Showcasing the Best of Welsh Business


Business News Wales Meets:Kathryn Llewellyn, CEO, United Purpose


This week, we at Business News Wales are thrilled to interview Kathryn Llewellyn, who is a speaker at the 2018 Digital Festival which will be taking place on the 21st & 22nd May at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff.

Kathryn,CEO, United Purpose has been involved in human rights campaigning and international development management for over nine years. Her previous roles include: Executive Director of The GREAT Initiative (a gender rights charity); Acting CEO and International Director of Pump Aid (a water and sanitation NGO working in Zimbabwe, Liberia and Malawi); managing ‘Live Below the Line’ for the Global Poverty Project and working as International Development Director for The One Foundation. Kathryn has won a number of awards including the Sheila McKechnie Conflict ResolutionAward for her campaigning work on democracy in Zimbabwe and an UNTLD award for social entrepreneurs. Kathryn is an advisor to Channel Four’s Battlefront show mentoring young campaigners.

Q: Hi Kathryn, tell us a little bit about yourself and United Purpose

A: I’m CEO at United Purpose and have led the organisation for the past four years. I have been involved in human rights campaigning and international development management for 15 years including working alongside Trade unionists in Zimbabwe, keeping Zimbabwe at the forefront of UK politics. United Purpose is a Cardiff-based international development organisation with an innovative, community-led approach to finding the different ways of doing development. Work with four million people each year in 17 countries and our central goal is for individuals to have agency over their own lives. We hope that at some point, in the not so distant future, organisations like ours will not need to exist for the reasons we do today.

Q: What is it that attracted you to the Digital Festival?

A:I believe that gaining access to technology can have a transforming impact in the hands of citizens and communities – digital tech offers an unrivalled opportunity to transform global development, change lives, stimulate growth and, ultimately, end an individual’s reliance on aid. But our sector is also littered with stories of failed initiatives to use a specific piece of technology in isolation from a clear understanding of the problem at hand or from the social context.

We have a good track-record of harnessing technology in combination with both – and often underpinned by another key factor in the shape of sustainable financing / funding models. I’m excited to be joining the Digital Festival, to be surrounded by innovators and to talk about how we can inject our collective energy into solving the big challenges we face as a global citizenry.

Q: Which speaker are you most excited about seeing at Digital Festival?

A: I’m not picking just one, what I love about this agenda is the breadth of speakers, it’s all so interesting.

Q: Where do you see Wales’ tech scene ten years from now?

A:I’m excited to see it continuing to innovate and grow as it has. Wales is a fertile ground for a thriving tech sector, with its vibrant capital city, transport links and access to world class universities and minds. We have a great platform to become a global tech leader, and with our unique commitment to the Future Generations Act, I hope we’ll work closely together to create a scene with a global, future-facing outlook. One that can pioneer solutions that work not only for Wales, but contribute to the sustainable development of people across the globe.

Q: What does entrepreneurship mean to you?

A: Equal parts resourcefulness and bravery. Having an imagination and a vision, and being bold enough to go for it.

Q: What one quality does every entrepreneur need to succeed?

A: Belief in yourself and your idea.

Q: Any advice for anyone in the early stages of, or considering, starting their own business?

A:It’s important to be the leader you want to be, not the leader other people think you should be. Being passionate about what you believe in and just being yourself.

Q: What can we expect from your session at Digital Festival?

A: I hope I’ll bring a new slant to the potential of tech and digital in an area not normally associated with it – international development.  I find the potential exciting, and I hope you will too!

Q:What do you predict will be the biggest tech development within the next 10 years?

A: I think the biggest development will definitely be the acceleration of AI and the changes it will make, and is already making to the landscape of almost every global system. It has the potential to help solve some of our greatest challenges and it will certainly be key to keep a firm focus on how we are using it to benefit developing countries – ensuring it distributed equitably and pointed towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and not widening the global divide.

On a less macro level, I think the way we adapt the use of existing individual technologies will be a big game-changer. The way we use blockchain for example, has the potential to disrupt and rework global power dynamics and is already being used to make supply chains more transparent or to bring marginalised communities who would otherwise be restricted from banking systems access to financial networks.

Q: Lastly, describe Digital Festival in three words.

A: Forging the future

Q: Why is collaboration so important for progress?

A: If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over my career, it’s that you can’t get very far on your own. At UP, we couldn’t have been successful without working in partnership and collaborating with people from different backgrounds and sectors, bringing expertise and skills we couldn’t provide alone. As standard bearers of community-led development, we take the approach of ‘working with and not working for’ people who live in poverty. And for individuals to realise their full potential, they must have the support of systems that have grown out of successful collaboration.