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Out of Africa

Names & Faces - After a career running sustainability programmes abroad, Martin McCann is looking to further the development of an organisation closer to home.

Martin McCann became chief executive of engineering disaster relief charity RedRIHE on Monday.

Born in Canada 54 years ago, McCann originally studied philosophy and literature at Toronto University. 'I then made the jump, ' he says. 'I volunteered for CUSO - the Canadian equivalent of VSO - and was posted to West Africa, to Nigeria in an area without water or electricity.'

After two years, McCann returned to Toronto. He was again contacted by CUSO and went back to Nigeria as country director. 'It was successful, ' he says, 'but I did not know what to do professionally.' So McCann travelled to the UK to take an MA in rural development at the University of East Anglia.

Once complete he went back to CUSO, running environmental sustainability programmes in Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia. He was then appointed regional director for Asia.

Now married with a British wife, McCann returned to the UK 12 years ago as a consultant for CUSO in Asia and West Africa. He then became operational change manager at the Intermediate Technology Development Group (now Practical Action) - the charity founded by EF Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful.

McCann succeeded in moving the charity away from its grantmaintained status to running it on a business basis. Some left, he says, but no one was red.

In 1998 McCann moved to Plan International, a charity specialising in child sponsorship.

As deputy executive director of its operational arm he was responsible for a £200M budget.

McCann wants to lead RedR out of its recent troubles. The organisation, he says, has had a big shake-up - 40% of its members have left in the past year - and he wants to build on its core values. 'The development sector is bitchy, but everybody has been very supportive of RedR.'

Q&A Martin McCann

What did you get for Christmas? - a leather shoulder bag and tickets for Antony and Cleopatra at the RSC.

Hidden talents - Scuba diving, particularly in Bali.

What would you save if your house burned down? - My wife, but if she was away, my laptop.

Favourite item of clothing? - a wonderful pair of black cufinks given to me by a very dear friend in India.

Last film I saw - Casino Royale. It was a good action movie, but not a Bond movie. It had a different atmosphere - more like a lm noir.

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