Kanchan Kharel is the former President of a youth-led NGO in Nepal, YUWA. He recently completed his master’s in social work at Monash University, Australia, and is working as a Case Manager for Humanitarian Settlement Program at AMES Australia. Prior to this, Kanchan worked as Leadership Coaching Assistant at Nepal Leadership Academy and  Program Manager, Leadership and Civic Engagement at Daayitwa. Kanchan was a participant of the US government’s International Visitors’ Leadership Program in 2014 and was selected as one of sixteen Daayitwa Innovation Leaders 2015. He received Nepal Leadership Academy’s “Leading Innovation” course during the Daayitwa Innovation Leaders program.


It’s not easy to lead a young organization, especially at times of uncertainty. Kanchan Kharel was facing this challenge as the president of YUWA in 2015. It was right after the  earthquake in Nepal and many crucial members had left the organization to attend to the crisis. Alongside the human resource deficit, a trust deficit in Kanchan’s leadership had started to surface. He felt like people weren’t understanding his motives and did not believe in his vision for the organization. Factions had started to form, which he knew could critically injure a growing organization like YUWA. Kanchan felt it was his responsibility to fix the issue and transfer the leadership to a new generation of leaders who would have the popular support. However, time was limited and he knew he had to approach this problem with sensitivity.

With less than a year left in his presidency, Kanchan joined the Daayitwa Innovation Leaders program with the hope that he could find some solutions to the leadership challenges he was facing. The Leading Innovation course provided by Nepal Leadership Academy as part of the program wasn’t exactly a silver bullet to all his problems, but it did equip him with some very important insights and skills to be able to understand the challenges he was facing and devise effective strategies to try to solve them. He reflects, “One of the most important learnings from the leadership course for me was understanding that people are driven by fear of losses more than gains. That really changed the way I was looking at my challenges. In the remaining 7-8 months of my presidency at YUWA after the course, I reached out to several individuals, mostly people who had the least trust in me, to try to understand their pain points, what they had at stake, and how we could arrive at a shared vision for the organization. This was an uncomfortable process where I had to get out of my comfort zone and initiate that difficult conversation, but it was well worth it. At the end, I was able to bring the organization together and build consensus on the new leadership that could move YUWA’s mission forward.”

Today, living in Australia and working with refugees from all over the world, Kanchan has had the opportunity to understand and exercise leadership from a different angle. “Because I had been in Nepal for so long and thought I knew the context so well, I had started to form judgements and biases. Conclusions had taken the place of curiosity and my perspective was stale. Being in Australia and working with refugees from cultures and societies I know very little about has helped me deconstruct my biases and lead with an open heart. I am more receptive and interested in really listening to their (the refugees’) stories. That’s when learning happens for me.”

One important learning for Kanchan has been realizing the importance of cultural competency and sensitivity in working with individuals from diverse cultures and backgrounds, which he thinks are lacking in most developmental interventions in Nepal. As he continues to work with refugees globally, he aims to keep strengthening his skills as a culturally competent social worker and eventually bring those practices back to Nepal to empower cultures and communities that have been left behind.