Profile with Clare Harding

Clare Harding (New Zealand & Merton 2000) works as a freelance consultant for the nonprofit sector in Melbourne, Australia. She has previously worked for the Victoria Department of Health, at McKinsey & Co, and has founded and run a social enterprise. Clare lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband Matthew, toddler Isabel, and new baby, Charlie.  She holds a DPhil and an MSt in English from the University of Oxford.

Rhodes Project: What is your favorite thing to do in Melbourne?

Clare Harding: Eat! Melbourne is a really great place to live if you like food. It’s a very diverse multicultural society, and you can find just about any food from anywhere. It’s a real foodie culture.

Rhodes Project: What do you miss most about New Zealand?

Clare Harding: Definitely family. Other than that, I miss the richness and the grandeur of the Kiwi landscape.

Rhodes Project: You’ve just had a new baby. What is the most surprising aspect of being a new mother?

Clare Harding: What hard work it is! I really didn’t know what a tough job it can be. But it has commensurate rewards.

Rhodes Project: Tell me a little about what you’re doing for work now.

Clare Harding:  I’m a freelance consultant – my focus is on governance and strategy in the nonprofit sector.

Rhodes Project: What inspired you to go freelance?

Clare Harding: The key aspect of that decision was really about lifestyle and managing to balance being a mum and having some control over how much work I do. I felt that it would be good to be freelance while I have little children.

Rhodes Project: Can you tell me about a past project?

Clare Harding: The most recent project that I worked on was for the Board of a foundation in the fertility medicine sector. It was very rewarding – the organisation has great potential to effect systemic change and touch the personal lives of many thousands of Australians. It’s a good feeling to be part of a process that has helped them do their work more effectively.

Rhodes Project: What is the most challenging part of your work?

Clare Harding: I think the most challenging part of being a freelancer is dealing with being an outsider –you’re only with the team for a short time and you have to work at being accepted and respected fast. And it can be hard to let go when you finish a really exciting project.

Rhodes Project: What advice would you give to a young woman looking to go into consulting for nonprofits?

Clare Harding: In addition to developing a good technical toolkit, I would advise people never to underestimate the importance of good communication skills. Consultants are typically sought after for their ‘business-y’ skills, but people working in the nonprofit sector often don’t speak – or can but don’t want to speak – in ‘business-y’ language. That’s a bit of a cliché but in my experience there’s a lot of truth in it. Translating, or to put it differently, finding ways to bridge the two worlds, gently and constructively, is very important.

Rhodes Project: If you had unlimited resources to devote to one issue, what would it be?

Clare Harding: Women’s literacy. I’ve done volunteer work as a sexual abuse counsellor, which made me realise that even in the first world, poor literacy can have a huge impact on women’s status. I believe that women’s education is the key to resolving many social problems.

Rhodes Project: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Clare Harding: I’d have half my time in Central Otago in New Zealand (think Lord of the Rings) and half my time in Paris – I’m a sucker for the cliché that is gay Paree!

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