An experienced international development professional who more recently has immersed herself in the Upper Valley will be the new Executive Director at the White River Junction-based nonprofit Vital Communities.
Sarah Jackson, of Randolph Center, VT, has decades of experience in nongovernmental organizations and initiatives in diverse places, including Oman, Egypt, Kenya, China, and the Indian subcontinent. Since 2017, she has worked with Montpelier-based Institute for Sustainable Communities, where she has worked with country teams in Bangladesh, China, and India to develop and secure funding for programs that advance climate solutions for cities, factories, and communities. Her career also has included directing projects focused on entrepreneurship, workforce development, agriculture, education, youth leadership, and women’s empowerment. She will officially take on her new role on October 26.
Since moving to Vermont to work for the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC), Jackson has complemented her international career with volunteer work dealing with some of the challenges and opportunities of the Upper Valley. Since 2018 she has volunteered for the Randolph Region Re-Energized Program, working on issues including economic development, affordable housing, and childcare. In May she completed Vital Communities’ 10-month Leadership Upper Valley program, which takes participants through a wide-ranging introduction to the region. Other local involvements include serving on the Capital Campaign and Grants Committees of the East Valley Community Group, East Randolph; and Randolph’s Climate Emergency Group. She belongs to the Montpelier-based ElevateHer Professional Networking Platform and Central Vermont Development Professionals Network.
“Fundamentally, the job of Executive Director of one of the Upper Valley’s leading nonprofits is a tough proposition,” said Ron Shaiko, chair of the Vital Communities Board. “The successful candidate needed to show us that he or she has a clear understanding of the full scope of programs Vital Communities leads and the vision that the organization has cultivated so far, and be able to offer us a personal vision that can take us forward. Sarah has the quiet confidence to lead us in those next steps and the deep listening that is required to form lasting partnerships.”
In Oman, for example, where Jackson worked from 2001 to 2017, she created and ran the Oman arm of AMIDEAST, an American non-profit organization engaged in workforce development and education in the Middle East. “The fact that she took an organization from an idea to a staff of 30, in a foreign country, says a lot about her and indicates more than enough experience to lead an Upper Valley NGO,” said Shaiko. “I’m thrilled and so is the rest of the board.”
“I am truly honored and excited to be joining Vital Communities and to work with the talented and dedicated Board and staff to advance its important mission,” said Jackson. “My participation in the Leadership Upper Valley Class of 2020 offered glimpses into the organization throughout the year, highlighting its clear commitment to the economic, environmental, and social well-being of the region, its tight connections with and strong reputation among a wide range of stakeholders, and its deep knowledge about the challenges and opportunities characterizing the Upper Valley. It was exactly the kind of organization that I sought as I envisioned shifting my career focus from international development to local issues, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to engage with the Vital Communities team and with stakeholders throughout the region in shaping the organization’s next chapter.”
A native of New Hampshire, Jackson grew up in Laconia and Merrimack. She holds a masters degree from Princeton and began her career with NGOs in Kenya and Egypt. She spent six years with the US Embassy in Muscat, Oman, as director of initiatives that included the launch of a women’s leadership program and the first professional women’s networking organization in Oman. She moved on to the Muscat office of AMIDEAST, serving as the Country Director for Oman. There she built the operation from the ground up, establishing a physical field office, recruiting and managing a team of more than 30 employees and trainers, and developing a $2.3 million portfolio of education, entrepreneurship, and workforce development initiatives.
After serving as the Executive Director of the Oman American Business Center, where she worked with a multicultural board of directors to promote Oman’s economic development, she joined ISC. There she has focused on international climate solutions—a challenge that required her to quickly gain command of environmental sustainability issues. This ability to pivot into new sectors will serve her well in overseeing the range of areas in which Vital Communities works.
She and husband Robert Jackson (a writer and former high school history teacher) have two children, Daniel, 25, and Nora, 21. Beyond work, her hobbies include hiking, snowshoeing, gardening, cooking, playing the piano, reading, and—more recently—playing with their golden retriever puppy.