The Big Hire: Girish Menon of ActionAid

The new chief executive of the international aid charity says he is passionate about creating a fairer world

Girish Menon
Girish Menon

It's a kind of homecoming for Girish Menon, who takes over this month as chief executive of ActionAid, leaving his current job as deputy chief executive at WaterAid. He worked for 10 years at ActionAid India from the late 1980s and is excited to be returning to the charity.

"In some ways the organisation has changed since then, but the ethos of combating poverty and inequality in the developing world is the same," he says.

He has always been passionate about creating a fairer world, he says: "I grew up in an urban part of India, but when I studied rural management I became aware of huge poverty and inequality, which made me determined to do something.

"One of the most important things I learned early on was how work at a micro level can contribute to much bigger changes in society."

With his wife and twin sons, Menon moved to the UK from India 10 years ago when he took up the WaterAid job. He says they are settled in London.

One of his aims in the new job is to maintain and develop further a collaborative approach to development work. WaterAid works with 400 partners in 22 countries around the world, compared with 15 when he started. Working in partnership with the UK government will also be important, he says, noting that the UK remains committed to spending 0.7 per cent of its GDP on aid.

He says: "With cuts to welfare in the UK it will be increasingly important for organisations such as ActionAid to work with the government on communicating the value of this work and engaging with the public on the issue."

Another big challenge for ActionAid, according to Menon, will be the UN's new sustainable development goals, which will replace its millennium development goals. The SDGs are being finalised this month. He says: "They will be very important for ActionAid's work and we'll be looking at how we can contribute to achieving the goals through building relationships with other charities, the private sector, government and the public."

Menon also aims to promote ActionAid's profile and its brand. He achieved this at WaterAid, partly by means of a dramatic growth in the charity's scale, with charitable spending increasing from £13m a year to £55m during his time there.

One of his passions is communicating his thoughts on development work through social media, particularly blogs and Twitter. "I hope I still have the time to do as much of this in my new role," he says.

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