People

In April 2009, five employees and a handful of volunteers founded The Challenge. Today, we have nearly 300 full-time staff, based in London, Birmingham and Manchester.

In summer 2013, we expect to employ 1,800 temporary staff who will help work on NCS with The Challenge.

Trustees

Colin Smith OBE

Colin is Chair of the Board of Trustees and has a breadth of experience in the retail sector. Until recently, Colin was Chairman of Poundland Group Holdings, Europe’s largest single price discount retailer. Prior to this, Colin was Chief executive and Finance Director of Safeway Plc, the supermarket retailer. Colin also has previous experience in the not for profit sector as a trustee of Save The Children and as Chairman of the food industry sponsored Red Tractor assurance scheme.

Paul Armstrong

Paul works in private equity and is a Trustee and Investment Committee member of the Social Business Trust, the social enterprise fund. Paul supported and advised ‘Speaking Up’ during their successful merger with Advocacy Partners and worked with the management of the merged entity to facilitate their operational and financial integration and create a long-term strategic plan for the new organisation. Paul is currently a Principal at Permira, the European private equity firm, which he joined in 2007. Prior to this, Paul worked for 8 years as a solicitor at European law firm, Ashurst and subsequently, at Fried Frank, a leading Wall St firm.

Paul gained his PGDiP Law at the College of Law London, where he was the Eidos Scholar. 

Stephen Peck

Stephen is a Director of The Scout Association in the UK. He has over 30 years’ experience of working in not for profit organisations focussed on youth development. He has held senior professional positions in YMCA England and Endeavour Training, as well as a range of community based voluntary roles. Stephen has been an advisor to The Challenge since its inception and accepted the role of Trustee in May 2010.

Richard Wilson

Richard is one of the most recent additions to our Board. Richard has specialist experience in Financial auditing. He is a senior partner with Ernst and Young with significant experience of working with companies ranging from large multinational groups to privately owned companies. He has over 25 years of experience of providing assurance and advisory services with clients such as BP, BA and Royal Mail. Richard is also a Treasurer and Trustee of Victim Support, a charity which supports victims of crime.

Dan Guthrie

Dan has over 15 years of experience in Public Relations and is also one of the newest additions to our Board. Dan has worked in both the UK and Canadian Parliaments and is a director of the public relations firm Luther Pendragon, which he also co-owns. He has worked with a range of multi-national companies and third sector organisations to enhance their reputations and deliver positive change. 

Michelle Cummins

Michelle is Group HR Director for international waste management firm, Shanks Group plc, a position which she has held since August 2012. Michelle held a range of progressive management positions before this, including Human Resources Director in the legal and regulatory division for The Thomson Corporation in 1997. Michelle spent four years as Human Resources Director at BAE Systems, initially in their Customer Solutions and Support Naval division and then for their Land Systems division. In 2006, she joined Inchcape plc where she held a number of senior international HR Director positions based in the UK and Russia, most recently as Group Organisation Development Director.

Michelle has a Masters in Employment Studies and Human Resource Management from London Metropolitan Business School.

Paul Amadi

Paul joined Diabetes UK in Jan 2012 and is Director of Fundraising. He is responsible for coordinating the charity's income generating activities, which amount to over £26 million per annum. Prior to this, Paul was Director of Fundraising at NSPCC, leading a team of 400 raising in excess of £130 million per annum. Before this, Paul held similar posts at RNIB and Leonard Cheshire.

During his fundraising career, as well leading the fundraising operations of household name charities, Paul has also contributed to the progression of the fundraising sector, principally by serving as a Trustee and then Chairman of the Institute of Fundraising, the representative body for professional fundraisers.

Mayowa Quadri

Mayowa completed The Challenge in South East London in 2011 and is one of our Graduate Trustees. Mayowa has been heavily involved in The Challenge since his graduation in 2011. Alongside being an Ambassador for both The Challenge Network and the wider National Citizen Service scheme, Mayowa has also volunteered as an Associate Mentor on The Challenge programme. He is a huge football fan and plays semi-professionally in addition to volunteering as a football coach with the national charity Sport Makers, which he found out about whilst on the Challenge programme.  Mayowa runs his own catering business called Fruitilicious.

Alistair Wilkinson

Alistair completed the programme in the North West in 2011 and is one of our Graduate Trustees.

Since completing the programme, Alistair has also been heavily involved with our organisation as a Youth Board member and part of a Community Action Team. Alistair has also volunteered as an Associate Mentor on the programme . He is currently studying Theatre, Film, Spanish and Business at college and he hopes to study Community Drama in the future. He also holds down two part time jobs in his spare time. 

Maisie Dowd

Maisie is recent graduate of NCS with The Challenge and the newest member of our Board.  

She is passionate about sport and represents Great Britain in softball.  She also volunteers as a mentor for participants of the Duke of Edinburgh's award having completed her Bronze, Silver and soon to be Gold Awards. Maisie is currently studying English, Geography, Psychology and Religious Studies at college and hopes to study one of these subjects at university.

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Senior Leadership Team

Chief Executive

Craig is Chief Executive and one of the founders of The Challenge. He joined following almost three years at Rio Tinto and seven years at Procter & Gamble where he held a variety of financial management and business development roles. He has also worked with Marakon Associates, a leading strategy consulting firm, where he founded their London pro bono practice. During his career Craig has worked with a variety of third sector organisations, including ARK Schools, The Prince’s Trust, Voiceability and Raleigh International.

Craig read Politics and Economics at the University of Sheffield.

Oliver Lee OBE 

CEO (2014- )Oliver joined The Challenge in 2014 following twenty years in the Royal Marines. He served in Bosnia, Nothern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, including in command of the coalition forces in Nad-e-Ali District, Helmand Province. He also worked on the personal staffs of the Chief of Defence Staff and Ministers. His final job was as a colonel, leading one of the courses at the UK’s Defence Academy.

Oliver is married with two sons aged 9 and 6. He was educated at King Edward’s School in Birmingham and Jesus College, Cambridge.

Jon Yates / Strategy and Development Director

Jon is one of the founders and heads up Strategy and Development where his responsibilities include incubating new programmes, innovation, fundraising, public affairs and evaluation. Before this role, Jon was the first Operations Director for The Challenge. Prior to this Jon worked in international development for the Acumen Fund and Tearfund, spending time in Kenya and the USA. Before this, Jon was a management consultant for McKinsey & Company working for public, private and non-profit clients. During both of these periods, Jon also spent time working with young people, running residential programmes for 13-18 year olds.

Jon has a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford.

Benny Goodman / Director of Operations

Benny is one of the founders and the organisation’s Director of Operations, leading the front-line delivery of the programme through the Staffing and Programmes departments.  Previously he was responsible for the Sales and Marketing team – a role he had held since the start of The Challenge.

Benny joined The Challenge during the R&D phase in December 2008 from Deloitte, where he had qualified as a Chartered Accountant working within the Enterprise Risk Services group. Benny was keen to return to the non-profit sector, having spent a year in Hong Kong with Crossroads International, a fast-growing charity who re-distribute quality superseded goods globally to those in need. Prior to his work with The Challenge, Benny was also involved in leading various residential programmes for young people, giving him insight into the significant benefits of such opportunities.

Benny has a Master’s degree in Engineering Science from the University of Oxford.

Alexis Meech / Head of Systems

Alexis is one of the founders of The Challenge. She heads up the Systems department, which is responsible for creating scalable tools to support all operational aspects of the organisation. Prior to this role, Alexis headed up our Central Operations team, a role which integrated systems creation with the management of the Central Communications team.

Alexis joined the organisation following experience in the theatre production industry and at a charity - Stage One - dedicated to supporting new theatre producers. 

Ivan Wise / Head of Staffing

Ivan leads the staffing department, which in 2013 will recruit, assess and contract 1800 mentors, leaders and other staff to work on NCS with The Challenge. Ivan previously led an outreach scheme with youth charity WorldWide Volunteering, promoting voluntary work to young people in 1000 schools, colleges, prisons and care homes. He also worked as publicity officer for gap year charity Lattitude, and has volunteered with Westminster Youth Offending Team, Cruse Bereavement Care and mentoring charity Family Friends.

He read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Oxford.

Rob Ovens / Chief Financial Officer

Rob joined The Challenge in March 2012 following a successful career in the media industry. Rob qualified as a Chartered Accountant with city firm FW Stephens & Co. and subsequently moved to London Weekend Television where he rose to Director of Finance. He moved to Granada Sky Broadcasting as Finance Director before becoming Chief Operating Officer and was appointed Managing Director in 2003.

In 2006 he relocated to Dubai and was appointed Senior Vice President of Finance for Showtime Arabia, the leading pay TV operator in the Middle East, before returning in 2009 to establish JRM Media, a media investment company.

Rob is also a trustee and treasurer of Tourettes Action.

Rebecca Carter / Sales and Marketing Director

Rebecca joined The Challenge in September 2012 following nine years in the pharmaceutical industry with Bristol Myers Squibb, where she held sales and marketing and scientific communication positions, at both the national (in the UK, Belgium and Netherlands) and pan-European level. Rebecca has also worked in strategy and finance with the management consultancy Marakon Associates where she worked with a variety of clients in the UK, Switzerland and the US.

Rebecca has a BSc in Biological Sciences from the University of Manchester, a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Cambridge, and an MBA from London Business School.

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