Kirsty Marrins: Five charity women in tech who inspire me

They are helping charities deliver on their organisational strategies and putting audiences at the heart of what they do

Kirsty Marrins
Kirsty Marrins

To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, I’d like to share with you five women working in tech in the charity sector whom I greatly admire. These women are helping charities to deliver on their organisational strategies through technology and digital, and putting their audiences at the heart of what they do.

Megan Griffith Gray, National Council for Voluntary Organisations

Megan is the head of digital, data and planning at the NCVO and has been at the charity for an impressive 16 years. Her role encompasses leading the digital and data team and leading strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation across the organisation.

In 2017 she led a user-centric strategic review of the charity’s technology and digital services, which was a year of exploration and testing. She then refined business cases and found digital partners to work on making changes to the technology that would help them scale at impact without increasing their cost base.

Megan is very generous in sharing her knowledge and has been blogging about the NCVO’s technology and digital plans on So far there are six posts in the series, which include why it embarked on this journey, how it mapped out its digital ecology, how it created personas and captured new insights about its user’s needs. Read them: they’re awesome.

Giulia Merlo, Cancer Research UK

Giulia is the service design lead at CRUK and has been at the charity for almost three years, having joined as a digital proposition manager. I had been following Giulia on Twitter for ages, then came across her in person when she delivered a session at the CharityComms Charity Digital Conference on digital leadership. What struck me about Giulia is her commitment to giving herself and her team the time to reflect on what they’ve learnt, because there’s more to be gained from learning from your testing than the testing itself.

Like Megan, Giulia and her team also share their knowledge and learning through writing insightful blog posts on through the Cancer Research UK Tech Team Blog.

Lara Burns, Age UK

Lara is the chief digital and technology officer at Age UK and has been at the charity since 2014, when she joined as head of digital. I’ve met Lara a few times, but I was struck last year when she spoke at the Institute of Fundraising's Fundraising Convention and said that at Age UK digital was not "a bolt-on", but fundamental to how it was changing service delivery and enabling conversations with older people. Age UK developed an app called Steps, with support from the Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology, which helps create action plans for older people. That app served as a proof of concept and led to three funders funding digital transformation at the charity.

Lara is one of the founding contributors of the Charity Digital Code of Practice and won Best Charity Digital Leader in the 2017 Social CEOs Awards.

Dama Sathianathan, Bethnal Green Ventures

Dama is the communications manager at Bethnal Green Ventures, which helps teams launch and scale their tech for good businesses. She was previously at HelpAge International, where I first came across her when we were both awarded CharityComms Inspiring Communicator awards in 2016. In Dama’s nomination it was noted "she works relentlessly to understand and make full use of HelpAge International’s beneficiary data, unpicking and transforming it into meaningful comms projects".

As well as her day job, Dama also co-hosts the Tech for Good (London), WorkerTech, ICT4D London and Open Charity meet-ups, whose topics include "immersive tech for good", "tech to support an ageing population" and "digital design principles to improve charity services".

Emma Lawton, Parkinson’s UK

Emma is a digital strategist at Parkinson’s UK and has been at the charity since 2017, having started as the project lead for apps and devices. I first came across Emma in 2016 when she told her story at Being the Story, run by Sounddelivery. Aged just 29, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and has written a book about it: Dropping the P Bomb. In her talk, Emma said that her life was better because of Parkinson’s, thanks to all the experiences she has had.

Emma was chosen to go on the BBC’s The Big Life Fix, in which computer scientist Haiyan Zhang and her team designed a watch that vibrates to help Emma write steadily again. Now Emma uses her experiences, skills and talents to help people understand Parkinson’s – through her video diaries and blog – and to help those with Parkinson’s use technology to manage their symptoms.

She is also on the advisory board of Bansen Labs, which creates inclusive, accessible technology that enhances the quality of life for people with disabilities.

If you think I’ve missed someone off, chances are I wrote about them last year or the year before. We have some incredible talent in the charity sector; women (and men) who are using their skills and knowledge to drive change and help deliver more efficient and effective services through technology and digital.

Kirsty Marrins is a digital communications consultant

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