Focus: People Management - The big appointment

WaterAid wants new chief to 'scale up' her talents.

Barbara Frost will soon take charge of a strategy that aims to bring clean water to a million people, writes Graham Willgoss.

Barbara Frost takes over as chief executive at WaterAid when current head Ravi Narayanan retires in September.

Frost held senior management positions at ActionAid, Save the Children and Oxfam Australia before becoming chief executive of Action Disability and Development in 1996.

She is also vice-chair of Acevo, something WaterAid chairman Vic Cocker admits was "particularly attractive, because she has a good grounding in governance issues".

He adds: "Although ADD is a smaller organisation, Barbara developed the skills as a chief executive that she will apply to her new position, particularly advocacy and project delivery."

ADD works in a similar way to WaterAid in that it forges partnerships with networks of people in some of the poorest communities in the world and works with them. Cocker felt that Frost was the "exceptional candidate" because of her experience at ADD.

"She has lived and worked in developing countries," says Cocker. "It is attractive to have somebody with that experience, with a background as a chief executive and with the breadth of capabilities Barbara has.

"Her visionary leadership and extensive experience of international poverty eradication work will ensure we can build on the tremendous growth and success we have already achieved. Scaling up her talents to fit a larger organisation should be seamless."

Frost declined to comment, saying it was too early to discuss her new role.

During Frost's tenure as chief executive at ADD, the organisation doubled the number of disabled charities it works with in Africa and Asia.

ADD also shifted its focus from small-scale projects to working with local partners and governments in an attempt to encourage long-term social change.

Frost will take charge of a strategy designed to help a million people to gain access to clean water and another million to gain access to sanitation every year from 2010.

These are two of the aims set out in WaterAid's five-year strategy.

Others include working with local partner organisations to address the issues of water depletion and contamination, strengthening local government's ability to provide water and sanitation services and providing practical examples that show how sustainable water and sanitation services are essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goal of poverty reduction.

Cocker appointed Frost, 52, using the strategy as a guide. He explains: "We've been successful in developing the organisation since 1999. This has given us a clear background against which we chose who we thought was best suited to further develop WaterAid. Our intention is to scale up WaterAid, and to do this our fundraising needs to provide us with £35m a year.

"At present it's £21m a year, so there is a lot to be done, but we feel that Barbara is capable of fulfilling the task."

WaterAid received more than 100 applications for the position, which it filtered down to the six that Cocker and his board interviewed.

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