Meet the team


Akeel Ahmed - Assistant Director of Community Learning and Libraries

The borough of Islington is passionate about its libraries and so am I! We have ten in the borough, which are remarkable in all sorts of ways from connecting and engaging with communities, to celebrating the rich and diverse culture of the borough - no one day is the same.

The team and I are currently working on an exciting modernising programme of the buildings, supported by other colleagues from across the organisation. We are also proud of implementing our reading strategy which aims to engage with more residents and support them to meet their needs whether that be to read, learn or connect.

Our vision under Community Wellbeing is to further improve an already great service and enable local people to overcome challenges and equitably thrive, particularly in this digital and ever-changing world.


Charisse Monero - Assistant Director for Transformation

I have the strategic responsibility for leading the delivery of all major transformation and change portfolios and programmes across Islington to deliver to corporate priorities, improve outcomes and achieve lasting impact for residents.

Guiding the advancement of system change and transformation, people, and performance this role is influential in embedding a culture of continuous learning across Islington whilst turning policy and strategy into positive projects of change, programmes of innovation and transformation that last. As part of this portfolio, I am the programme director for the Young Black Men and mental health programme – a pioneering and innovative initiative designed to tackle endemic mental health inequalities, improve mental well-being, aspirations and life opportunities whilst reducing exclusions.

Prior to occupying this role, I worked jointly across the council and NHS as the Assistant Director for Children’s commissioning leading a range of commissioned services. 

I currently hold a Master’s degree in Applied Anthropology community and youth work from Goldsmiths University Of London and a Master’s degree in Strategic leadership and management from the Tavistock NHS Portman which has provided me with a penetrating insight into leading complex organisational change in public sector landscapes.

I was attracted to Islington for many reasons but mainly because it holds a very special place in my heart and is a fantastic place full of great diversity and opportunities, both personally and professionally.


Damien Cole - Programme Director for Business Improvement and Efficiencies

I joined the London Borough of Islington in January of 2023 having been attracted by the vision and clarity of its Fairer Together approach. In the short time I have been here I have enjoyed the collaborative mindset of colleagues within the department and across the council, underpinned by the Chief Executive and Leaders passion of a more equal borough.

My responsibilities within the Community Engagement and Wellbeing directorate are to ensure there is a coordinated approach across the council to savings delivery through business improvement and efficiency. This primarily means working across the council to support major savings and cross cutting work where facilitation and capacity can enable improvements and efficiencies.

Priorities for 2023-24 are:

  • Assurance on existing Medium Term Financial Strategy commitments through a savings health check and analysis across the council. Resulting in a development plan and governance to monitor, challenge and support progress across the year for change and recovery savings work.
  • Progress against established and developing major programmes of work which will contribute towards additional Medium Term Financial Strategy for 2023-2024.
  • Support to delivery of savings through cross cutting enables to the council infrastructure, both recognised and unrecognised.


David Hardiman - Assistant Director for Communications and Campaigns

I’ve been at Islington for 10 months and was attracted by the focus on genuine community engagement and coproduction, and the council’s mission to tackle inequality. My team is currently building major, strategic campaigns around the priorities set out in the council’s 2030 Strategic Plan, developing a campaign to support the necessary internal transformation and culture change that will modernise the council, and bringing new creativity and discipline to our visual identity – so we’re telling confident, clear and impactful stories to our residents and stakeholders.


Manny Lewis - Assistant Director for Resident Experience

I am responsible for the Access Islington division of the Community Engagement and Wellbeing Directorate.

I have been working with Islington Council since 2006 and over the years I have developed a love of the borough’s diverse and vibrant community, as well as its nightlife.

As well as leading the council’s main customer service functions, including its phone and face to face services, I am also responsible for the Access Islington Hubs, working with other services, voluntary and community partners bringing a range of joined up services and support to the community. I also lead the Islington Telecare Service, supporting some of the borough’s most vulnerable residents and the Corporate Complaints function, a vital service that enables us to actively listen to our community and shape our services around individual needs.

My vision for the Community Engagement and Wellbeing Directorate is to bring together our assets and capacity across several key areas to provide a cohesive offer and connected network of local early help support for our most vulnerable residents - working in collaboration with internal and external colleagues to meet the needs of our people with compassion. The learning from We Are Islington (our emergency Covid response), coupled with the collective knowledge and experience of our partners, feedback from our residents to help develop the vision for a new system wide relational approach to tackle inequality rooted in early intervention and prevention – moving away from transactional service delivery, to one that is person centric, tailored to the needs of individuals with a strong focus on quality of life aligned to our strategic outcomes.


Sajda Shah - Head of Bright Lives

As Head of Bright Lives, I am responsible for the leadership and successful delivery of Islington’s new ‘Bright Lives’ early help offer for adults; an innovative and exciting development of flagship programmes that focus on strengthening an supporting the resilience of vulnerable adults and bringing together key partners for social change through collaborative working. I am responsible for developing a comprehensive, accessible community offer which meets residents’ needs working with the voluntary and community sector as well as partners in the council, Health and other agencies.

The Bright Lives Alliance is a newly established cross sector partnership for a system wide approach to coordinate and deliver an integrated wellbeing offer at a locality level to strengthen and join up support for working age adults and older people. This is an exciting new joint venture over the last 6 months where we have established the blueprint for delivery and a Partnership Charter setting out the shared values and commitment for new ways of working supported with a delivery plan setting out phased delivery of agreed objectives and priorities for next 12 months.

The Bright Lives Coaching offer is a key element of the early help provided by the Bright Lives Wellbeing Alliance and offers medium term therapeutic interventions to support the wellbeing of vulnerable residents with complex needs providing an early and active response to strengthening resilience and averting crisis working to achievable goals. We have successfully completed phase 1 of initial delivery and are now implementing phase 2 to diversify the offers of support expanding the menu and strengthening delivery through alignment and integration with community based clinical and wellbeing offers.

The aspirational difference that the Bright Lives Alliance will make for residents:

  • Residents can maintain and manage their lives in the community amongst friends and family making the best use of things available to them in the neighbourhood and locality.
  • When they need more help or when their circumstances change, they can easily and readily access the support they need through a well-integrated localised offer of health and care services provided by clinical and non-clinical professionals working together in partnership, strengthening relationships which go beyond organisational boundaries.
  • Integrated teams acting as a single workforce will breakdown organisational boundaries creating dynamic and multi-disciplinary teams jointly enabling residents to achieve outcomes and lead the life they want.
  • The establishment of a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic residents group will makes strides to considerably reduce inequalities to access care and support improving the experiences and wellbeing trajectory for the most adversely affected groups and leading to the proliferation of smaller community based providers to thrive.

I joined Islington to be inspired by the wealth of experience and passion for early intervention and prevention (EIP) and challenging inequality is at the heart of this. Islington has a rich history of persistence and perseverance in the pursuit of EIP manifesting and delivering progressive strategic approaches and being bold to test new approaches to create opportunities for residents. My background and experience in designing and transforming services is an opportune fit with the vast range of developments underway and it is a very exciting time to be a part of this.


Sal Asghar - Assistant Director Strategy, Equality and Communities

I joined Islington in 2020 and have overseen the development of the Council’s Islington Together 2030 Strategy, Let’s Talk Islington; the council’s largest ever engagement exercise, which helped inform the council’s Challenging Inequality Programme.

I am driven by my passion for tackling inequality and creating a more equal and inclusive place and it is these core values that drew me to Islington.

The Ambition

Bringing together crucial services which support delivery of the council's vision as set out in the IT2030 Plan, in particular the ambition of tackling inequality and amplifying community voice and power.

Roles and responsibilities of teams within Strategy, Equality and Communities:

Strategy and Engagement

  • Develop the council’s vision and priorities for the borough set out in the Islington Together 2030 Plan
  • Lead on development of key council strategies and plans 
  • Lead on key council engagement and continue the dialogue started through Let’s Talk Islington
  • Lead on developing and embedding the council’s approach to community power including testing new participatory methods including participatory budgeting 
  • Support the organisation so that engagement is meaningful and reaches people from all backgrounds including the most marginalised.

Challenging Inequality and Events 

  • Programme management of the Council’s Challenging Inequality Programme 
  • Support and challenge to council services to ensure their challenging inequality plans are robust and lead to improved outcomes for residents
  • Delivery of the council’s equality events programme ensuring we celebrate the diversity within our borough
  • Lead on the delivery of the Black Cultural Centre 

Community Partnerships 

  • Embed the locality model ensuring that the team have a strong presence in each locality 
  • Build and nurture relationships with the VCS and wider community
  • Ensuring community centres are fit for purpose and there is a well organised, well advertised programme of activities that support the needs of the community
  • Robust processes and procedures for management of community centres.
  • Design and rollout of the new grants programme ensuring effective relationship and stakeholder management
  • Oversight of the Heritage Service including Islington Museum and Archives 

Cultural Enrichment 

  • Development of a new Culture Strategy, co-produced with our community and cultural sector partners
  • Delivery of the Council’s 11 x 11 programme providing children access to 11 cultural opportunities by year 11
  • Delivery of Music Education Islington
  • Management key funding and income streams including the film office income and Dame Alice Foundation