senior management team

Alison Naftalin

Founder & CEO

ALISON founded Lively Minds in 2008 following a trip to Ghana where she saw the complex challenges facing rural communities, but also saw the huge opportunities for change and development. She took a year’s break from her work as a Government Lawyer to return to Ghana, and then Uganda, to make these ideas a reality, drawing on her past experience working with young people.

Between 2008-2012 Alison ran Lively Minds on a purely voluntary basis alongside her job as a Government Lawyer. In recognition of her efforts in 2010 she was a finalist in the Vodafone World of Difference Award, in 2011 she won the prestigious Civil Service Award for Volunteering, in 2012 was short-listed for a Ghana UK-Based Achievement Award and in 2013 was a finalist in the Clarins Dynamisante Woman of the Year Award. In September 2012 The Waterloo Foundation generously gave us a grant to cover Alison’s salary and allow her to work for the charity full time. Alison now divides her time between Ghana, Uganda and the UK.

Alison worked as a lawyer in Central Government for 7 years, working in the Treasury Solicitor’s Department, Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Defence. Before that spent 2 years training at Clifford Chance LLP. Prior to that she studied Modern History at St John’s College, Oxford University.

CHRIS joined Lively Minds in 2015. He has 6 years experience working in information management and analysis, including for two NHS trusts and for a multinational minerals company. Chris has also worked as a tutor and a teacher. He holds a masters in mathematical modelling from University College London and an undergraduate mathmatics degree from Cambridge University.

Chris Lewis

Head of Monitoring & Evaluation 

Sheena Lahren


SHEENA LAHREN is the Chief Operations Officer for Lively Minds. She was previously the Ghana Country Director and lead the team in taking the Lively Minds programme through their 3-year “test and transition for scale” phase from 2017-2019. She has a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Washington Evans School for Public Policy and Governance with a specialization in international development. Her wide career background touches on corporate training and curriculum development, kindergarten education, youth sexual health interventions and in monitoring and evaluation.


Sheena is passionate about the work we do at Lively Minds, seeing the rapid population growth in Africa as an urgent opportunity to build a generation of lively minded individuals who will ask the right questions and solve the myriad of complex challenges that the continent and the world will face in the future.

Kawira Thambu

Learning and Development Director

KAWIRA has 6 years’ experience in the education sector in Kenya & Uganda. She is an expert in competency based, experiential learning design for both formal, informal, in-person and digital education.


She has in the past consulted as a learning design expert for McKinsey & Company and designed multiple technical education programs across high growth sectors in Kenya for McKinsey’s Social Initiative; Generation. In digital education, Kawira has worked as a Senior Learning Designer at Arifu, a digital education enterprise, using behavioral science and human centered design to digitize educational content for base of the pyramid learners in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.

At Lively Minds Kawira is bringing her behaviour change experience to designing highly effective capacity building programmes for local government partners and stakeholders

Geoff King

Curriculum Coordinator

GEOFF joined Lively Minds in January 2019 as Curriculum Coordinator, bringing 10 years of research, communication and behavioural insight experience. He has previously worked as Research Team Leader at research and communication consultancy ComRes, Head of Marketing and Communication at FusePump (part of Wunderman Thompson Commerce), and as a Senior Consultant at Brook Lyndhurst.


Geoff developed his expertise in behaviour change and behavioural insights during his 7 years at Brook Lyndhurst, leading various projects aimed at understanding and influencing behaviours. He worked on similar topics as a visiting researcher at the Centre for Sustainability at the University of Otago (New Zealand), and went on to set up a Behavioural Insight Unit at ComRes. Geoff’s experience in international development prior includes leading a youth entrepreneurship project in rural Tanzania with Raleigh International. Following the project he developed a new entrepreneurship curriculum and research materials for Raleigh. He has also volunteered in Ecuador and Brazil.


Away from work, Geoff is a keen sportsman, smoothie addict, occasional producer of very poor pop songs, and is currently adding Luganda to the list of languages he can speak ‘a little bit’.

Clarissa Heger

Ghana Country Director

Clarissa joined Lively Minds in 2019 as the Ghana Country Director. She brings with her six years of cross-sectorial development experience as well as three years of private sector background. Clarissa holds a Master of Public Administration with a specialization in Nonprofit Management and Global Leadership from Portland State University, Hatfield School of Governance.


Having spent over four years in Ghana, Clarissa previously worked as the Gender and Social Protection Advisor for the USAID Resiliency in Northern Ghana (RING) Project, where she supported local government partners to empower rural communities. A passionate gender advocate driven to make a sustainable impact in the lives of women and children, Clarissa is thrilled to have joined the Lively Minds team.

In her spare time, Clarissa enjoys yoga, hiking, and riding motorcycles as well as spending time with her partner Jack and their three dogs.

Jennifer Elms

Uganda Country Director

JENNIFER is an international gender and education specialist with more than a decade of global experience in over thirty countries. She has previously worked as Director of Programs at Akola Project, Associate Head of Programme Design at STIR Education, Webcast Production Manager at Thomson Reuters, and Executive Director at Violence Prevention West.  She also served as the Gender and Civil Society Strengthening Specialist for Strengthening Education Systems in East Africa (SESEA), a 100-million-dollar project jointly funded by Global Affairs Canada and AKFC.  With experience across private, public, and social sectors throughout East Africa, South East Asia, Australasia, Europe, and North America, Jennifer has honed unique skills in strategic project design, implementation, and evaluation; donor relations; organizational development; and gender-transformative change, at scale.

In 2014, Jennifer was selected as one of 20 Aga Khan Foundation Canada’s International Fellows and, in 2016, she also published a book about her travels.  She earned a Master of Human Rights and Democratization from University of Sydney (Australia).  She also holds a Bachelor of Arts (Joint Majors in Psychology and English Literature) from Memorial University of Newfoundland. 

When not working, Jennifer enjoys long walks and can be found drinking tea, baking, and telling cheesy jokes.  She currently lives in Uganda with her rafting partner, inspiration, and husband, Hassan, and their daughter, Z.

Jay Serrao

Finance Officer

JAY joined Lively Minds in September 2018 as Finance Officer bringing 15 years of Finance Management experience with him. He started his work life as a Shipping Accountant for Blenheim Shipping UK Ltd (later part of Scinicariello Ship Management, Naples). At one point he managed the crewing and shipping accounting portfolio of GBP 50 million in Dry and Wet Cargo vessels. After the big recession of 2008, he left the city to work with small businesses ranging from Market Research and Media to Faith based charities. Before joining Lively Minds, he was the Financial Controller with a Shoreditch based Market Research company called Youthsight and left to pursue his calling (as he calls it) to work with Charities full time. 

He is a member of the IMA, holds a Masters in International Business (Thesis Environmental Accounting) and a Bachelors in Business Management (Distinction). 

Outside of work, Jay fronts a band and produces music and videos with a deep appreciation for Classic Rock.

country management teams

David Abukari​​

Ghana Quality & Learning Manager

DAVID has 24 years’ experience working in both formal and informal sectors. A professionally trained teacher with six years teaching experience in primary and Junior high levels he has spent the last fourteen years with NGOs, both in the field and in management.  As one of Lively Minds founding members he brings 10 years’ institutional knowledge and experience, working as Country Manager and now as Learning and Quality Manager focused on applying his people management skills and in depth knowledge on ensuring that quality excellence is maintained at scale. David holds a diploma in building construction, a BSc in human settlement planning and a Masters degree in NGO management and rural development. 


“I have strong interest in seeing children smile.''

James Awini​​

Ghana Regional Manager, Upper East

Prior to joining Lively Minds in 2014, JAMES worked for 12 years as a teacher in Ghana’s Basic and Secondary level schools. He has also worked with GrassRootsAfrica as Capacity Building Officer providing training and creating platforms for communities to engage with their Municipal and District Assemblies and other duty bearers.  He holds a Bachelor of Education Degree in Social Sciences from the University of Cape Coast, Ghana and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Osnabrueck, Germany.  

At Lively Minds James manages the team and programme activities in the Upper East Region. He has been instrumental in our growth in the region, working with Regional and District GES to expand the Programme from 7 communities in 2 Districts to 114 communities in 3. James leads the engagement with Regional and District Directorates of GES to sensitise and negotiate MoUs, manages multisector stakeholder relations whilst mentoring his team and GES to grow and meet their targets. He brings his analytical skills to the organisation to ensure that programme data is used to identify, celebrate or solve challenges and successes.

YAKUBU IDDRISU works as the Ghana Training Manager. He joined Lively Minds in 2014 having discovered the organisation when working next door as the Director of Community Partnership for Youth and Women Development. He got to know the team and realized that the Lively Minds strategy, philosophy vision and mission was in line with the work he wanted to be doing.  We are lucky that he moved over the wall, bringing his 13 years work experience as an Educationist and with childhood development programmes within the Northern sector of Ghana.


His interest and passion in life has been to see young children get the right quality foundation that will serves as springboard for their growth and development and has always wanted to work in this area.

Yakubu Iddrisu

Ghana Training Manager

Wendie Namusooko

Uganda Programmes Manager

WENDIE NAMUSOOKO is the Training Manager at Lively Minds Uganda. She studied Law at the Uganda Christian University, qualifying as a lawyer before continuing her studies at the East African School of Taxation and Revenue Administration gaining a post graduate diploma. Wendie quickly moved into public service roles working in the Family Court as a Mediator and as a Legal Associate at the Platform for Labour Action, advocating for workers’ rights. Having become passionate about protecting the rights of women and children during her law school days, Wendie volunteered as a literacy teacher and legal support with an NGO, Women in Leadership before moving to work with Lively Minds.

Starting as a Data Collector Wendie quickly moved through the ranks to become a Training Manager, a role that she loves, saying that it fully resonates with what she stands for and struggles for. She feels her work has enabled her to discover her full potential and constantly build her skills within a supportive organisation.

“I look forward to more challenges with Lively Minds, since it’s what makes me a better person and with that the sky is the limit.”

Jill Patience Nabirye

Uganda Senior Training Officer

JILL has been with Lively Minds Uganda since 2017, bringing her experience in communication and training skills to the role of Senior Training Officer.  Any given day can see her writing training templates, coming up with creative lessons that can help solve problems in the communities, and managing and coaching local government teams and the Lively Minds training team. Initially working with us as a data collector, Jill started as a Community Development Officer and her attention to detail and observational skills have seen her rise quickly through the team.


She remains excited about working with Lively Minds, which she says resonates with both her studies in Child Development and Children’s Ministry, and her passion for seeing children grow and develop a strong foundation for their futures.

Prior to Lively Minds Jill worked on Rhites, an EC USAID project. When not at work she loves to make new friends, enjoys music and dancing, and is committed to counselling.

Paul Sajjabi Kyazze

Uganda Senior Finance & Admin Officer

PAUL Sajjabi Kyazze is the Senior Finance & Administration Officer of Lively Minds Uganda, he is a chartered accountant by profession with deep knowledge and experience in finance, accounts, purchase and supplies management.

Paul has worked as Senior Audit Assistant -  Kakira Sugar Limted, Accountant – Steel Rolling Mills, Accountant – Bidco Uganda Limited, Accounts, Sales and Operations Manager - African Minerals Limited and finally here at Lively Minds Uganda, a roll he enjoys, making sure that things run smoothly for the team.

He joined Lively Minds Uganda in 2017 where he has since worked as the focal person in charge of Finance and Administration; handling finances, accounts, administrative issues, staff welfare, security, transport and purchases.


Outside Lively Minds, Paul is a pastor and serves a congregation of over 200 people.

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