Director Team


Oliver Lee OBE

Chief Executive

Oliver is responsible for the executive leadership of The Challenge. He joined the organisation in 2014 following twenty years in the Royal Marines, serving in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan, including in command of the coalition forces in Nad-e-Ali District, Helmand Province. He also worked on the personal staffs of the Chief of Defence Staff and Ministers. His final military job was as a colonel, leading one of the courses at the UK’s Defence Academy.

Oliver is married with two sons aged 11 and 8. He has a degree in geography from Jesus College, Cambridge.


Rebecca Carter

Strategy and Operational Effectiveness Director

Rebecca leads on The Challenge's strategic direction, longer-term plans and corporate branding as well as organisation-wide projects that increase our effectiveness and efficiency. She joined the organisation in September 2012 following nine years in the pharmaceutical industry with Bristol Myers Squibb, where she held sales and marketing and scientific communication positions at both the national (in the UK, Belgium and Netherlands) and pan-European level. Rebecca has also worked in strategy and finance with the management consultancy Marakon Associates, where she worked with a variety of clients in the UK, Switzerland and the US.

Rebecca has a degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Manchester, a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Cambridge, and an MBA from London Business School.

Patrick Cooper

IT Director

Patrick joined The Challenge as IT Director at the start of 2017 in a new role to the organisation and is responsible for IT and Facilities.

Before arriving here he had a career traversing the private, public and social sectors. He’s held a variety of roles, most of them centred on technology, in a rather diverse sequence of organisations, ranging in size from a large multinational (Reuters) down to his own small consultancy in the City. He’s just finished a period of fourteen years as a school governor in the primary and secondary sectors and was a National Leader of Governance for the final four of those years.

Patrick moved to the UK from Canada in the late 80s, got married, had four children and has somehow retained an accent. He has a degree in Actuarial Science and Computer Science from the University of Toronto and an MBA from London Business School.

Mark Cornish

Chief Financial Officer

Mark is responsible for the financial management of The Challenge. He joined The Challenge in September 2014 from Bowel Cancer UK, where he held the position of Director of Finance and Resources before becoming Chief Operating Officer. Earlier in his career, Mark qualified as a Chartered Accountant with KPMG and subsequently joined the British Wool Marketing Board, where he rose to become the Finance Director of the main operating subsidiary.

Mark is married with 3 children and a border terrier called Tommy, and enjoys walking and sailing. He is a co-opted member of the Charity Finance Group's finance sub-committee, is a Director of his children's local senior school, and has a degree in Economics from Bradford University.

Karen Forde

HR and Organisational Development Director

Karen is the Director for HR and Organisational Development and joined the Challenge in March 2016. This is a relatively new Directorship which is focused on strengthening all elements of our employee proposition. Prior to joining the Challenge Karen worked in Food and Automotive retail.

Karen lives near Colchester and when she isn't working she enjoys keeping herself fit and watching live football with her husband.

Benny Goodman

Director of NCS

Benny is one of the founders of The Challenge and is the organisation’s Director of NCS. He therefore leads the delivery of our National Citizen Service (NCS) programme. Previously he was Director of Operations and therefore responsible for the NCS Staffing and Programmes teams.

Benny joined The Challenge during the R&D phase in December 2008 from Deloitte, where he had qualified as a Chartered Accountant working within the Enterprise Risk Services group. Benny was keen to return to the non-profit sector, having spent a year in Hong Kong with Crossroads International, a fast-growing charity who re-distribute quality superseded goods globally to those in need. Prior to his work with The Challenge, Benny was also involved in leading various residential programmes for young people, giving him insight into the significant benefits of such opportunities.

Benny is married to Claire, has three children under 5, and is normally tired by the end of the weekend. He has a degree in Engineering Science from the University of Oxford.

Dominic May MBE

Operations and Performance Director

Dominic is responsible for The Challenge’s three current operational business units, namely: NCS, Step Forward and HeadStart. He joined in February 2017 from Amazon where he was employed as a senior operations manager responsible for all delivery operations in the South West of England and Wales. Prior to that he served for thirty years in the Royal Marines, including operational tours of duty in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. His final military appointment was as a colonel, in command of the Commando Logistic Regiment.

Dominic is married with two adult children. He enjoys fly-fishing, golf and supporting Exeter Chiefs Rugby Club. He has a Masters degree from Cranfield University.

Jon Yates

External Affairs and Operations (Non-NCS) Director

Jon leads the teams which oversee the delivery of HeadStart, Step Forward and our Public Affairs work. He is one of the founders of The Challenge, designed the original NCS curriculum and led the NCS Operations team for 4 years. Prior to working for The Challenge, Jon first moved to London to start a career as a stand-up comedian but instead found himself building a rather atypical career in youth work, management consultancy, community work and international development including time at the Acumen Fund, Tearfund and McKinsey & Company.

Jon lives in south-west London with his wife and three children. He has a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford.