Board of Trustees

Colin Smith OBE

Colin chairs our Board, which meets every two months, is the chair of the Nominations Committee, and has a breadth of experience in the retail sector.

Until recently, Colin was Chairman of Poundland Group Holdings, Europe’s largest single price discount retailer. Prior to this, Colin was Chief Executive and Finance Director of Safeway Plc, the supermarket retailer. Colin also has previous experience in the not for profit sector as a trustee of Save The Children and as Chairman of the food industry sponsored Red Tractor assurance scheme.



Paul Armstrong

Paul works in private equity, chairs the Board’s Remuneration committee, and is a Trustee and Investment Committee member of the Social Business Trust, the social enterprise fund.

Paul supported and advised ‘Speaking Up’ during their successful merger with Advocacy Partners and worked with the management of the merged entity to facilitate their operational and financial integration and create a long-term strategic plan for the new organisation. Paul is currently a Principal at Permira, the European private equity firm, which he joined in 2007. Prior to this, Paul worked for 8 years as a solicitor at the European law firm Ashurst and, subsequently, at Fried Frank – a leading Wall St firm. Paul gained his PGDiP Law at the College of Law London, where he was the Eidos Scholar.



Jenny Ashmore

Jenny has spent her career in marketing and is President of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and Chair of the Girlguiding Trading Services.

Jenny held senior marketing positions in Procter & Gamble, Mars, Yell Group and SSE and now consults and advises organisations on marketing and strategy challenges. Her Non-Executive roles also include NED roles for Commonwealth Games, England and Saffron Building Society.



Michelle Cummins

Michelle is Group HR Director at QinetiQ, experts in defence, aerospace and security, a position which she has held since March 2016.

Prior to this role Michelle was Group HR Director for international waste management firm Shanks Group plc, a position which she held for 4 years. Michelle has held a range of progressive management positions before being appointed as Human Resources Director in the legal and regulatory division for The Thomson Corporation in 1997. Michelle then spent four years as Human Resources Director at BAE Systems, initially in their Customer Solutions and Support Naval division and then for their Land Systems division. In 2006, she joined Inchcape plc where she held a number of senior international HR Director positions based in the UK and Russia before being appointed Group Organisation Development Director.

Michelle has a Masters in Employment Studies and Human Resource Management from London Metropolitan Business School.



Martin Doel CBE

Martin Doel is Chief Executive of Association of Colleges (AoC), having taken up this role in 2008, after a successful career in the Royal Air Force. In April 2016, Martin was appointed as the first Professor of Further Education and Skills at University College London (Institute of Education). From April until September 2016, Martin will combine his professorial role with his AoC responsibilities before moving fully to the UCL(IOE) role in September and standing down at AoC.

Martin has recently been awarded a CBE in the Queen’s New Year 2016 Honours List in recognition of service to further education. Whilst in the RAF, his final role was as Director of Training and Education for all three Armed Services, working in the Ministry of Defence, the largest employer of apprentices in the UK. Prior to this he filled several operational support, personnel and training posts in the RAF, including service as the equivalent of a Director of Studies at the Joint Services Command and Staff College providing post-graduate level education to officers. He was appointed OBE in 1998 for his work in support of operations in the Balkans and for his contribution to Anglo-German relations.

He holds a Masters Degree with Distinction from King’s College, London, and a First Class Honours Degree in Education from King Alfred’s College, Winchester.

Martin is also a Trustee of the Royal London Society for the Blind, a member of the Skills Funding Agency Audit Committee, a member of the Apprenticeship Reform Stakeholder Board and British Council Education Advisory Board, and on a number of other policy consultative boards and committees.



Dan Guthrie

Dan has over 15 years of experience in Public Relations and recently acted as a Commissioner on the Social Integration Commission.

Dan has worked in both the UK and Canadian Parliaments and is a director of the public relations firm Luther Pendragon, which he also co-owns. He has worked with a range of multi-national companies and third sector organisations to enhance their reputations and deliver positive change.



Richard Wilson

Richard has specialist experience in Financial auditing and chairs the Board’s Audit and Risk committee.

He is a senior partner with Ernst and Young with significant experience of working with companies ranging from large multinational groups to privately owned companies. He has over 25 years of experience of providing assurance and advisory services with clients such as BP, BA and Royal Mail. Richard is also a Treasurer and Trustee of Victim Support, a charity which supports victims of crime.



  • The Challenge is the largest provider of the National Citizen Service in the UK

  • 72% of our NCS participants agreed with the statement: ‘I am more able to trust people’

  • We employ over 400 permanent staff nationally and over 3,500 seasonal staff

  • 76% of our NCS participants felt more confident about getting a job in the future

  • In 2014, 93% of HeadStart graduates felt they had improved communication skills

  • In 2014, 66% of HeadStart graduates felt they would continue volunteering after HeadStart

  • Nearly a third of young people who have heard of Step Forward rated it as their first choice when leaving school

  • In 2014, 85% of HeadStart graduates felt they better trusted people from different walks of life

  • In 2014, The Challenge collaborated with 800 community and business partners

  • In 2014, 78% of HeadStart graduates felt more connected to their community

  • 88% of our NCS participants felt they were better at working in a team

  • 94% of young people attending NCS, delivered by The Challenge in 2014, attended state schools, with 13% on free school meals

  • Step Forward received over 400 applications in its first year for just 48 places

  • 7% of those attending NCS, delivered by The Challenge in 2014, had a disability

  • In 2014, 52% of participants in NCS, delivered by The Challenge, were from a black and minority ethnic background

  • Over 30,000 16 and 17 year olds will take part in NCS delivered by The Challenge in 2015