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News > Alumni Spotlight > Alexander Bos

Alexander Bos

“St Julian's allows students to think big. That there is a chance, they can make a difference.”

Class of 2004 Alexander Bos is Head of External Affairs at Children's Investment Fund Foundation, the world’s largest philanthropy focusing on improving children’s lives. After attending St Julian’s, he graduated in International Relations from St Andrews University and completed a Masters at The London School of Economics and Political Science.
Before starting at CIFF, Alexander worked as a government and financial advisor at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

What was it like attending St Julian’s?

St Julians was a fantastic experience. I was there from Reception through to Y13. I only have good things to say about it. I was fortunate to have been in a fantastic year. A big group of us were together from a very young age until the end. To this day, there is a strong bond between us even though we do different things and live in different parts of the world. Fifteen years later, many of my closest friends are still from St Julian’s, which I think is a testament to the school's spirit. Overall, I remember it very fondly. It was the right place for me academically. It stimulated my interests and what I wanted to know more about, whether Politics or History. The Secondary was also a fantastic place to be if you are someone who likes sports and team activities.

How was the experience of attending the International Baccalaureate?

I think the IB at St Julian’s was probably more challenging in some ways than my undergraduate degree. The first couple of years at university felt very straightforward. Some of the critical thinking skills you learned at St Julian’s helped me adapt quickly to what was required at higher education.

Did you have any favourite teachers?

There were a few. Mr Mocket was a History teacher whom I loved. He was fascinating and was one of the reasons I later studied international relations. My route into geopolitics and international relations was through History and his engaging and funny lessons.
Ms Fenner-Leitão taught my parents, aunt and uncle, cousins and siblings. She had a long track record with my family, and we had a very funny relationship. She was a fantastic English Teacher. A lot of my work involves writing and thinking, so I owe a lot to her.

Is there a memory you hold dear from St. Julian’s?

I remember when students of all ages from international schools in Portugal came to St Julian’s for the March Sports Festival. These were the days before we had smartphones. We would always look forward to this very special time of the year. We were hosting everyone, and everyone was coming together. It showed the school in its best light, and it was a lot of fun for everyone involved, especially students from St Julian’s. There was something unique about it.

You have worked at the Tony Blair Institute for Global change and CIFF. Organisations that are, in a way, trying to change the world. Do you think your interest in geopolitics and philanthropy started as a seed planted here at St Julian’s?

My interest in how the world works, history, politics, and global events started 100% at SJS. St Julian’s allows students to think big. That there is a chance, they can make a difference. It’s not exactly a true reflection of the world, but when done positively, it gives students that sense they can go out and go on to greater things and make a difference.

CIFF is the world’s largest philanthropy working to improve children’s lives. Can you share with us what the aims of this organisation are?

We are the largest foundation in the world, focused explicitly on improving the lives of children. We are also one of the world’s largest funders of climate change efforts. Through grants, we support organisations working across numerous areas: climate change, sexual reproductive health rights of women, girls and adolescents, and child health and development (i.e. looking at the issues of severe acute malnutrition in children in low-income countries). We also support maternal health projects, neglected tropical diseases, water (hygiene and access), and child protection. It is quite a broad range of portfolios. CIFF invests in organisations that do this work. I have a cross-cutting role as Head of External Affairs, which involves various things, from coordinating government relations, forecasting political risks and challenges to the foundation and the work we are trying to do, to coordinating and leading our strategic communications efforts globally. I also lead advocacy work in support of our issue areas.

Quality data, evidence and transparency are integral to the CIFF grant-making process. In your view, does this impact the projects you are developing?

It’s fundamental in everything we do. We are quite unique as a foundation in being very transparent. Everything that we fund is accessible and detailed on our website. The foundation was started by Sir Christopher Hohn, a very successful hedge fund manager who has focused the foundation on being rigorous, attention to detail and impact led. Every grant that we give has a thorough evidence monitoring evaluation framework against it. We are very clear on the outcomes and impact we want to measure due to the money we are granting.

What advice would you give to our students wanting to work in philanthropy?

I’ll give the advice various people gave to me when I was coming out of university and was very interested in the development sector more broadly. Supposing you are interested in international politics, development or philanthropy. In that case, you should first learn and apply skills practically in specific areas that you can then later use. You have to start having oversights over issue areas or running an organisation when working in philanthropy. The idealism that draws people to this work is always incredibly valuable and should be nurtured. Still, you are less useful as a fresh-faced graduate without real-world experience than you are as a 30-year old that has worked in a few industries or countries and has got some real-life examples. I’d encourage the people to have the ambition of working in philanthropy because it is much needed in this world. However, think about how you can build the skills and experience so you can add value and make a difference.

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