Our people

We are a technical consultancy but our business is about people – those we work with and those our work assists.

Our in-country programme teams and technical experts are supported by skilled managers and administrators who oversee our programmes around the world. We have an active database of over 1,500 consultants, including leading experts and individuals who are known for delivering results and achieving positive change.

Jo Elms
Managing Director
Jo Elms became Managing Director of Options in 2013, bringing insights gained over a career of more than 20 years in international development. Jo has held leadership positions in a range of organisations and has substantial experience of developing strategies and partnerships across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Since joining Options in 2006, Jo has directed its portfolio of international programmes and has ensured the growth of Options has been combined with high standards of delivery.
Allison Barter
Chief Operating Officer
Allie Barter is a qualified accountant and has extensive experience across the charity, NGO, academic and commercial sectors. As Chief Operating Officer Allie has executive responsibility for the daily operations of the company. This includes designing, improving and managing all operational processes and working structures.
Alison Dembo Rath
Technical Director
Alison Dembo Rath leads Options’ health systems work, with a particular focus on South Asia. She has over 20 years’ experience in design, management, monitoring and evaluation of health systems development programmes at policy and implementation levels. Building on her early career in nursing in the UK, Alison has particular expertise in delivering quality maternal and newborn health care services. Alison has experience of working across Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, managing DFID-funded maternal health and health sector programmes in India and Nepal.
Jackie Lane
Director of New Business and Partnerships
Jackie is responsible for seeking, assessing and creating new opportunities, as well as developing partnerships for new programmes. Jackie has 20 years’ experience designing and managing programmes across Africa and Asia for DFID, the EC, World Bank, USAID and Sida. She has a Masters in Public Health, and has expertise in health policy and planning, maternal health, health economics and financing, monitoring and evaluation and organisational development.
Kirstan Hawkins, PhD
Strategic Advisor
Kirstan Hawkins is responsible for developing and supporting Options' programmes, and ensuring the quality of technical inputs for our social change communications programmes. She is a leading expert in the design and implementation of health sector programmes, with expertise in sexual and reproductive health, maternal health and health systems strengthening. Previously based at Swansea University, Kirstan developed the PEER (Participatory Ethnographic Evaluation and Research) approach, an innovative research methodology that trains community-based researchers to access critical behavioural information from their peer groups.
Jimmy Innes
Assistant Director of Programmes
Jimmy Innes provides management support to programmes across Africa, ensuring their strategic implementation and delivery. He leads the Programme Team’s financial planning and monitoring functions and oversees Options’ Evidence for Action (E4A) programme. Jimmy was previously the Director of Africa Programmes and the Tanzania Country Director for BBC Media Action. His expertise includes maternal and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, media-for-good-governance and livelihoods.
Dr Kwalombota Kwalombota
Assistant Technical Director
Dr Kwalombota Kwalombota is a trained clinical professional with over ten years’ experience in health systems strengthening, comprehensive emergency and obstetric care, reproductive health and family planning. He is experienced in providing technical advice for maternal and child health and public-private partnerships in health. Kwalombota has worked for international NGOs, private sector consultancies, universities, and the Zambian Ministry of Health, where he established the only district paediatric antiretroviral treatment and care programme. He has worked in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Uganda.
Maya Jaffe
Assistant Director of New Business and Partnerships
Maya Jaffe leads the processes through which Options develops new business and is responsible for the successful bidding for work. Prior to working at Options, Maya was a Senior Health Advisor for Crown Agents, where her work focused on strategic planning, business development, design and delivery of training courses and project management. Maya’s skills include: programme design, project management, health systems strengthening, grant management, procurement and supply chain management and organisational development.
Sara Bandali, DrPH
Assistant Technical Director
Sara Bandali has over 15 years’ experience in health sector development, including research, policy development and programme design and implementation. She has worked within government, for implementing organisations and the UN. Sara has expertise in maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, malaria, community health, health systems strengthening, and water supply and sanitation. She has facilitated policy dialogue on cross-sectorial initiatives including HIV/AIDS and gender and early childhood development. Sara is a leading expert on use of evidence and development of accountability mechanisms to advocate for better maternal and newborn health services.
Sarah Hepworth
Assistant Director of Programme Delivery
Sarah Hepworth provides management oversight to Options' programmes. She leads the Programme Team’s strategic planning and programme quality assurance functions. Sarah is a health sector specialist with 15 years’ experience delivering complex, high-profile projects within the corporate and development sectors. She is experienced in providing technical and management support to sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, health policy and planning, and health sector strengthening programmes in South Asia, South-East Asia and Africa with a focus on health financing. She also has expertise in corporate social responsibility and the private sector.
Steve Breagan
Assistant Director of Finance
Steve Breagan is responsible for managing finances and supporting the financial management of Options’ programme offices. Steve is a CIMA-qualified accountant with over 12 years' experience in the international development sector, and a previous ten years’ audit experience in the private sector.
Varsha Venugopal
Assistant Director of Programmes
Varsha Venugopal provides management support and oversight to programmes across Africa and Asia, ensuring their strategic implementation and delivery. Varsha has more than ten years’ experience in running and leading programmes in the international development sector, specifically on improving governance and accountability mechanisms.

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