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.
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.
Paul Smith Lomas
Paul Smith Lomas joined Practical Action in 2010 as International Director, and became Chief Executive in November 2015. Paul joined from Oxfam, where he’d been an African Regional Director and their Global Humanitarian Director. Paul’s professional background is as a mechanical engineer, working originally in the UK water treatment industry, before going on a VSO assignment in 1985 to Eastern Sudan, where he set up water and sanitation systems for refugees. Paul was awarded an MBE in recognition of his leadership of Oxfam’s response to the Kosovo crisis.
Amy joined Practical Action in May 2016 as International Director with responsibility for the overall operation of our global programmes and policy work. She previously worked for Save the Children as Director of Programme Quality, and before that as Country Director in Jordan and Iraq, and Programme Director in Guatemala. She has also worked with The Association for the Development and Enhancement of Women (ADEW) in Egypt, and for a homelessness agency in Scotland. Amy has degrees Social & Political History, and Social Policy & Planning.
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.
John is responsible for the financial health of the Practical Action. Prior to joining, he spent eight years as Head of Finance at WaterAid. Prior to this he worked for various large commercial organisations in finance, systems and business analysis roles. He qualified as a chartered management accountant in 1999, holds a degree in economics and a Masters in development economics (South Asia), and is also a keen student of psychology.
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.
Shawkat A. Begum, PhD
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.
Eastern Africa Director
Farida joined Practical Action in 2017. In addition to roles with UNICEF and UNHCR, she also worked as Save the Children’s Regional Programme Manager in East and Southern Africa, and The Children’s Legal Action Network in Nairobi, and held director level roles in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Africa, Senegal, Central Africa Republic, and Congo.
Farida has a degree in Law and Human Rights and a Post Graduate Studies in Poverty Reduction- Policy and Practice.
Southern Africa Director
Kudzai worked for Practical Action for nine years prior to becoming Southern Africa regional director, most recently as Head of Sustainable Agriculture & Livelihoods. A graduate of the University of Zimbabwe and Cranfield University in Agriculture Land & Water Management, he has also worked for the Zimbabwean Ministry of Agriculture, the University of Zimbabwe and CARE.
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.
West Africa Country Director
Mattia became West Africa Director in early 2018 after 7 years with the energy team of Practical Action Consulting. Mattia has completed consulting assignments for DFID, the World Bank, GACC, FAO, UNDP, SNV, UNHCR and AFD. Prior to joining Practical Action, Mattia worked in Haiti for an environmental programme for internally displaced people and for an NGO promoting ethanol cookstoves in refugee camps in Ethiopia. Mattia holds an MSc in Science and Technology Policy and Management.
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).
Ms Helena Molyneux (Chair)
Helena’s career includes extensive international senior management experience in HR in both the private and public sectors and over 10 years as an organisational consultant in people strategy, change and communications. She was HR Director for Bankers Trust Company in Europe and then Personnel Director for the British Council for seven years. After starting her career with United Biscuits, she was sponsored by them to undertake a VSO assignment in the University of Sierra Leone. This was followed by a further two years there as a Geography Lecturer. She has served as Vice Chair of Traidcraft Plc and Chair of Progressio. She has an MBA from Cranfield and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
Dr Roger Clarke (Vice Chair)
Roger is Chair of Friends of the Earth and a board member of the National Forest Company. He was formerly CEO at the Youth Hostels Association, a Director at the Countryside Agency and a Director at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations. Roger has served as a member of or advisor to many boards, including the Civil Society Advisory Board at DEFRA, Natural England, English Nature, the Peak District National Park Authority, Think Global, the Canal and River Trust, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Woodland Trust, the Conservation Volunteers, the European Federation of Youth Hostel Associations and Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre. Roger has a BA in geography from Oxford University and a PhD from McGill University, Montreal.
Mr Nigel Saxby-Soffe (Treasurer)
Nigel qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1974. After 20 years in the profession and in investment banking, he moved to ActionAid as finance director in 1994. There he oversaw the transformation of the organisation from a small UK-based charity into an international federation of local NGOs, based in the South. He took a particular interest in issues of financial and operational performance and accountability and of resource allocation. He left ActionAid at the end of 2009. He is currently a trustee of two other UK NGOs. He was awarded an OBE for services to international development in 2010.
Ms Brenda Lipson
Brenda provides consultancy services in civil society capacity development, primarily within the international development sector. Previously a Director at INTRAC (International NGO Training & Research Centre), she has worked on consultancies with a diverse range of International NGOs, Social Movements, Official Aid Agencies and local non-governmental organisations across the world. Brenda also worked for Oxfam and for Progressio in the past, with a focus on the Latin America & Caribbean region – a part of the world which continues to fascinate and engage Brenda’s interest. Brenda has an MSc in Management Development and Social Responsibility from Bristol University.
Ms Valerie Jolliffe
Valerie has spent over fifteen years involved in technology, mainly through managing investments in start-ups and early–stage companies. She has run two university seed funds and manages a number of EIS funds, investing across new technologies in both the physical sciences and life sciences. During this time she has become involved in encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation. She is has interests in the uses of technology to improve health and wellbeing and in social impact investing. Valerie also sits on the Board of Imperial College Healthcare Charity, the Mental Health Foundation and Beat (Eating Disorders Association). She has a degree in engineering and a MSc in Charity Accounting and Financial Management and is a Chartered Secretary.
Dr Yvonne Pinto
Yvonne has over 25 years’ experience in the agriculture sector, and is the managing director of consultancy firm ALINE Impact Limited. She has a BSc in Agriculture and a PhD in Molecular Virology. Her interest in development began through her work in science and innovation and the realisation that innovations were not reaching the people who needed them most. She has also worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gatsby Foundation, UN FAO and the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College. She is currently the Chair of World Fish Centre and sits on the board of Kilimo Trust and CONNECTED Management Board. Yvonne will become chair of Practical Action’s board of trustees in December 2019.
Mr 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 SolarAid and a board member of its social venture company SunnyMoney (Kenya). Graham has been a consultant to FLO-CERT, CBI, Progressio, Gatsby Foundation and Comic Relief. He is the chair of The Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership.
Prof. James Smith
James holds a personal chair in African and Development Studies and is Vice Principal International at the University of Edinburgh. He is also a visiting professor at the Open University and the University of Johannesburg. Since completing his PhD in 2001 at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, he has worked with and advised a wide range of organisations concerned with development, on issues such as rural development, science and technology policy and capacity building. His current research focuses on the evolution of research, treatment and control of African trypamosomiasis (sleeping sickness) in both humans and animals across the continent.
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
Waleed Elbashir Elobeid
Waleed Elbashir Elobeid, who is Sudanese, is currently an Advisor in the UAE Foreign Assistance Department within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. He has 25 years of experience in development and humanitarian work, including two years as country director Sudan for Practical Action between 2012 and 2014.
Mr Ian Thornton
Ian is a Senior Consultant at Dalberg, a development strategy consultancy that provides advice for both public and private sector clients. Previously he was Deputy and Interim Director at the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences (UKCDS). UKCDS is a cross-Government group that leverages the UK’s scientific capabilities to deliver more effective, evidence-based international development policy and programmes. Before this, Ian was at Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, where he led a major project mapping the changing Indian research and innovation system, and charting the emergence of an Indian specialism in “frugal” innovation. He has also worked in the Science Policy Centre at the Royal Society and at the African Medical Research Foundation (AMREF). Ian has a Masters in Psychology, Physiology and Philosophy .
Ms Helena Wayth
Helena has over 18 years of strategic marketing and management experience working with global organisations such as Unilever and L’Oreal across markets (Asia, Europe, US & Africa), sectors and cultures. This experience ranges from leading large global brands, repositioning and building local businesses, to leading small entrepreneurial start-ups. Over the past five years she has worked with Marie Stopes, Oxfam and SolarAid, primarily in Africa and Asia, with a focus on energy, sanitation and sexual reproductive health. Helena recently founded a consulting company, A Bird’s Eye View, to help provide strategic and executional support for organisations seeking change. She has a Bachelor of Business and completed a Masters in Sustainability & Responsibility She is a trustee of the charity Helping The Burmese Delta.