well acquainted with risk. During his 20 year career he has successfully established operations in some of the most complex environments around the world. Dominic has spent most of his career establishing large and successful operations in places like Haiti, Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and so many other high risk and medium risk locations. Joined by our excellent guests, he’ll reveal innovative ideas on how you can ensure your organization thrives in areas of high risk.

Dominic Bowen  2:05 

Thanks for joining me today, Kelsey.

Kelsey Hoppe  2:08 

Hi Dom. It’s nice to be here.

Dominic Bowen  2:11 

Today, we’re joined by Kelsey Hoppy. She’s the Chief Executive of the Safer Edge, a risk management company specializing in equitable security and making security accessible, inclusive and appropriately diverse. Safer Edge provides learning and risk management services to organizations who work in challenging environments, whether it’s around the world or across the street. Kelsey brings an innovative perspective to world security, believing that organizational security and the security of individuals are inextricably linked. It will be great to hear Kelsey thoughts on these topics this morning. Kelsey has worked internationally for over 20 years with a diverse group of organizations. And today she specializes in security for women, young people, and children. Well, Kelsey, you’ve had what many people would consider a really fun career. How did you get to where you’re at today?

Kelsey Hoppe  3:06 

Well, I I’m glad to hear it label this fun. I think, in retrospect, you can kind of see a path. But you know, as you’re going forward, it’s always a little bit like diving into the unknown. As you mentioned, I’m the CEO of Safer Edge, which is that a risk management company, we mainly work with organizations in the social sector. So international NGOs, charities, foundations, un government donors, and we help them to manage their risk in terms of working in specifically in security. I’ve been working internationally since I was about 18, starting in Belarus, and Russia. And then from there, Ukraine, Indonesia, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Pakistan, and I was I wasn’t initially working in rescue, I was working in programming, so mostly in humanitarian aid or development work. And we worked a lot with security. But it wasn’t until probably around 2013 when I was working in Pakistan, that I began working on security specifically and organizational security. How do organizations see they’re both physical and digital risks in the places that they’re working? And how do they manage those?

Dominic Bowen  4:19 

Fantastic. We’ll starting in Russia, and then Ukraine is certainly jumping in at the deep end of complexity.

Kelsey Hoppe  4:25 

Yes, certainly.

Dominic Bowen  4:28 

Today, you’re the CEO of Safer Edge, your risk management company, and as you said, you specialize in helping you know, good people do great things in really difficult places. This is a really broad question: when people ask you about risk, what do you first think about?

Kelsey Hoppe  4:42 

Well, it’s interesting, because usually, what I do is I kind of turn the question around, because that’s an impossible question to answer, right? Because you don’t actually know what they mean when they ask you about risk or they asked you if some places safe or they ask you if you’re afraid to go somewhere.

You know, if they ask you a question about a location, so you really need to get a better understanding of what they mean by asking that question. So when people ask me, if a place is risky, we usually enter into a longer conversation about, you know, why do they think locations are safe? Or what do they mean when they talk about safety? So without? I mean, without trying to deflect the question, it’s, it is an impossible question to answer without really delving into the question or the person that’s asking the question.

Dominic Bowen  5:34 

That is exactly the sort of response that I give when people ask me that same question. Because every country has a different risk profile, every region within that country is completely complex and different. And then depending on the organization, whether they’re a French company and American company and an Israeli company, they’re going to bring, perceive certain strengths and vulnerabilities. And then of course, the person traveling, they bring their own health, they bring their own behaviour, they bring their own perception of risk. So risk is certainly a concept that is fungible, and I think it does evolve based on the person and the time. And of course, the risks from one week to the next can evolve as well. So I think that’s a fantastic point that you really need to have a discussion with, with the party about risk before answering that question.

Kelsey Hoppe  6:22 

Yeah, I think a lot of times when people look at my career where I’ve lived or work, they asked that question, you know, that when we say, fair, you know, did you feel safe, or, you know, our organization safe. And I think that this also is a reflection of a broader, systematized approach to risk, like, it’s a very Western, and it’s a very militarized concept that danger is location eyes, right. So, you know, we talk about dangerous places being somewhere else. And there’s a lot of psychological reasons we do that, you know, it makes us feel safer. And I’ve worked in a lot of places where there’s ongoing conflict, where there’s natural disaster, and I’ve been very safe there, you know, doing large part to appropriate, you know, risk management and security systems. And I’ve been in quote, unquote, safe places, and have been in very real danger. So given my understanding of risk, I, you know, I advocate for us to kind of stop looking at risk and security from locations based perspective, because my attitude toward risk, my appetite for risk, isn’t largely based on on location, it’s based on, you know, the intersection of location and who I am, and who I’m with, and the work that I’m doing. And, you know, my risk appetites have changed over my lifetime. You know, I was talking to someone recently, and they were saying, you know, when they became apparent that their risk appetite changed. And I think that that’s true for really everyone, you know, sometimes when we’re younger, we have a very low risk appetite. And that increases as we have more experiences. And sometimes it’s the other way around, you know, and that’s okay, mental health issues, the relationships, we have our life experiences, they all affect, you know, what we can handle at any given time, and where we feel or where we are safe, more so than just kind of the location and what’s happening in that location.

Dominic Bowen  8:16 

Yeah, I think that’s a fantastic point. And you said it very well yourself. I’m actually in Gothenburg, in southern Sweden right now. And I actually went out for dinner last night to an area where very sadly, last week, a Swedish police officer was shot and killed. The day after the shooting, I was speaking to some journalists who were asking for a risk assessment of the area. And so I spoke to some contacts within the Swedish police and got their feeling about how safe the area was. The advice I got was very clear that the journalists must ensure they were very, very clear of the area after dark; that this neighborhood was not safe, particularly for young, Swedish female journalis. You and I spoke earlier about our own risk appetite. And in that area assessed by some as high risk, there’s this fantastic restaurant, a Turkish restaurant that I definitely recommend to everyone try that’s in Gothenburg. And I took my family there last night. Some people might think that’s irresponsible after speaking to people about the risks in the area. But we went there. It was a fantastic meal. It was a fantastic feeling in the restaurant, and we walked to the car and back. I asked my family when we were leaving, ”How did you guys feel like, really? What’s your perceived perception of risk?” and my eight year old son said, ”You mean in the area where the young boys are sweeping the front of the mosque” (there was a mosque just down the road, you could see young young teenage boys just sweeping the carpark and families in the street eating ice cream.) And whilst this was a small snapshot in time, our perception of risk was so completely different to speaking to some of the local police about the area.  When I compare that to how I feel when we work in places like Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, where we perhaps feel very comfortable. I think perception and understanding makes a very big difference.

Kelsey Hoppe

There’s so many intersectional issues that come together. And I think that that’s one of the things so when we, so we work a lot with this concept of equitable security. And to understand equitable security, you have to really look at into kind of dismantle the system and really look at how security risk management systems are traditionally structured. Why is our current system structured? And why does it look like it does? And who does it work for and who doesn’t it work for, and almost all, you know, security risk management at the state level, at an organizational level at a community level, it kind of follows what I call a military light approach, which is that we have rather unquestioningly accepted a security model, which is largely based on police and military where there’s command and control that central were force protection is a core belief. And even in the humanitarian sector, where we like to, you know, say we are non-governmental and we try to, you know, kind of be worked at a remove from the military, our security is very militaristic, it’s very, our approach is largely hierarchical. And while you know, kind of militarized, or you know, a police approach to security is one method. And a helpful method in some organizations is a terrible model for most organizations, or most communities. Because when you look at the military, you look at the police, you’re generally talking about a homogeneous group. People in the military, they follow orders, they have a set court core set of beliefs, they dress like, they are trained to act in a certain function. And then if you take that into your kind of everyday organization or your company, it’s entirely different, you know, our organizations aren’t hierarchical. And, you know, there’s not this not a fourth protection approach, people don’t listen to security managers. And if you have a homogeneous group, you’re able to really just focus on the threats in a location, you don’t really have to worry about the people that are with you or around you, because security is the purpose of the organization. But for NGOs, for example, security serves the purpose of the organization. So I think there’s this tension, because our security doesn’t take into perspective, like the things that you were talking about in that neighborhood.

When the advice that’s being given about that neighborhood: was the perspective of people who live in that neighborhood taken into account, you know, because you’re going to have a very different perspective, as someone who lives in the neighborhood and works there and travels in that daily, then you are a police officer, or someone who comes to it when there’s insecurity or if there’s an issue. So I think putting ourselves into the equation and really looking at who is the security advice for? Who is it from? And why are they saying what they’re saying is super important in terms of like getting kind of a different understanding or being to look at a non-traditional model or approach to security.

Dominic Bowen  13:12 

I think that’s really valuable. And that’s something that I’m regularly saying to our analysts about really understanding where you get the information from? And why is that person saying what they’re saying? Or why does that video depict what it’s depicting? Or why is that news article taking that side of the story?  Rally applying a critical approach is so important to actually understand the information and be able to categorize it and to be able to identify how much weight you put on it, and what time frame you put on it and how you complement that with other information sources.

Kelsey Hoppe  13:41 

We really have a very limited approach, I think, in terms of our security, and we can see it really clearly when the briefings, the advice, the analysis stops working for a group of people, right. So you know, an organization might be working in a specific country, and they, they get information, they give advice. And then the national staff in that country that work. They say, ”Well, actually, this doesn’t work for us, because it wasn’t written for us.” And it doesn’t apply to them, and in the same way, woman often say, “ Well, you know, your security training, your advice, it doesn’t apply to me, it doesn’t meet my needs.” And so the organization responds by saying, Okay, well then let’s put women in a room. And we’ll talk about where they can go and what they can say and what how they should dress. And then their needs will be taken care of. And the moment you do that, like the system betrays itself, right, so this system was built for someone, it just wasn’t built for women, and that the advice and the training was built for someone, it just wasn’t built for women. So who was it built for? And why does it work for those people versus the other people that were kind of building all these additional systems? Okay, now we’re going to, let’s give some advice to the LGBT community. Let’s get some advice to women. Let’s give some advice to minorities or you know, or whomever it is you could start to grow. Okay, wait, so how Can we have a more inclusive system? Right? Like, how can we stop having all these branches of people that need special security because of all their special vulnerabilities and start saying those perspectives and perspectives needs to be like, integrated into the approach? I could go on and on.

Dominic Bowen  15:17 

Yeah, I think that’s so valuable.  There’s a lot of organizations that are going out and saying, ”let’s make sure we’ve got more diversity in the team, let’s make sure we’ve got some women in the team.” And I think that’s a great first step. But I think what you’re talking about is just a so much more robust and more longer lasting, because as you said, you’re not going to have a security team that has a child on it, a male child and a female child, and a child with disability and a child with different perspectives on religion and faith and sexuality, because how big can you make these teams to ensure that every perspective is taking into account versus making sure that these considerations are integrated into the security risk management processes from the very start?

Kelsey Hoppe  16:01 

Yeah, and I do think it’s really interesting, because women are in the minority in the security risk management sector, but also, you know, people of colour or, people from the LGBTQI community. And what I find interesting, though, is when people say someone from the LGBT community is the security manager, they don’t talk about sexuality as an additional risk in the country that someone is going to say, right, so someone’s deploying to, I don’t know, India, they integrated into the advice for everyone. And to be perfectly honest, I guess there’s a lot of worry and concern about, you know, okay, how do we provide duty of care for people in the LGBT community, when they’re traveling to countries, you know, where there’s really very strict and stringent laws where you know, who they are, is illegal. And what I find fascinating about that is that none of the countries that I’ve ever traveled to the only people that I’ve ever known that have been kicked out of countries due to some sort of sexual behavior is white heterosexual men. And it’s because they’ve, you know, been seeing prostitutes, or they’ve been doing something they shouldn’t have been. But we don’t talk about the risks to white heterosexual men in terms of their security, right. So like, in some ways, by not having an intersectional approach, and not looking at the fullness of, you know, the human being that’s going somewhere and doing something, we’re not helping men, you know, like to be safe, we’re basically saying, you can be tough, you’re a man, you know, what to do, you know, you just go out there and do it.

Dominic Bowen  17:32 

Yeah, you’re totally right, when I think about some of the security incidents, often has involved the group of exactly spoken about with the sort of behavior that you’ve just mentioned. But there’s a surprising amount of companies that actually don’t have robust enterprise security risk management strategies in place for companies that haven’t fully unpacked what security could mean for them. And what risk management strategies should leaders of these companies be considering as a way to improve their operations and risk management? Perhaps, can you talk about intersectional security in a bit more detail and what companies should be considering and what they could be learning more about as they’re starting to go through this journey of building their enterprise security risk management structures.

Kelsey Hoppe  18:15 

I feel for a lot of organizations, because unfortunately, risk management and security is one of these kind of dark black boxes, where you know, people really feel that they need to have specialized experts come in and talk about or you know, help them to build a system that costs a lot of money, and it’s going to take a long time. And so what ends up happening is everyone pretends that they have a system, you know, and they have an approach. And everyone pretends that to even even clients, they come to safer edge, they’re kind of dancing around the fact that they don’t have it all figured out. And I understand why no one wants to appear that they don’t have it figured out because we’re talking about life and death issues here, right, especially in some of the places where these organizations are working, you know, you really need to take good care of people. And almost all of it, we work in the social sector. So you know, you know, profit isn’t the kind of driving force for most of our clients, you know, providing value or service or doing good things is what they care about. So the last thing you want to do is say, Oh, I actually don’t know how to take care of the people who are doing these things. I think one of the things that we try to do is really demystify it, you don’t need loads of experts, you don’t need to spend lots of money, especially if you’re kind of taking an equity approach and saying we all need to be involved in our own security, you know, that you are responsible for your colleagues security, just as they are responsible. For us. It’s something which is like, you know, a culture of security, but we’ll do that in the organization, along with some tracks, some, you know, kind of clear roles or ways of working. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to be prolonged. And I think that most organizations that we work with when we To kind of unpack it and say these are the things you need, these are the things you need to be legally compliant, these are the things that you need to do to be morally compliant, people are kind of relieved, you know that they can get something up and running. And that’s relatively inexpensive that they can manage themselves. And they can, you know, kind of not wake up at three o’clock in the morning, worried what they’ve sent people to do and where

Dominic Bowen  20:22 

You and I live risk management, and we see the benefits of proper risk management every day with the people and the companies we’re working with. But surprisingly, there are still a lot of people that don’t see the link between proper risk management and improved operations, and many cases actually saved budgets or improved effectiveness. How do you have these conversations with people about the value of risk management, and specifically, the benefits that companies can expect to see by improving their risk management processes?

Kelsey Hoppe  20:54 

I think that the hard part about risk management is that you’re dealing with a negative, so you’re dealing with something that people hope doesn’t go wrong, and then once it goes wrong, then they care about it, right. So getting them to put money in upfront to prevent something from happening, you know, it’s like, and then it doesn’t happen. So was that because we put money in front of or was it because you know, it just was never gonna happen, it was a waste of money. So you’re always kind of battling this sort of, do we need this or not? I think that in addition to, you know, kind of taking an intersectional approach to security and understanding that kind of no one in the organization is safe until everyone is safe. I think we need to normalize security more, I think still, and partly because of this kind of militarized approach we have to it. You know, a lot of times, it’s very specialized, you need to you need a company to come in and you know, provide you with security advice and tell you what to do, you need to have kind of knowledge you don’t have, you need to operate in a way that you don’t currently, when, in fact, safety and security is something which is so inherent to human beings, you know, it’s something that we do on a daily basis, that if we can build the the risk management system concurrent to what they’re currently doing, then it provides a better care for their staff. And I think that more and more, what we’re seeing organizations do is not look at security, or you know, security risk, kind of as a standalone concept. But looking at it in terms of, you know, the mental health of their employees, which links up to all of the HR issues, which links up to, you know, I mean, obviously, you’re going to have the same problem that HR people do, you know, in making a case for good HR or, you know, good logistics or whatever, you’re all the kind of support services are going to have to make cases for what they do. But I think that the more that security risk management is taken into account, the whole human being, which every organization is, you know, dead in the water without good people acting as they should, acting in safe ways caring about what they do caring about others, I think that that’s the most important thing for most organizations, no matter who they are.

Dominic Bowen  23:08 

Yeah, that’s correct. And it’s not just you and me that think that too. ISO Standard 31,000 is very specific and very clear in their direction, that risk management has to involve multiple stakeholders from various departments, and various levels of seniority.  Let’s make sure that you’re getting that right risk perspective and analyzing the right risks, and coming up with the right mitigation actions and you can only do that with wide stakeholder engagement.

Kelsey Hoppe  23:30 

Yeah, and I think you’ve probably seen this all over the world, because organizations don’t want to say they don’t know what they’re doing, or, you know, they don’t have buy in at the top, they don’t have time to think about risk, they end up copying each other, you know, and so, I mean, in so many, so many countries, I’ve been in, you know, I think, why do you have a safe room, you’ve spent a lot of money for to find this safe room and making sure that it’s well equipped, and well stocked, but there’s actually no threat of, you know, an arms attack on your compound. So why do you have it? Well, other people have it, the diversification of risk management, I think is really important or security, you know, like, I don’t think that Well, I do think we’re moving more to professionalization and a standard ized approach. But I think that standardized approach has to have flexibility for you know, some tiny ten-person organization versus a massive organization with 12,000 people and operating in 43 countries.

Dominic Bowen  24:27 

Yeah, you’re totally right. It reminds me a couple of years ago, I was in Uganda, and I was working with an organization, a very large organization that had thousands of employees. And I went to between ten and 15 different sites all over the south of Uganda to the north of Uganda. And every conversation I had at different sites would start in a similar way. And it was amazing. Nearly every person just jumped straight in with ”we need more fences, we need more security guards” and my response was always the same. “Why?” And invariably we would very quickly come to that point of security guards and fences wouldn’t actually address the risks that people had. And most often, they had very different risks. And this was mainly a healthcare provider providing humanitarian health care for various populations. And the risks that were facing at each site was actually quite different. Some were theft, some of sexual assaults, somewhere issues with the military. And you know, there was a variety of issues that they had. But everyone just referred to JT, we need security guards, and we need fences. And that was really insightful to actually just why, what do you need them for? What are you trying to mitigate? What do you want to achieve with the fence? What do you want to achieve with a security guard? That was really great, because this was superbly intelligent stuff and you know, really enjoyable stuff to speak with. But everyone’s first reaction was ”We need guards and fences.”

Kelsey Hoppe  25:45 

I think that’s a really great point. And it gets to the question that you first asked about risk, and that you have to go back to the person and find out what they are their organization means when they’re talking about it, it’s because I would say that I don’t think a lot of organizations need more fences and more guards. But because people aren’t socialized to analyze their own security, and they aren’t taught or trained, what does safe mean for them and why and where that they automatically think about, you know, money, more money and more muscle. And and the security industry does have this aura of cool around it, right, like guys with guns and armored vehicles are what Hollywood portrays is kind of, you know, cool. But good security is actually super personal. It’s about people knowing when and where, and how they’re safe, and when and where and why they’re not. And no amount of muscle or money or guards or guns is going to stop people from doing unsafe things, if they don’t get that it makes them unsafe, or if they don’t believe that it makes them unsafe. I think if we can work better with people, we can save a lot of money by just getting them to understand what they need to do, and why to keep themselves safe. And also to look out for other people that they work with.

Dominic Bowen  27:00 

Yeah, you’re totally right. I am actually working with a client at the moment and they asked me to support them with a review of their existing security provider, and this security provider is doing a great job. And I’m really appreciative of the work they’re doing. But they are recommending things like fences and security guards 24/7.  And it’s actually making the client quite uncomfortable, because they don’t want security guards roaming around their house and in the streets nearby. And, they don’t want security cameras and bigger fences. And I think that’s really mature of the client that I’m working with, being able to identify what their needs are. But then you’ve got to have that conversation with the security provider about what does the client actually want? And what is going to actually make them feel safer? Do they actually need those guards? Do they actually need those cameras and those fences? And I’d suggest in the vast majority of cases the answer is going to be no.

Kelsey Hoppe  27:47 

Yeah, unfortunately, though, ”no” is boring, right. ”No” isn’t sexy Hollywood security. I mean, the important people have the big guns around them, right. And they have the bodyguards, and so on. And when security really, for most people, or safety and security is really boring stuff. But those types of things aren’t you know, what, what in our mind security is because security is not taught anywhere, right? I mean, we’re not taught it in school, no one teaches you how to do a risk assessment or how to analyze where you’re safe or why. So we absorb our safety, rather than have it internalized and act out of our unique kind of knowledge of security.

Dominic Bowen  28:33 

Yeah, that’s right, Kelsey. And good choices are, of course, easy to make when you have good information, and have a good understanding of the risk landscape. You spoke earlier about the differences of analyzing risk from a headlight headquarter location, or from a field based or user base perspective. I was recently speaking with a European client who was deploying personnel to Pakistan. And the first thing, of course, that me and our analysts did independently was we spoke to various partners and independent informants that all are based in Pakistan, in order to obtain the most contemporary information and local analysis from them. And now I understand you’ve spent some time in Pakistan working on security and risk management, how’d you like to assess and understand the risk and of course, monitor the risks in a country that is very different from where you live? And perhaps you can even think of some examples, and the differences from your time in Pakistan?

Kelsey Hoppe  29:26 

Yeah, I mean, Pakistan was a fascinating country, because obviously, you know, before I went, everyone that I spoke, almost everyone that I spoke to was just like, ”Oh, my gosh, you know, Zero Dark 30. And, you know, is it going to be safe there and, you know, there’s bombs going off on every corner, and it’s just going to be like, the movies like Afghanistan, you know, it has such a reputation” and, and in reality, it was nothing like that. It was much more like living out, you know, in the United States and London, and you could say, Well, that’s because of the places you were Right, so that, you know, there weren’t necessarily bombs going off, you know, or they weren’t attacks and Islam Ubud where, you know, or Lahore where I was, but there were the you know, there were attacks, but also to, you know, we have to remember that people looking at the United States have that same perspective about about shootings, you know, they’re very, very worried about going to the US because of all of the shootings that go on the perception is, is that you know, it’s happening on every street corner, and you could get caught up in it, you know, at any moment. Now, whether that’s true or not, again, you need to understand where are you going? Are you going to Chicago? Are you going to North Carolina, just like, are you going to Islam about are you going to Lahore? Are you going to quit? Uh, you know, are you going up on the border with Afghanistan? And so I think that, obviously, having what, you know, what I would call a local perspective is important. But I think even more than that, really looking at the purpose of or who I am going into that environment, because there are definitely people who are very high risk being in Pakistan. But it might be because they’re Christian Pakistanis, you know, or because, you know, they’re in the LGBT community. And a lot of times the people that we think are at the most risk, and the people who were providing the best protection for aren’t the ones who are truly at risk in the societies that we’re looking at. I find it very interesting that a lot of organizations that you believe themselves, to be truly international, provide absolutely no security advice for anyone coming to London, right. So someone will be coming from a regional office say it’s Nairobi, or say, it’s Bangkok. They’re given no security briefing for London, when there’s plenty of crime in London, and there’s plenty of crime, which who target which targets foreigners in London, but you know, we believe it to be a safe place that doesn’t need any kind of briefing or training or advice. And I think that that, again, it betrays kind of the perspective of the system is like, how do we incorporate more perspectives and the system in the system of analysis and the system of advice giving and training? How do we broaden what we that current traditional security sector beliefs? And how do we do it in a way which is authentic? Because like you say, you know, it’s like you, you can’t possibly get every perspective around a table. But what you can do is recognize that there is another perspective, and I think that would be a huge step forward, just recognizing that.

Dominic Bowen  32:24 

Yeah, it really would be a huge step forward. And I think it’s shocking how people consider London entirely risk free when one in five women in the UK are survivors of sexual assault, but the same companies will send their staff to a four-day high risk training course, before deploying them to Beirut. High risk training courses are hugely valuable, and they are equally applicable for staff travelling to perceived low-risk countries as well.

Kelsey Hoppe  32:42 

Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s absolutely shocking. And you don’t I mean, you don’t want to get me going on on women’s security, because nothing drives me more crazy than the idea that you can send a woman who has supposedly not experienced any kind of sexual violence or harassment, because she’s lived in a safe location. But you know, is absolutely, you know, needs this training before she goes to Beirut, when almost every woman, I know, I’ll go on a limb here and say every woman we know, has spent her life protecting herself making sure that she’s safe, you know, avoiding sexual harassment, ending sexual harassment, or sexual violence. And this idea that suddenly we wake up one day, oh, gosh, we got to teach these women how to be safe. It’s absolutely mind boggling. Have you ever been on a women’s security course?

Dominic Bowen  33:29 

I’ve never been on an entire course that’s dedicated to women’s security. I’ve sat in and listened to specific modules that are delivered by women, to women participants on risk-management training courses though.

Kelsey Hoppe  33:40  

Well that is a step forward. But you should attend a women’s security course at some point. It’s shocking. It’s mostly about you know, about controlling women’s behavior and where they go and who they see and how they talk. And, you know, it’s, it’s absolutely shocking.

Dominic Bowen  33:57 

I imagine you’ve worked in several beautiful and diverse countries like South Sudan. Can you tell our listeners today about your experience working in countries that are affected by natural disasters and conflict, and how this has affected your risk appetite?

Kelsey Hoppe  34:11 

Well, I think any experience beyond what you are born into or no expand your vision of risk, your experience of risk, because even you know, moving to another city or moving into any other location changes how you perceive risk. And I think that the more you travel, and the more different places that you live, and the more you begin to understand, you know that the safety and security in one place isn’t the same as it isn’t someone else. This is why it drives me crazy when you know, people talk about having a common sense approach to security. You just need to have common sense whether there is no such thing is common sense, right. And what’s common sense in one country or region or location is completely different from the common sense that you might have somewhere else. So there isn’t a way that you can just be Be sensible about security, you know, people need to understand the location, they’re in immediate and often they need training to do that. So I think that in terms of how all of the travel and working and living in different locations has changed me or changed my approach, I think, Well, like I said earlier, I think my risk appetite has changed over my lifetime, it’s sometimes it’s increased, sometimes it’s decreased. Sometimes it’s changed because of something that I’m feeling or, you know, some experience that I’ve had. And so it, it’s not a static thing, you know, it’s not like I was young, and I knew nothing, and I had a very low risk appetite. And then I worked in dangerous places. And all of a sudden, you know, my risk appetite is increased exponentially. But I think that the more that I understand about risk and about security risk, especially, is how deep of a personal understanding we need to have of ourselves, specifically, because we are fundamentally the most important aspect of our own security. And I think that that’s a hard thing to do. And I think it’s something which is not built into most systems currently, you know, and I know in the humanitarian development world, there’s a lot of machismo, there’s a lot of mission bullying, you know, if, you know, if you truly understand the vision, you would you would go here, you would do this, you would put your life on the line. And we actually need people to say no, and people saying no, out of a really good understanding of what is the best thing for them is.

Dominic Bowen  36:28 

I agree 100 percent. And we’re certainly better today at mainstreaming duty of care and the concept of duty of care. But informed consent is certainly a concept that’s not properly unpacked by many people and organizations. employees need to understand the risks in order to give informed consent, and to agree or disagree to a task mission or deployment. In a TED talk you gave, which I encourage people to listen to, and we’ll certainly include a link in our show notes, you discuss a time when you were standing at the wrong end of a gun, if you’re comfortable, Kelsey discussing that topic.  How did risk consideration and risk assessment feed into the lead up to that event, and the second and third order effects on you afterwards?

Kelsey Hoppe  37:12 

One of the reasons I talk about it is because it was one of these aha moments to me, you know, in the TED talk, I mentioned that, you know, I’ve been held up at gunpoint twice, once in Darfur war in Sudan, and which we know is a area in the midst of, or then in the midst of a conflict. And then in Washington, DC, I was held up by someone at gunpoint in a robbery. And it’s something you know, there was a kind of wobble in my mind going, wait a minute, you know, like one of these is a war zone. And one of these is a nation’s capitol and one of these places I’m safe for one of these places, I’ll receive, you know, hostile environment training, and I’ll have that security system around me. And I’ll have curfews. Okay, so what’s going on? Like, why is it is, you know, am I safer being shot in DC than I am safer being shot in Sudan? Like, what what’s the difference? Why the difference? And so, you know, for me, that was a real kind of like, beginning to analyze, you know, my own safety and why I’m safe and where I’m safe. And one of those situations, there was a lot, right, there was an organization that had a security system, and a risk management system. And that was providing me with training. And in one of those situations, you know, I was just on my own walking down the street and hadn’t really thought much about risk, it would have been more beneficial for me if at the time of the incident in Washington, DC, if I had had the background of looking at risk and applying what I knew about risk to what I was doing in, you know, in DC. And so I think that the normalizing of security, that personalized understanding, you know, I mean, you talked about informed consent, imagine if everyone in organizations had the ability to understand and analyze their own safety, and speak up about what they are able to do and not able to do, how much stronger what our security systems be. How much safer would people be if we weren’t Reliant simply on security managers, specialized advice, you know, and companies to do that, but it was something which was truly like, inculcated and ingrained in organizations. And I know after those experiences, I think about risk differently. And I think I probably take a lot more personal responsibility in terms of risk, then. I know a lot of other people do.

Dominic Bowen  39:22 

Yeah, I think that informed consent, as you said, taking that personal responsibility, I think a lot of company leaders and security managers would also breath a big sigh of relief. If everyone understood the available risk data. I think that would be a positive evolution. If everyone was asking more questions and demanding more from their organizations and taking more responsibility for sure.

Kelsey Hoppe  39:43 

Yeah, absolutely. And I think I mean, I’m not going to make it sound like you know, implementing any kind of security system is easy or simple or something. I definitely think that the more collaborative approach or the collaborative culture, of security, you have the you better results you’re going to get right to because if you have a security manager, you have a security system which you feel treats you like an adult is able to explain why it is, you know, issuing the advice or the training it is. That is saying, you know, we believe that you have capabilities in addition to vulnerabilities, because that’s another thing. We’re always telling people how vulnerable they are. But we don’t talk about how capable they are, you’ll get a different response from the people that you’re working with.

Dominic Bowen  40:31 

Yeah, that’s so true. And in your roles as a CEO, you have to consider so much more than just risk, you have to be monitoring human resources, finance, budgets, profitability, strategy, and so much more. And many of the listeners to The International Risk Podcast are themselves CEOs or senior executives or board members of large corporations and humanitarian organizations. So in your role as a CEO, what risks are you most concerned about when we look at the remainder of 2021? And into 2022?

Kelsey Hoppe  41:03 

That is a really good question. So when I think about risks in our own organization, it’s been a massive shake up in our sector, right, because we’ve largely operated from a very western and northern platform, in terms of security. So almost all of our security advice and the security courses that we’ve built, and the systems that we’ve built, have been very one directional ride. It’s about people traveling from North America, or Europe and going to Africa or Asia or to Latin America. And what we’re seeing with mantained development sector is a lot of rethinking about why that is, are they’re not Kenyans, or Ugandans or Pakistanis. Who could do the job that we’re flying someone I mean, let’s not even begin to talk about the risk of, you know, climate change and, and the carbon footprint. But, you know, could we change that. And so, I think you’re seeing a lot of organizations having a complete rethink about how they approach what they’re doing. And I mean, from our perspective, it’s a risk, because in any major shake up within a sector is a risk. But it’s also such a huge opportunity, or seeing people get trained insecurity that have never had any kind of security or risk management training before. So we, I think of one very large organization has talked about 12,000 staff, and they’re taking the budget that they had to really kind of closely manage security for people traveling out from London. And they’re saying, instead of spending it on people traveling out from London, let’s reduce that by 90%, the amount that people travel, and instead, let’s ensure that every single person, all 12,000 of our staff have some form of security training, they have some app on their phone, they have some ability to understand, like how to make themselves safe. And I just think that is phenomenal, you know, so with all that’s happening with elearning, with online learning, it is amazing what we’re able to do. So I so I would say it’s a huge risk. You know, it’s a huge shake up for our sector. But I also think the opportunities, the flexibility, the ability to just really care for people better, is immense.

Dominic Bowen  43:11 

Yeah, I think that’s a great initiative. And I think monitoring it and checking that it does have the desired impact is going to be so valuable, because I think the likely outcome of that is a really positive one. And maybe there’s going to be some tweaks, but equipping all your staff and making all your staff feel responsible for safety and security is going to be a good thing. Better risk awareness has got to be lead to better operations and cost reductions and increased effectiveness all around the organisation.

Kelsey Hoppe  43:40 

I think of a time when I was in Pakistan, and obviously, a lot have been spent on my as a white Western woman, and then that on my security, keeping me safe there. And I you know, I’d had a lot of training. And what was fascinating to me is that I then got into armored vehicles with three other people who were Pakistani nationals, who’d received no training because they weren’t white and Western being deployed from the UK. And it was such a kind of, you know, a dichotomy to me, because, I mean, everyone who knows who’s worked with armored vehicles knows that how people behave who are inside the vehicle is critically important to the safety of that vehicle and for the armored vehicle to be used appropriately in case it were attacked or whatever. And it was just nonsensical to me that all this money had been spent to keep me safe. When all someone had to do in an attack was open the door and you know, all of my security is gone, you know. So our ability to provide security for those three other people in the car, the training for the three other people, the car is just so critical as to you know, the expensive, you know, security things that were put all the guns and muscle that we’re putting in place where people who are deploying from North America or Europe.

Dominic Bowen  44:52 

I really appreciate your insight and having a conversation say Kelsey, it’s been a lot of fun.Thanks.

Well, that was a great conversation with Kelsey. I appreciated hearing Kelsey thoughts on understanding different stakeholders’ perceptions of risk, as well as understanding the idea of what risk actually means to different people. I also like Chelsea’s ideas about the intersection of risk and her desire to see diversity mainstream from the beginning of risk processes, as well as discussing capabilities alongside vulnerabilities with our colleagues.

Harriet Tyler  45:27 

You’ve been listening to the international risk podcast hosted by Dominic Bowen. Please go to wherever you download your podcasts and give this podcast a five-star review. Your positive reviews on this podcast and subscribe to future downloads is critical for our success. If you enjoyed the show, tell a friend about this podcast. Consider if you know someone that would appreciate or benefit from today’s conversation and send them this podcast right now. Thank you for listening. And join us again next week for your fix of risk related stories.

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