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The Charity CEO Podcast

Business & Economics Podcasts

Featuring candid, meaningful discussions that get beneath the surface of issues, this podcast aims to inspire, inform and deliver practical insights on the challenges affecting charity and nonprofit leaders today. For the benefit of leaders across the sector and for people who care about the important work of charities. Tackling a different theme each episode, Dhivya O’Connor, a charity CEO herself, invites top CEOs to share their unique insights, expert knowledge, and lessons learned running successful charities. The Charity CEO Podcast is produced and hosted by Dhivya O’Connor. For more details visit


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Featuring candid, meaningful discussions that get beneath the surface of issues, this podcast aims to inspire, inform and deliver practical insights on the challenges affecting charity and nonprofit leaders today. For the benefit of leaders across the sector and for people who care about the important work of charities. Tackling a different theme each episode, Dhivya O’Connor, a charity CEO herself, invites top CEOs to share their unique insights, expert knowledge, and lessons learned running successful charities. The Charity CEO Podcast is produced and hosted by Dhivya O’Connor. For more details visit



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Ep 49. Dianne Calvi, President & CEO Village Enterprise: Full bellies and big dreams!

With an audacious goal to lift 20m people in Africa out of extreme poverty by 2030, Dianne Calvi, President and CEO and of Village Enterprise, joins us to share how they plan to make this happen. Centred around their core value of ‘Ubuntu’, a South African term, which means ‘humanity’ or ‘I am because we are’, Village Enterprise seeks to transform lives through entrepreneurship, innovation and collective action. By partnering with other nonprofits, governments, agencies, and private sector companies, Village Enterprise equips first-time entrepreneurs in Africa with the resources and skills to start climate-smart businesses and savings groups. We talk about their Poverty Graduation Model and building up their evidence base, using Randomised Control Trials, which has helped catalyse funding for their exciting new programme: working with USAID, the French and the Rwandan governments to end extreme poverty in Rwanda for good. Dianne also shares her personal family story, revealing what really drives her to do this work, which, as one of their entrepreneurs says, is all about enabling full bellies and big dreams. Recorded March 2024. Note: The title of this episode is a direct quote from an entrepreneur that Village Enterprise supports in Africa, describing the impact of their work.


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Ep 48. Cherie Blair CBE KC, Founder, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women: Enabling economic gender justice

“There is a problem! Business has a problem, the world has a problem, because we are just not utilising the talents, the ambitions, the drive of half the world’s population (the female half)... Economic gender justice is essential both for women’s freedom and equality, but also for the development of the world.” We are honoured to have on the podcast, Cherie Blair CBE KC! As the Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, Cherie has been a relentless advocate for women's rights, particularly in low and middle-income countries. Our discussion delves into her vision for the Foundation, her journey as a leading barrister and King's Counsel in the male-dominated legal profession, and the gendered challenges women still confront today. Cherie is of course, the wife of the former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and is an inspiration to women across the world. Recorded January 2024.


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Ep 47. Karen Burgess, Founder & CEO Petals, with Alice Bailey: Life after Baby Loss

"Petals supported us through our absolute darkest days." Trigger warning: This episode explores and talks about miscarriage, stillbirth and baby loss. Baby loss and miscarriage is something that many parents face and yet it is still something that is not openly talked about in today’s society. In this very special episode, I speak with Karen Burgess, Founder & CEO of the charity Petals, that provides counselling support to families affected by baby loss. Karen and I are joined by Alice. Alice shares with us the story of her daughter, Vera, and the journey that she and her husband, Dave, have been on with Petals. Together we seek to dispel the stigma surrounding baby loss and encourage those who need support to reach out to specialist services like Petals. Recorded August 2023.


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Ep 46. Nisha Anand, CEO Dream.Org: Finding common ground with unlikely allies

“The humanity that connects us is stronger than what has been created to divide us”. Nisha Anand is the CEO of Dream.Org, a nonprofit organization that brings people together across racial, social and partisan lines to solve society’s toughest problems. A born change-maker, Nisha was arrested in 1998 while handing out pro-democracy leaflets in the military dictatorship of Myanmar and was sentenced to five years in jail. Her arrest put her on the international stage and changed her thinking on how to bring about lasting change and reform. This is her story and that of, an organisation that was founded by CNN commentator and New York Times bestselling author, Van Jones, and that Nisha has led as CEO since 2019. With her team at, Nisha works at the intersection of criminal justice reform, green economics and tech equity, to develop innovative solutions to social and racial justice issues. Recorded August 2023.


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Ep 45. Laura Kyrke-Smith, Executive Director International Rescue Committee UK: Re-settlement for Success

“It was thanks to this country that lots of those rights and protections that exist for refugees are in place … but now… you get that sense in lots of parts of the world, frankly, that the UK isn’t playing the active role that it has played historically.” The International Rescue Committee is a global organisation that helps people affected by humanitarian crises. The IRC supports people who have been caught in conflict and been forced to flee their homes, enabling them to survive, recover and rebuild their lives. Founded at the call of Albert Einstein in 1933, the IRC today works in over 40 crisis-affected countries, as well as with communities across Europe and the Americas. Laura Kyrke-Smith is the Executive Director of the International Rescue Committee in the UK. We talk about the current global context for refugees - 108 million people forcibly displaced around the world. Contrary to popular opinion, the vast majority of these displaced people are not in the wealthy countries in the Global North, but are either within their own country or within a neighbouring country, often also a low and middle income country. We discuss the UK’s Illegal Migration Bill, which seeks to remove the right to asylum - a stance that is in stark contrast to Britain’s position back in 1951, as one of the original drafters of the Refugee Convention. And how today, Britain’s standing on the international humanitarian stage is sadly not, what it once was. Recorded June 2023.


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Ep 44. Ruth Marvel, CEO The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award: A vision for young people

“Deceptively simple, but devastatingly effective” This is how Ruth Marvel, Chief Executive of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in the UK, describes the Award. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was started by His Royal Highness the late Prince Philip in 1956 to provide young men with development opportunities to acquire self-confidence, gain a sense of purpose and help them become well-rounded citizens. Today, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award or DofE provides an experiential learning framework that is open to all young people age 14 to 24, supporting them to learn new skills, overcome obstacles, and build confidence and resilience. Ruth shares how the organisation has changed over the years, and we explore their current strategy to enable one million young people to participate in the life-changing programmes, with particular focus on providing access to those who experience marginalisation. With a third of young people in the UK leaving school feeling like they are failing, we talk about the current context for young people, and what skills, outside of formal education, they need to really thrive in today’s world. Ruth also shares reflections on the discipline of leadership in the voluntary sector and how as leaders, we constantly need to question whether we are delivering our missions in the most effective way. Recorded June 2023.


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Ep 43. Mark Russell, CEO The Children’s Society: Fighting for Hope and Happiness

“You change the world, when you change the lives of children… It is better for society to build stronger children, than fix broken adults.” The Children’s Society believes that every young person deserves a good childhood. Reflecting on the current context for young people in the UK today, is Mark Russell, CEO of The Children’s Society. Mark tells us how he and his colleagues are stepping up the fight for hope and happiness for young people, at a time when its under threat like never before. We explore the ramifications of the UK government’s Illegal Migration Bill and why British children have the lowest well-being rates in Europe. The goal of The Children’s Society is that by 2030, the damaging decline in children’s well-being has been overturned, setting a path for long lasting growth and prosperity. Mark sets out what he believes needs to happen for us to get there. Its a conversation full of passion, raw anger and hope. Enjoy. Recorded May 2023.


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Ep 42. Areeba Hamid and Will McCallum co-Executive Directors, Greenpeace UK: Co-leading for Change

“We have won the war on climate denial… (but) we cannot underestimate what an enormous fight this is… the climate movement being mainstream doesn’t mean we have the power to make change happen yet.” In this episode, I have the privilege of speaking with not one, but two impressive non-profit leaders: Areeba Hamid and Will McCallum, co-Executive Directors of Greenpeace UK. What's unique about Areeba and Will is that together they have shattered several barriers in their leadership roles. Areeba is the first woman and person of colour to lead Greenpeace UK, and, they are the first duo to assume this position. We dive into the essential role that Greenpeace continues to play in today's world, where the climate movement has become mainstream, and how their work continues to influence policy and drive social change. We explore the co-leadership model that Areeba and Will have adopted, discovering what makes it work and how they navigate conflicts. They also share valuable advice for other charity leaders and organisations who may be contemplating this approach. Recorded April 2023.


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Ep 41. Anna Josse, Founder & CEO Prism the Gift Fund: The Joy of Giving, without the hassle of admin!

“Gift Aid, yes people know about it (but) they still dont understand it… there is about £750m unclaimed in Gift Aid every year, split between smaller charities unable to claim or dont have the skills to do it and higher rate tax-payers not really understanding … how they could be claiming an additional 25% on the gross (donation) in their tax returns.” Our guest today is Anna Josse, Founder and CEO of Prism the Gift Fund. Prism is a UK-based charity that is changing the face of philanthropy. Prism’s mission is to increase the flow of funds into the charitable sector, through creating efficiencies in the process of giving. Prism offers a unique and straight-forward alternative to setting up a charitable foundation, enabling donors to give tax-efficiently without the administrative hassle. Since its inception in 2005, Prism has facilitated over £550m in donations to thousands of charities across the world. In this episode, we dive into the different services offered by Prism, including Donor Advised Funds and Collective Funds. We explore how their innovative approach is revolutionising mid to high level giving in the UK, and also discuss the rise of the Philanthropy Paradox. Anna shares her insights on how the UK charity sector can learn from the American approach to philanthropy, as well as her vision for making philanthropy accessible to all. Recorded February 2023.


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Ep 40. Ella Gudwin, CEO VisionSpring: Enabling a billion people to see

“Creating One VisionSpring is anchored in what we do, so our mission and our social enterprise models, and its anchored in how we do it, and that is in the values that are at the heart of our teamwork… I cant emphasise enough how much values are critical to our success.” There are over a billion people in the world who don’t have the eye-glasses they need. VisionSpring is a non-profit that provides affordable eyeglasses to people in need. The organisation aims to improve the lives of people, particularly in low income settings, by increasing access to eyeglasses. With partnerships in over 43 countries they are on a mission to make the wonder of clear vision possible for everyone. My guest today is Ella Gudwin, CEO of VisionSpring. Under Ella’s leadership, VisionSpring has tripled its impact, selling over 10 million affordable eyeglasses in emerging and frontier markets. Ella talks about how eyeglasses improve daily functioning, productivity and earning potential, creating a greater likelihood of a pathway out of poverty. We discuss hybrid business models, Board dynamics, mentoring and developing organisational values. Ella shares her insights on taking over from a Founder and what it means to have received a transformational $15m gift from Mackenzie Scott. Recorded February 2022.


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Ep 39. Siobhan McCarthy Morton, CEO Adventure Ashram: A small but mighty force against human trafficking

“That hope that the women and children that are supported (by the charity)... have a chance for a better future... and can determine their futures themselves. Being able to help people pursue their own dreams in life... their own adventures... is really nothing short of a privilege." There are 8 million people affected by human trafficking in India every year, and over 50 million globally. According to the UN, 79% of human trafficking is for sexual exploitation and 20% of all trafficking victims are children. Adventure Ashram is a small but mighty charity that is looking to change this! Driven by a spirit of adventure and freedom, the Adventure Ashram focuses on supporting grassroots anti-trafficking and education projects in South India. In this episode I speak with their CEO, Siobhan McCarthy Morton. Adventure Ashram’s Vision is a world without injustice, in which all people can enjoy their rights, their self-determination and their freedom. We talk about Adventure Ashram’s partnership delivery model, and Siobhan tells us about mobilising for their iconic Yoga Stops Traffick global event, with a team of just 3, showcasing the power of collective action. Siobhan also sounds a rallying cry for the value and importance of small charities, with a reminder that all charities, no matter how large or small, are made up of a community of people who care deeply about a cause, and this, is what makes them powerful change-makers. Recorded December 2022.


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Ep 38. Alex Day, Managing Director Big Give: The Generosity Multiplier!

“What we have learned throughout the years of running the Big Give… is that Match Funding is a great way to get more people to give, and people to give more.” The Big Give is the UK’s leading online match funding platform. The Big Give Christmas Challenge took place from the 29th of November to the 6th of December 2022 and in that one week, raised £28.6m for over 1,000 charities across the UK. With more than £233m raised to date, the Big Give has been a huge enabler of digital fundraising through Match Funding. With the strap line “Matching Donations, Multiplying Impact”, they are in essence, a Generosity Multiplier. In this episode I speak with the Big Give’s Managing Director, Alex Day, about how the Big Give came into being, its plans for the future, and tech as an enabler for social good. Alex also shares how through a focus on building resilience, skills and profile for charities, and amplifying the campaign’s messaging, they have enabled 92% of participating organisations to reach new supporters bringing in a third of the overall donations. Charity fundraisers, listen to find out about the Big Give’s campaigns that are launching this year and how your charity could benefit. Recorded December 2022.


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Ep 37. Bejal Shah, CEO ReachOut and Verena Hefti MBE, CEO Leaders Plus: The Power of Mentoring!

“In a way what we are doing, is we’re engineering social and cultural capital for those who don’t have it… that’s what mentoring is” In this episode we explore a new format for the show. Two charity CEOs having a panel discussion on the topic of mentoring: Bejal Shah, CEO of ReachOut and Verena Hefti, Founder and CEO of Leaders Plus. ReachOut is a mentoring and education charity, rooted in local communities. Working in under-resourced areas across the UK, ReachOut’s programmes support young people to grow in character and confidence, sparking change in themselves and society. Leaders Plus is a social enterprise working with individuals during maternity leave, shared parental leave and beyond, to progress in their careers whilst enjoying their young families. The Leaders Plus flagship Fellowship programme support parents to progress in big careers whilst juggling small children. We talk about the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of mentoring, how it applies to different age-groups and how each organisation measures that all important evidence of impact. And above all, how the experience of mentoring can have a transformational impact on an individual’s life and career trajectory. Recorded September 2022.


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Ep 36. Jean-Michel Grand, CEO Action Against Hunger UK: No child should die of hunger!

“No child should die from hunger… we have the treatment… this treatment has 95% cure rate… and (yet) only 20% of the severely malnourished children in the world have access to this (life-saving) treatment” In a world where enough food is produced to feed everyone on earth, how is it that nearly 3 billion people - over a third of the world’s population - can’t get the food that they need to survive! Jean-Michel Grand, CEO of Action Against Hunger UK, shares his views on what is driving this global humanitarian crisis of hunger and what action needs to be taken to resolve it. We talk about crises in Africa, Pakistan, Ukraine and also Action Against Hunger’s programmes right here in the UK, developed in response to an increase in food poverty and food insecurity for millions of UK households. Jean-Michel lays down the challenge to the UK’s newly elected Prime Minister to put the UK’s international aid spending back up to 0.7% and to reclaim Britain’s position of influence on the global stage. He also shares some powerful leadership lessons learned over 20 years of being a CEO. Recorded September 2022.


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Ep 35. Chris Bird, CEO The Raheem Sterling Foundation: Mindset of a Champion!

“Everybody’s got a talent, but not everybody gets the opportunity. And thats what we’re about; we’re about opening that door and getting people through that door… that’s what’s missing in a lot of communities and society today… There’s a lot of talented young people out there… The Raheem Sterling Foundation is about capturing that (talent) and making sure the opportunities are there.” This episode is a very special collaboration with The Olympic Mindset Podcast. I have teamed up with its host, Dominic Broad, to bring you this conversation with Chris Bird, CEO of the newly formed Raheem Sterling Foundation. Chris is also the Founder of EQ Esports, CEO of Sports Tours International, a Trustee of The Running Bee Foundation and in the late 90s was the COO of Manchester City Football Club. We speak with Chris about leadership and what it takes to have the mindset of a champion - not just in sport but in any walk of life. Chris shares his aspirations for The Raheem Sterling Foundation and how through its focus on education, employment and social mobility, it aims to create opportunities and change the lives of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. We have a fascinating conversation about levelling up and what that means in reality versus just in a political manifesto. And of course we also talk about football. Recorded August 2022.


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Ep 34. Mita Desai, CEO Young Trustees Movement: What is the role of charity Governance? (and what Boards must do to get it right!)

“It’s not the role of a Trustee to know all the answers; it’s asking great questions. And if we only have a homogeneous group of people on (a) Board, it lowers your ability to ask really great questions from different perspectives, which lowers our ability to manage risk.” Mita Desai is the Chief Executive of the Young Trustees Movement. The Young Trustees Movement aims to double the number of young trustees, so that charity boards can better navigate uncertainty, better reflect the interests of their communities and future-proof their decision making. Currently only 3% of charity Trustees in the UK are under the age of 30. Mita talks about the disruptive campaign her organisation is running to change perspectives on who a Trustee can be. They are also raising awareness on the role of governance and what charity governance is really there to do. We talk about how organisations can create the culture for diverse perspectives to thrive, not just on their Boards but across their workforces. Mita shares practical advice on what Boards can do to ensure that representation is not tokenistic and that different voices are genuinely welcomed and valued. Mita shares her own experiences of being a young Trustee and how the maxim ‘Never let fear get in the way of the choices you want to make’ has led her to where she is today. Recorded July 2022.


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Ep 33. Barbara-Anne Walker, CEO Ashgate Hospice: Changing the conversation about death and dying

“Part of Ashgate’s ambition is to change the conversation about death and dying… to enable conversations to happen in daylight, in general conversation, about death and dying. We’re all going to die, its not something that any of us can avoid… ” Barbara-Anne Walker is the Chief Executive of Ashgate Hospice. Ashgate Hospice is a specialist hospice, providing palliative and end of life care for the community of North Derbyshire. Their vision is for people with a life-limiting illness to be able to live well, and have a good death. And for their families to be supported and comforted through the process. Less than 30% of hospice funding comes from the NHS and yet the hospices provide a vital service within the UK healthcare system. Barbara-Anne and her team at Ashgate Hospice have been prolific in engaging the community, campaigning and raising awareness for hospice funding, both locally as well as on the national stage. Barbara-Anne is emphatic about the need to change the conversation about death and dying. We talk about the organisation’s iconic Sparkle Walk event. We also talk about Ashgate Hospice’s own podcast, The Life and Death Podcast, which explores frank and honest conversations about death and what ‘dying well’ really means. Barbara-Anne shares her thoughts on the importance of visible leadership and her role, as a leader, in creating a learning culture. She also shares some practical learnings gained from working through the pandemic. Recorded May 2022.


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Ep 32. Sarah Woolnough, CEO Asthma + Lung UK: Breath is life!

“It’s terrifying not being able to breathe… and that’s informed a lot of our strategic thinking and our positioning, because nobody should have to struggle to breathe and we can do so much better for people with lung conditions.” Sarah Woolnough is the CEO of the newly rebranded charity Asthma + Lung UK. Poor lung health is the 3rd biggest killer in the UK and yet only 2% of publicly funded medical research goes towards this cause. Asthma + Lung UK is here to change that. And be the driving force behind the transformation of the nation’s lung health. Sarah talks about her learnings from leading the collaborative journey of the re-brand process. She also shares her personal experiences, being a first-time CEO, joining the organisation during lockdown and being a busy mum of 4 young children. Recorded May 2022.


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Ep 31. Suzanne Ehlers, CEO Malala Fund: Amplifying girls' voices!

“Believe in yourself. Believe that you do have the power to make the change… (Malala) believes in an individual’s ability and power to make the change that they so desire… she tells young women everywhere… believe in your story and believe in your own capacity to catalyse that change and make that impact.” The world knows the story of Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani education activist, who was shot by the Taliban when she was just 15 years old. Shot, for speaking out on behalf of girls and their right to an education. Malala Fund is working towards a world where every girl can learn and lead. Suzanne Ehlers, CEO of the Malala Fund tells us about the work the organisation does to break down barriers that hold girls back, creating change pathways and amplifying girls’ voices. We also talk about our responsibilities as leaders to bring about true equity, diversity and inclusion, and how we can look to re-distribute and re-orient power in our own organisations. Suzanne also shares her personal leadership journey and why the cause of fighting for equal rights for women and girls is her “true North”. 10 years after Malala’s shooting, the Taliban have once again decreed that girls cannot go to school in Afghanistan. And so, the fight continues. Recorded May 2022.


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Ep 30. Charlotte Hill OBE, CEO The Felix Project: The Food Rescuers!

“A big piece of what we are trying to do is work with the partners to get the food to where it’s working hardest… food is (just one) part of breaking the cycle of food insecurity.” Charlotte Hill is the new Chief Executive of The Felix Project, a charity dedicated to redistributing food and fighting food poverty in London. The Felix Project believes in a vision of London where no-one goes hungry and good food is never wasted. With an ambition to deliver 100 million meals a year to Londoners by 2024, The Felix Project collects surplus food from suppliers and delivers them to over 1,000 front line organisations, such as food banks, charities and schools. All with the purpose of reducing food waste and to help the most vulnerable in London, by providing access to fresh food and healthy meals. Charlotte is a second time guest on this podcast and shares how her passions for engaging with young people and volunteers, sustainability and driving place-based change, have now all come together in the fight against food poverty. She shares a clear aspiration for stopping the cycle of food waste and food insecurity in London, enabling the city to be more sustainable and a genuine world leader in this space. Recorded January 2022.