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People

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Essie North

CEO

Essie steers Big Change’s strategy and partnerships portfolio to help scale our impact. Prior to joining Big Change in 2014, she worked with social entrepreneurs and organisations driven by social purpose to achieve their bold ambitions – helping them do well, be well and do good. A qualified business coach, she combines this with a background in psychology and 10 years’ experience with CEB, challenging and supporting the world’s leading companies to think differently about how to engage their networks to drive change. Essie is passionate about people, constantly learning and challenging assumptions about how we do things to help individuals and organisations thrive. Shamelessly idealistic, she likes nothing more than travelling, meeting people and experiencing new things and perspectives.

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Noah Bernstein

Operations Director

Noah is a start-up specialist with over 10 years’ experience across the public and private sectors, splitting his time between the UK and sub-Saharan Africa. He’s worked with the Nike Foundation, Girl Effect, Médecins Sans Frontières, WJR and the German government setting up and then scaling programmes that fuse innovation and sustainability in support of the greater good. When not dotting i’s and crossing t’s, Noah’s implementing flexible, partner-oriented solutions. Noah’s the proud father of three rowdy boys and Chair of the fast-growing charity Goods For Good.

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Noah Devereux

Community Director

Noah, a.k.a Captain Strive, joined Big Change in its infancy in 2013. After University, Noah worked with anti-poaching units in Kenya, ran a ski company in France and worked at Pagefield Communications in London. Co-founding Strive with Sam Branson, Noah is responsible for managing Big Change’s amazing community, bringing new donors to the table, ensuring current donors have a positive and impactful experience of giving, and for creating amazing event experiences (Strive being one of them). In his spare time Noah is dad to a little boy, meaning striving is part of his home life as well!

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Zoë White

Marketing and Communications Manager

Zoë is Big Change’s Marketing and Communications Manager, working to develop creative ways to share our beliefs, learnings, and project partners with our networks. A proud Kiwi and adoptive Scot, she has worked in marketing across across the food and drink, and publishing industries before moving deliberately into not-for-profit with Big Change. Zoë loves to keep learning and so, devours podcasts on science.

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Caitlin Ross

Impact Manager

Caitlin leads on the identification, funding and support of our pioneering project partners in the UK. She also leads on Big Change’s impact strategy, making sure we gather the insights we need to keep growing and learning, both as a charity and as a funder. Caitlin has a frontline background in microfinance and in youth work, working on the ground with organizations in Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. She brings her experience delivering scalable, impact-focused interventions to Big Change’s grant giving and impact work to support pioneers who are helping young people thrive in life.

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Freddie Morton-Hooper

Community Manager

Freddie is our Community Manager and works with Noah (our Community Director) to help grow an engaged, informed and actively contributing community of Big Changers. Freddie’s always worked in small teams that punch above their weight, and is a firm believer in the power of uniting diverse networks of people to create long-term, positive change in the world. He’s passionate about the arts, sport, travelling, food, food and food some more.

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Sarina Hancock

Team Coordinator

With a background in design, Sarina helps to bring the Big Change culture and experience into all that we do. A planner by nature and nurturer at heart, she is passionate about cultivating a vibrant, supportive workplace for great work to flourish and keeps everything running smoothly. Having worked across a wide range of unique projects and events across the globe it was her role launching a pioneering pilot project to reduce the population of disease-spreading mosquitoes in the Caribbean that lured her into the non-profit sector.

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Phil Nevin

Trustee Board Chairman

Phil’s background is in property development. He recently co-founded x+why, a flexible member’s workspace who’s purpose is to change the way the world works for good. He balances this with his responsibilities as Chariman of Big Change. Having organised the world record breaking ‘Caterpillar Run’ in 2010, which Big Change originated from, his involvement is now focused on helping guide the organisation towards achieving scale and creating positive cycles of change benefiting young people in the UK.

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Holly Branson

Holly splits her time between working as an active member of the Leadership team at Virgin Management (focusing on the purpose of the group and making Virgin the best place to work) and philanthropic activities – she is Chair of Virgin Unite, a Trustee and Founder of Big Change, and Co-Chair of WE Day UK as well as a patron of Virgin Money Giving. Holly passionately believes in supporting innovative thinkers and grassroots organisations whose big ideas, when brought to scale, will make a real difference in the world.

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Sam Richardson

Sam is passionate about the power of sport. The physical and mental challenges it brings that help people grow and develop. For the past 15 years Sam has worked for the Lawn Tennis Association. His current focus is to develop strategic programmes that support long term growth in participation. In particular, Sam is working on programmes that give more children the opportunity to try tennis. Married to Camilla, he has two children and is a keen runner, triathlete and tennis player. Next physical challenge: a full Ironman!

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Dave Scott

After studying law at the London School of Economics, David qualified as a tax lawyer in the City. Believing that he could do more outside the City walls, David moved to Harbottle & Lewis, a law firm specialising in technology, media and entertainment. He is Head of Corporate Tax and Head of Charities & Philanthropy at Harbottle & Lewis, advising not-for-profit organisations on all charity law issues and also providing philanthropic advice to individuals.

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Rich Perry

Richard has been involved in transforming and building a range of highly successful marketing and branding consultancies, and has provided strategic counsel to world leading brands for some 25 years. Most recently Richard launched Founded in 2012 through which he won the MAA’s Breakthrough Agency of the Year. Before setting up Founded, Richard was part owner and COO at Gyro, a worldwide agency that he helped grow from 6 to 900 people in 17 countries. Richard lives in Surrey with his wife, Amanda, and two daughters. He loves Elvis.

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Beatrice York

Beatrice works full time doing strategy and business development and is involved with a variety of UK charities. Beatrice is dyslexic and passionate about helping young people who learn slightly differently get the best results they can. Since she was 18 she has been an ambassador for Children in Crisis who build schools and provide learning opportunities in conflict zones. Finding the confidence to believe in yourself can be so hard and through Big Change she wants to ensure young people have a chance to feel they can achieve anything.

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Benjamin Hay

Benjamin’s career has spanned start-ups, strategy consulting, the legal profession and philanthropy. He was part of the family at Virgin Group for six years, where he led Strategy and Operations for Virgin Unite. Benjamin is hugely proud to be a trustee of Big Change and he also supports and advises a number of other charities and social enterprises including The Diversity Project Charity, On Purpose, The NewNow and Campaign Against Antisemitism.

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Derek Gannon

In July 2018 Derek stepped into the position of Managing Director, after initially joining Virgin Unite as a Consultant. He was immediately impressed by the sheer scale and enormous scope of the projects the Unite team work to develop. Prior to Unite, he founded a consultancy to work with values-led organisations, as well as foundations and various philanthropists and entrepreneurs. He was COO at Comic Relief and COO at Guardian News and Media where he focused on major business-change programmes.

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Alistair McGregor

Alistair started off in the commerce industry as Finance Director of Viners, which was sold in 2000. He stayed on as Group CFO looking after China, Mexico, Canada, Australia as well as the UK until 2007 when he decided to join the charity sector. Alistair has since worked in a number of organisations and was interim Finance Director at Whizz Kids before joining Virgin Unite in 2010 and has been a Trustee with Big Change since it’s inception – he is now our all round financial guru.

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Eloise Haylor

Education and Advocacy Specialist

Eloise supports Big Change on strategy and international partnerships. She is a proud Geographer, who loves connecting ideas, people and places. An advocate of the transformative potential of youth action and the power of empathy, she previously worked at Project Everyone to build the World’s Largest Lesson initiative in partnership with UNICEF, which has shared the Sustainable Development Goals with millions of children in 40+ languages. Eloise is happiest on the move, having recently returned to the UK from Colombia she is always ready to dance.

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Heather Vernon

Education and Advocacy Specialist

An experienced policy and campaigns consultant, Heather works with Big Change on advocacy and coalition-building. Beginning her career teaching in challenging schools in the West Midlands, Heather later worked internationally on education and youth issues at a range of organisations. Having held senior positions in the non-profit sector, including at Teach First and More in Common, she was previously a Political Advisor to the Labour Party with a strong focus on young people and social equality. Her portfolio of clients include the United Nations, the Institute of Education, the Chartered College of Teaching, the Educational Collaborative for International Schools, and a range of parliamentarians.

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Tom Kenyon

Education and Communications Specialist

Tom began his career creating award-winning digital learning campaigns for the BBC and Channel 4. He spent two years at Nesta as Director of Digital Education, before building an innovation consultancy co-creating youth-led service design and content for clients such as Public Health England, National Crime Agency and British Council. He joined Big Change in 2018.

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Jeremiah Emmanuel

Jeremiah is a prominent youth activist in the London area. In 2013, as Deputy Young Mayor of Lambeth, he founded an organisation called 1BC (One Big Community) which seeks to end youth violence in the streets of London. He also serves as head of the Youth Council for BBC Radio 1, actively trying to target programmes to younger audiences. Deeply motivated and inspiring, Jeremiah is passionate about closing the intergenerational gap and creating fresh, exciting opportunities for young people. He also never fails to get the entire room laughing!

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Morten Albaek

Morten is the Creator and Executive Chairman of Voluntas Group. Before founding Voluntas, he spent several years in the top management of the Danske Bank group and the executive committee of Vestas Wind Systems. As the Vice Chairman of JOE & THE JUICE, one of the fastest growing retail concepts in the world, he holds numerous board positions in international companies and organisations and has also authored four books. Morten offers invaluable perspective and advice and is constantly pushing us to be bigger and better.

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(Lord) Jim Knight

Jim Knight works in education, medtech and as a legislator. He is an expert in politics, leadership, digital disruption, and talent recruitment and development. Jim is the Chief Education and External Officer at TES Global Ltd and is also a founder of XRapid. As a UK government minister his portfolios included rural affairs, schools, digital and employment. He was a member of Gordon Brown’s Cabinet 2009-2011. He is also a visiting Professor at the Knowledge Lab of the UCL Institute of Education and Chair of Whole Education.

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Sally Davey

Sally is a highly successful travel entrepreneur with a passion for responsible tourism, as well as a member of our advisory board at Big Change. She is the founder of Tripbod, an online knowledge-sharing travel community, which was acquired by TripAdvisor in 2014. Sally now runs industry relations for TripAdvisor globally, with a focus on creating cross-sector collaborations to leverage tourism’s unique position in tackling some of the world’s most pressing sustainable development challenges.

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Tim Davey

Tim is a creative entrepreneur and co-founder of onefinestay. Prior to founding onefinestay (which was recently acquired by Accor), Tim studied theoretical physics at Imperial College and co-founded Snaptalent. Having built his first company through y-combinator at the age of 20, he now remains an active mentor at Europe’s top tech incubators EntrepreneursFirst and Seedcamp. A member of Privacy International’s advisory board, Tim brings to the table a combination of technical and creative genius, and an understanding of how small passionate teams coupled with bold investment can create transformative world change.

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Richard Macklin

Richard is Global Vice Chair of Dentons, the world’s largest law firm. He spent half of his career outside the UK, before returning to London where he led the firm’s M&A department and working as Global Head of Client Relations. Richard speaks on strategy and innovation around the world, is an accredited coach working on a pro bono basis, a promoter of diversity and inclusion in the board room, and sits on a number of advisory and charitable boards. He is passionate about encouraging a growth mindset among all those he comes into contact with.

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Joann McPike

Joann founded THINK Global School – an independent, not-for-profit traveling boarding school that allows students to study in 12 different countries during a four-year high school experience. Now on the Board of Directors for the school, she guides the continual success of students from over 20 countries. In addition Joann is a professional, published photographer whose work has been displayed in Sweden and Australia. As someone passionate about education and familiar with developing and scaling projects, she offers valuable insights to Big Change on how to grow and spread our reach.

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Lord Rumi Verjee

Lord Verjee is a highly successful serial entrepreneur, having founded Domino’s Pizza UK and undertaken high-end property development in London and Rio. Formerly Chairman of Thomas Goode, he now focuses his attention on his charitable work and public life. Founding The Rumi Foundation in 2006, he supports a diverse range of humanitarian initiatives through education, innovation and knowledge building. Chairman of WE UK, member of the Advisory Board for the London 2012 Olympics and was appointed to the House of Lords by HMQ in 2013.

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Jonathan Bullock (aka ‘JB’)

JB is a London based strategic adviser, start-up chairman, angel investor and executive coach. He enjoys applying his experience in building, scaling and transforming operations, working with the world’s premier companies and business people. He has worked for Google, SoftBank, Sky and various other TMT and retail companies.

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Christopher Persson

Chris is a Swedish born entrepreneur and investor. As the Co-Founder of the London Interdisciplinary School (LIS), his latest venture aim to provide a new, innovative University education for that those that want to shape the world, not just fit in. Chris is also a Co-Founder of Bookatable, mentor at Seedcamp and Singularity University. He lives in London with his family.

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Sam Branson

A film maker, adventurer, philanthropist and passionate musician, Sam also founded the Strive Challenge which has seen over 600 participants travel over 6000km, raising £6million pounds for Big Change. As founder of Sundog Pictures he also sits as a non-executive on the board of Virgin Group and Virgin Unite. His passion for adventure and the environment has seen him endure many challenges, including a 1,400 mile dogsled expedition in the Arctic to raise awareness for climate change. He is currently songwriting and performing his songs under his artist name, Love Mafia.

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Isabella Branson

Following her training at LAMDA, Isabella has performed on Film, TV and the stage including hit shows in London’s West End and at The National Theatre. Alongside, she has made short films for charities in London, Haiti, India and Uganda to increase awareness and maximize their fundraising capabilities. Working for Kids Company in London, Isabella saw first hand the challenges faced by young people in the UK. She believes self esteem and self worth are essential to positive development and character based learning is key if young people are to succeed in life.

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