Chris Underhill MBE

Awarded an MBE in 2000 for his services to disability in the UK and internationally Chris has an impressive record of starting up and managing social enterprise charities. Over the past 15 years as Founder President of international development charity BasicNeeds Chris has helped transform the lives of thousands of marginalised people around the world.

Action learning facilitation and animation

As a long serving member of an ALA cross-sector action learning set for leaders Chris has considerable experience of the action learning process. Chris also regularly trains larger groups of people in the field of animation. This is essentially a form of community based dynamics which draws its inspiration from the adult learning theories of both Frèrre and also Kolb. Adults are deemed to be able to learn and share their learning from their own experience. Not a million miles away from Action Learning.


Chris offers enterprise leaders support in the strategic development of their organisations – at start up and beyond as well as programme development and design and their effective roll out across different cultures and skill sets. He aims to help leaders develop their professional practice and help their organisations make long term sustainable impact. His mentoring practice began relatively informally about 15 years ago when he realised he had experience that people wished to access. He now has a part time mentoring practise which covers both professional concerns as well as work/life balance issues. At times this practise branches into more straight forward organisational development coaching.


Chris has devoted his working life to assisting marginalized people either in the UK or overseas. He has started up three charities: Thrive – a UK based charity working with disabled people and medical professionals in horticulture, gardening and agriculture; Action on Disability and Development – a development agency for disabled people in the third world and his current organisation BasicNeeds which works in eight countries promoting a model for mental health and development.

He has been Chief Executive of Intermediate Technology Development Group; a founder member of the WHO sponsored Global Forum on Community Health and the Movement for Global Mental Health. He has served on the boards of numerous organisations including as Chair of Action Health 2000, Digital Links, IDE UK and Friends of APD. Chris was also Chair of the Oxfam sub-committees for Africa, Staff (HR) and the Trustee Role and Council Structure whose task was the reorganisation of the Board of Trustees.

Qualifications & Board memberships

  • Chair of the Leaders’ Quest Foundation
  • Chair of the Site Selection Committee and member of the Board of Headstrong – the National Centre for Youth Mental Health, Ireland.
  • Board member for Impetus – a leader in venture philanthropy in UK
  • MSc International Policy, School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol
  • BSc Hons, University of London