Our people

 

Our Leadership Team

Managing Practical Action’s work around the world is the responsibility of our Leadership Team. This comprises the Chief Executive and twelve directors, including six national and regional directors.

Meet our leaders

Board of Trustees

The highest level of governance is the responsibility of our Board of Trustees. The trustees, who are also directors of the company, oversee the strategic direction and financial health of the organisation.

Board of trustees

Our Leadership Team

Sarah Roberts
Chief Executive Officer

Sarah’s role is to help Practical Action have the maximum impact possible in terms of progress towards a world that works better for everyone. She leads an expert team who ensure that changes that enable people to lift themselves out of poverty are embedded into local, national and international policies and change processes. Prior to joining Practical Action in 2020, Sarah spent 12 years as Executive Director of the Ethical Tea Partnership. She has additional experience leading sustainability consulting assignments for large companies and not-for-profit organisations and has worked extensively across Africa and Asia. Much of Sarah’s work has focused on agricultural value chains and driving change at a sector and systems level. She holds an MBA and an MSc in Environmental Technology.

Akinyi Walender
Africa Director

An experienced development and humanitarian leader, Akinyi joined Practical Action in September 2022 from Cordaid, where she was Country Director for Ethiopia and Kenya, and held other global senior positions for more than a decade. Akinyi is a dedicated, results-driven director with a great deal of experience building humanitarian and development programmes in very tough and fragile settings. She has a long history of success guiding diverse teams to enhance organisations’ reputations, brand awareness, and social and financial impact. She provides vision and leadership for our work across all our project locations and offices in Africa and, as a member of the Global Leadership Team, she helps drive our global strategy. This is a new strategic role for Practical Action. It uses Akinyi’s strong understanding of the global and regional contexts to develop high-impact strategic partnerships and funding relationships that enable us to deliver the biggest possible impacts. As the first person to hold this position, Akinyi is drawn to the relevance of our organisation’s work, especially as we address the climate crisis and sustainable food and agriculture for the future. Akinyi speaks English, Swahili and some French. She has lived in Europe and Africa and worked with teams and partners in Latin America and the Middle East. She has a broad worldview from travelling across many countries around the world, and now resides in Kenya.

Rachel Parr
Chief Operations Officer

Rachel joined Practical Action in August 2022, bringing with her a diverse wealth of experience in NGO, academic and private sectors. She is a chartered accountant and has extensive knowledge of leading and delivering complex projects and organisational transformation at scale. A varied professional background is one of Rachel’s many strengths, having worked for GlaxoSmithKline for more than two decades, Save the Children UK, and, most recently, King’s College London, where she held the role of Chief Operating Officer of the university’s health faculty. Throughout her career, Rachel has developed a particular interest in the power of cross-sector partnerships to deliver positive change to the communities she works with. At Practical Action, Rachel leads teams across finance, people and culture, IT, governance and international operations to ensure we work in the most effective ways to deliver our vision and strategy for the long-term. As well as strong financial and operational leadership, the strategic challenges and breadth of her work require creative problem-solving skills, an analytical mind, and sound judgment. Rachel ensures that the right business systems and controls are in place, they’re operating effectively, and are future-proofed so that we can safely, effectively, and compliantly deliver the biggest impact where it matters most.

 

Rachel Hudson
Fundraising, Marketing and Communications Director

Rachel joined Practical Action in January 2016. She is responsible for the organisation’s public fundraising and building our profile and reputation. Previously she was Director of Marketing & Communications for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Prior to that she has worked with DMS, a direct marketing agency with clients such as CAFOD, Send a Cow and National Trust, and in marketing roles with a range of other charities, and private sector companies.

Simon Hotchkin
Impact, Influence and Innovation Director

Simon joined Practical Action in October 2022, with a background in tropical agriculture, in particular tea and coffee. For more than two decades, he’s championed sustainable business practices, embedding development outcomes across value chains. Most recently at Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate, Simon also served as a Board member and Vice Chair of the Ethical Tea Partnership. In his role at Practical Action, Simon has his eye on the big picture and future trends. He represents us internationally at the highest levels to build relationships that enable us to deliver greater change. He is key to shaping our global strategic direction, identifying and embedding innovative approaches that can increase our impact for the long term. Simon also ensures that we are capturing and sharing learning from our experiences. This means we can continue to make long-lasting improvements for people who live in poverty and who deal with the many impacts of climate change. Simon’s particular area of interest is in improving and future-proofing agricultural supply chains, making sure producers have sustainable livelihoods that respect the land they farm. He is passionate about projects and programmes that help slow down the climate crisis while also benefitting communities.

Yolanda Weldring
International Director (Interim)

Yolanda joined Practical Action in 2021 as Interim International Director, with a wealth of expertise with international development NGOs. Previously having worked been International Director at Oxfam Novib, Interim International Director at HelpAge International, as well as leading our East African office in 2016. Most recently Yolanda was Associate Director at Oxford HR.

 

Alex Bush
Regional Director, East Africa (Interim)

Alex has taken on the interim role of Regional Director, East Africa. Originally a chemical engineer and with a masters in development studies, he has 35 years of experience in the development sector. Alex spent 12 years with the Intermediate Technology Development Group as a project and programme manager, as Country Director in Kenya and in charge of planning and impact monitoring. He then spent 19 years with HelpAge International as Assistant Director of Programmes and latterly Head of Operations. Briefly an independent consultant, he returned to Practical Action in 2019 to take up the role of Head of International Operations. He has extensive experience in programme and change management and in systems development, across Africa, Asia and Latin America

Susan Maina
Kenya Director

Susan is a market systems development expert, with more than 15 years of technical and management experience. Her key strengths are in overall operational management, consortium and donor engagements. She has been involved in the development of Private Sector Thinking that has evolved towards Market Systems Development. Susan has strong experience in developing strategies that increase sector competitiveness and economic growth opportunities for under-served populations, and incentivize inclusive and sustainable market-led innovations. Susan has years of extensive experience in engaging with public and private sector actors to strengthen long term relationships aimed at creating lasting change in markets.

Denise Umubyeyi
Rwanda Country Manager

Denise has more than a decade of experience in international development, managing programs in both humanitarian and development sectors. Prior to joining Practical Action, she worked with Oxfam in Rwanda, South Sudan, and Kenya leading on operational delivery and at the regional level as a finance and partnership advisor. Prior to her work with Oxfam, she managed the operations of a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Consortium agricultural programme and worked as the Finance Lead for Right to Play in Rwanda. As the leader of Practical Action’s team in Rwanda, Denise is responsible for all in-country business development, project delivery and operations. She was also responsible for the successful delivery of the Renewable Energy for Refugees Project in Rwanda, working in partnership with UNHCR, IKEA Foundation and Energy for Impact and Chatham House.

Muna Eltahir
Sudan Director

Muna Eltahir joined Practical Action’s team in 2015 as Sudan’s Country Director. She has acquired a substantial and long history of experience in the humanitarian and development fields. Muna is a womens rights activist as well as a gender expert. She has worked for DFID, Netherlands Embassy, UNOCHA, ADRA and Windle Trust. Muna holds two master degrees; one in Economics of Human Resource Development from India, and the other is in International Community Development from Andrews University of Michigan – USA.

Edwin Obiero
Regional Director, West Africa

Edwin joins Practical Action in 2021 as the Regional Director for West Africa. He brings a wealth of experience in climate finance consulting and development finance in the Renewable Energy and Climate Change Adaptation space. He has worked in a leading climate advisory firm in Nairobi, UNFCCC and most recently as Regional Manager at the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund. Edwin’s work experience spans many large-scale development partners, and multiple geographies in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean including post-conflict fragile states and humanitarian economies.

Shawkat A Begum Shawkat A. Begum, PhD
Bangladesh Director

Dr. Shawkat joined Practical Action as the Interim Country Director for Bangladesh in late December 2019. Prior to joining, she spent about seven years with the International Potato Center (CIP) as Chief of Party (CoP) and Country Representative in Bangladesh and Ethiopia. Shawkat has specialization in design, monitoring and delivering programmes in food security, livelihoods, nutrition, poverty reduction, agricultural technology, resilience strengthening, DRR and gender responsive programming. She carried out research, consulting and capacity building assignments in multiple countries across Asia, Africa and North America. She has a Masters and PhD in Anthropology from the University of Arizona, USA.

Achyut Luitel
South Asia Director

Achyut is trained as a civil engineer and has over two decades of devlopment experience in roles with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and Helvetas. During this time he has gained practical knowledge in many different kinds of rural infrastructure programmes.
He helped design DFID’s rural access transport and livelihood programme between 2000 and 2001, leading this team until early 2006 when he joined Practical Action as the Country Director, Nepal.

Alicia Quezada
Latin America Director

Alicia is our Regional Director in Latin America since 2018, having previously been our Head of Consulting for seven years. Before joining Practical Action, she worked for Ciudadanos al Día promoting the Best Government Practices Prize in Peru. Her areas of work are communications for development, climate change, governance and rural development. She has implemented research projects about media, childhood and gender in Peru and co-authored a number of publications in those topics. She has a degree in Communications from the University of Lima (Peru) and a MSc in Development Management from The London School of Economics and Political Science (UK).

Board of Trustees

Martin Tyler (Chair) 

Martin is a qualified accountant with over 25 years senior experience in the charity sector both as a Finance Director and as a Trustee. As well as finance his responsibilities have also covered human resources, IT, legal and governance. His career has included Finance Director roles at Christian Aid, Fairtrade Foundation, Amnesty International UK and the Refugee Council. As a trustee and non Executive director he has served on the boards of the Overseas Development Institute, Pesticide Action Network, Television for the Environment and Divine Chocolate. He is currently Honorary Treasurer for CPRE, the countryside charity.

Fayezul ChoudhuryFayezul Choudhury (Chair – Finance, Audit and Risk Committee)

Fayez has over four decades of global experience spanning international development and professional services. He retired as Chief Executive of the International Federation of Accountants ( IFAC ) in 2018. Prior to that he was with the World Bank for 25 years, his last two assignments being Controller and VP Strategic Planning and Resource Management, and VP Corporate Finance and Risk Management. He started his career with Price Waterhouse in London, in audit then consulting, including 3 years developing PW’s consultancy practice in West Africa. Fayez has represented his organisations on the International Public Interest Oversight Board; the Standards Advisory Council for IFRS; the UN’s  Iraq Advisory Monitoring Board;  and the International Forum for Accountability Development. In a personal capacity he currently chairs the Audit and Evaluation Oversight Committee of the UNDP and the Independent Audit Advisory Committee of the FAO and has previously served on the boards of international NGO’s World Learning and the Partnership for Transparency Fund. Fayez has an MA (Hons) in Engineering Science and Economics from the University of Oxford and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales.

Shivani Wadhwa (Chair – Governance and People Committee)

Shivani Wadhwa is an experienced People and Culture leader and is currently the Global People and Culture Director at WWF International. She brings with her a wealth of experience in change management, leadership development, talent management, human resources services, and working in a multicultural environment. She is a board member on the Board of WWF’s European Policy Office based in Belgium, and also an advisory board member to the Centre for Financial Planning Training and Research for Women at Banasthali University, India. Shivani has an MBA in Human Resources Development from Banasthali Vidyapith University. Born and raised in India, Shivani moved to Switzerland in 2000 and lives in Geneva with her husband and two daughters.

Matt Haikin, TrusteeMatt Haikin

Matt is currently Director of Digital Development at ‘On Our Radar’, a non-profit consultancy connecting unheard communities with those with the influence to affect change. Matt has a particular focus on the development of Radar’s digital tools and their deployment across all of Radar’s work and partners. Matt has worked with digital technology in the international development space since 2011, building on his vast experience of social uses of technology. Matt brings his experience and understanding of critical policy issues relating to digital development, strategic critical thinking and a collaborative approach to thought partnership, policy development and network-building. He also has years of experience of working with major international NGOs, donors, governments and multi-laterals. Matt has a Masters from the University of Manchester.

Bill LiaoBill Liao

Bill is a tech entrepreneur, and a General Partner of SOSV, a multi-stage venture capital investor. He has built unicorn companies in Asia-Pacific countries and Europe, with a specialist interest in biotech and life sciences. Bill is a co-founder of WeForest, a global foundation reforesting the land, and bringing sustainable work and lifestyles to local communities around the equator. He is also a co-founder of CoderDojo, an international volunteer-led coding club for children, now part of the RaspberryPi Foundation and Chair of the Social Tech Trust, which transforms lives with tech. Bill brings with him vast experience from both the public and private sectors and is a regular speaker at events such as The World Economic Forum and TED. Bill lives with his family in Cork, Ireland.

Rachel Sibande headshot Rachel Sibande

Rachel is a Digital Development specialist and has over 15 years’ experience managing development projects in over 16 countries. She has led projects across diverse digital development sectors. Rachel established Malawi’s first technology and Innovation hub, mHub in 2014, championing the development of technology solutions for emerging entrepreneurs. Rachel is a recipient of Google’s Anita Borg Award for outstanding computer science students from around the world and has been listed twice by Forbes as one of Africa’s 30 under 30 entrepreneurs and as a new wealth creator. In 2018, Rachel won the Climate Smart Innovation pan African competition of the Next Einstein Forum after inventing a thermal chemical plant that produces light and gas from maize cobs for mini grids. Rachel holds a PhD in computer Science from Rhodes University in South Africa, a master’s degree in Cryptography and Coding Theory from the Mzuzu University and a BSc in Computer Science and Statistics from the University of Malawi.

Joanne Smith

Joanne has been an international fundraising consultant for the last 10 years, working on the development of international and UK investment programmes and designing solutions. She coordinates the International Fundraising Leadership Forum and manages a global donor insight initiative for large INGOs. She has 28 years of fundraising experience.

Ian Thornton

Ian is a Manager on the COVAX team at UNICEF’s ‘Supply Division’. COVAX is the partnership delivering Covid-19 vaccines to the world’s poorest countries. Before this he spent five years at Dalberg, an advisory firm exclusively focused on social impact. There he directed teams advising donors, foundations, pharma companies and multi-stakeholder partnerships on global health strategy. Often this involved shaping markets to ensure that drugs, vaccines or commodities reach the people that need them. Prior to Dalberg, he was in part of the UK government focused on deploying R&D funding to have the most development impact possible. He started his career in think tanks in the UK and India. He studied at New College, Oxford and at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

 

Mourad Wahba, TrusteeMourad Wahba

Mourad has 28 years of experience working for the United Nations, retiring in 2021 from the Office of the Secretary-General. Mourad also served in peacekeeping operations as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Haiti and as Associate Administrator at the United Nations Development Programme. He is currently the Special Advisor to the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. He brings with him a wealth of experience in change management, programme development and operational skills gained in the field. Prior to joining the United Nations, Mourad was Associate Professor of Economics at the American University in Cairo. He has a D Phil from Oxford University and lives in Cairo with his family.

Graham Young

Graham is a freelance Consultant with more than 30 years of experience in international development. After working with Christian Aid, he was involved in the development of Traidcraft and Traidcraft Exchange. He was the founder chair of the European and World Fair Trade organisations and of the Fairtrade Foundation and a founder board member of Just Exchange in South Africa and Amka in Tanzania. Graham was a trustee of Progressio (CIIR) and SolarAid and a board member of social venture company SunnyMoney (Kenya). Graham has been a consultant to Fairtrade International, FLO-CERT, CBI, Progressio, Gatsby Foundation, Imani and Comic Relief. He is the chair of Northern Heartlands Great Place Scheme and a Trustee of Northern Heartlands CIO, he was also Chair of the Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership.

Hope Chigudu

Hope is an uncontainable activist with decades of experience in feminist movement building and leadership development. She has worked in organizational development, health and well-being of individuals and the collective and has co-authored a book: Strategies for Building Organizations with a Soul. She is the co-founder of the Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network and Just Associates (JASS) and served on the boards of the Global Fund for Women, Urgent Action Fund-Africa, Global Fund for Community Foundation, and Oxfam SA. Hope was raised as part of the Bakiga people in Uganda and now splits her time between there and Zimbabwe. Her other interests include designing clothes, creating new dishes and engaging with young people, whose ability to create beautiful trouble she particularly appreciates.