Ian D. Quick

Ethical innovation in high-stress / high-conflict environments

Welcome. I’m an independent consultant and writer — I help global institutions to unpack complex emerging trends in conflict and forced displacement, and identify practical steps forward.

This draws on 20+ years work on pilot and major change initiatives. Partners have included UN Peacekeeping; the World Bank; much of the UN development system; global non-governmental organisations; and multi-donor consortia in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan.

I host an interview podcast on the ethics and practice of public service in tough environments (One Step Forward). My 2015 book Follies in Fragile States was the first practitioner-written post-mortem of a multilateral “stabilisation” effort; I also write short pieces on conflict mitigation, institutional learning, and the intersection of the two.

About my approach

My end-goal is simple: to give high-impact, pragmatic advice on new ways of working. This includes the early-design stage; assessment and learning; and scaling-up.

At a practical level, I use a robust co-design approach with four basic building blocks:

  • discovery of stakeholder perspectives and industry-best practice;
  • definition of the real underlying problem, taking into account both the technical and human perspectives;
  • development of context-specific solutions with those closest to the problem; and
  • delivery through a structured pilot and evaluation.

This builds on fifteen years in coordination and policy leadership roles in contested political environments. I work comfortably and credibly across institutional lines, with deep experience in the progressive development of shared goals and processes.

The foundation throughout is solid core values. When we work on behalf of highly marginalised people we owe them first-rate thinking; the humility to learn; and serious and substantial involvement in decision-making. These are my baseline commitments to the people that client institutions exist to serve.

Summary of experience

As a consultant I’ve led 20+ major engagements with transnational institutions, going back to 2007. These are divided evenly between the point of delivery and the global policy / Board level, and typically involved medium-term change projects with dedicated teams.

Some highlights have included critical first steps on challenges like the following:

  • developing responsible and politically workable “exit strategies” from protracted refugee situations;
  • making UN peacekeeping more people-centred, and responsive to marginalised communities;
  • pivoting a global humanitarian agency to engage (responsibly) with conflict mitigation;
  • building coherence in recovery and peacebuilding planning across the World Bank, European Union and United Nations;
  • refining processes for start-up and strategic review of complex peace operations.

My early background is in risk management, working with transnationals like Reed Elsevier, Diageo and Unilever to mitigate complex reputational & regulatory risks in the Australia-New Zealand market.

Formative experiences as an international civil servant then included coordination and assessment of initiatives to consolidate a struggling peace process in Sri Lanka; and to “stabilise” DR Congo following its democratic transition.

Technical qualifications include degrees in law (University of New South Wales), finance (ibid) and public policy (Harvard University). *

(* Please note that my admission as a solicitor / legal practitioner lapsed some years ago, and I cannot offer legal advice.)


I work through my small business, or on a freelance basis, as suits the client. This includes both retainer work for a flexible number of days, and lump sum contracts for major projects.

I have considerable experience working with larger consulting firms (prime contractors) who need specialised advice, or a client-facing technical lead, on specific issues relating to innovation and organisational development.

If you would like to discuss a specific challenge, or check availability, please do get in touch: ian (at) iandquick.com.