Senior Management Team

Alison Baum photo

Alison Baum, CEO and Founder

The CEO and Founder of Best Beginnings, Alison has used her leadership and executive production experience to pioneer the development of innovative resources including DVDs, art and mobile apps to support the emotional and physical transition to parenthood.

In 2007, Alison received the prestigious Sheila McKechnie "Campaigner of the Year" award for her work in creating the Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition, uniting 40 organisations, including five Royal Colleges and UNICEF, to lobby Government to deliver on seven objectives designed to allow women to make fully informed choices about how to feed their babies. In March 2014 Alison was thrilled to be awarded CPHVA Campaigner of the Year and Woman of Democracy. In January 2017, Alison was awarded an OBE for services to Tackling Child Health Inequalities.

Before launching Best Beginnings, Alison set up an internet-based social enterprise called Express Yourself Mums, providing information and products for new mothers. Prior to that, she worked in the BBC Science department for almost ten years, producing and directing science and health documentaries including Horizon and played a key role in a BBC internal change programme.

Alison has an MA from Oxford University in Pure and Applied Biology and an MSc from UCL in Neuroscience. She is married with two children aged fifteen and thirteen, both of whom were born with cleft palates and significant health problems. She comes from a family of doctors and her husband is a Professor of Paediatrics. 

Alison's paternal Grandpa walked over from Poland and had one year of formal education in his life. It was the nurturing home environment and the instilling of a love of learning that her Grandparents fostered that enabled Alison's father and his three brothers and sister to become highly successful healthcare professionals and academics. This background, and her understanding of the evidence of the benefits of early intervention, fuels Alison's passion for reducing inequalities in child health by supporting parents to maximise their children's development. Another motivator is the memory of her Uncle David, Prof David Baum, the first President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health - an extraodinary man who fought for the rights of the child in the UK and internationally. Best Beginnings was set up in memory of David.

Read Alison's blog and follow Alison on Twitter @alisonbaum

Shabira Papain, Deputy CEO

Shabira is a global citizen, born in Portugal, grew up in Australia and made the decision to raise her children in London where she completed her Masters in Health Psychology. She's a passionate community development practitioner, having left a clinical psychology degree to pursue a career in community health development, working alongside grassroots communities in Australia and the U.K.

Shabira has a background in both education and in health. She has taught on social justice modules at Murdoch University working with students in the schools of education and social sciences to explore issues of discrimination, power and identity.

Her career in health began in 2003 leading on a community health intervention focused on increasing self management and self care behaviours and supporting the capacity of people to take more control for their health and wellbeing. What followed was a growing appreciation that the voluntary sector plays a pivotal role in supporting the health system to be reflexive and adaptive, and so a commitment to addressing the social determinants of health was born.

Passionate about maternity and mental health, Shabira has designed and implemented several coproduction health projects that have been sighted in NICE good practice guidelines (Tower Hamlets MSLC, 2016). Shabira has also supported and led the development of several user-led mental health networks promoting agency and subsidiarity of communities of people with long and enduring mental ill health.

She is describes herself as a champion of social action with a heart for community and a love of people. Shabira joined Best Beginnings in 2016 and is working with the team to further develop community outreach so that the powerful resources reach more families and impact positively on more lives.


Fundraising and Commissioning


Communications and Digital

Stephanie Kronson, Communications and Digital Director

South African born Stephanie Kronson entered her career as a producer of television and radio commercials for Young and Rubicam, having completed a Bachelor of Arts degree (English, Drama and Film with a sub major in psychology) and a two year stint as an actress in theatre and day time television. She was then lured into the more gritty world of production, producing commercials for internationally renowned directors, Miles Goodall, Ian Gabriel and Peter Pohorsky, and winning awards in New York and London over a 9 year period.

After moving to London 18 years ago and giving birth to her first child, she decided on a “career-break” to diversify and expand her horizons. Among her numerous endeavours she spent a year in Health and Beauty PR at which time she became pregnant with her second child. She also enjoyed working for Bartle Bogle Hegarty in London and spent four years in children’s book publishing, during which time she volunteered for Parent Gym as a trained parenting workshop facilitator in schools and community centres in London while furthering her education with studies in Psychodynamic counselling and the Three Principles of Innate Health. Subsequently, following an eventful two years as a donor steward and events director for the London office of an international charity, she joined Best Beginnings in March 2016 as Programme Manager for the Our Chance campaign, Out of the Blue, and Heads Together projects.

Sophie Laverack, Digital and Content Manager

Sophie joined Best Beginnings in May 2016 following her role as Head of Operations of a digital start up company where she was a key member in the development of a digital health business. Prior to this, Sophie worked in international development and through her work with children with physical and mental disabilities, WASH, and education inequalities she found that so many roads led back to the importance of the health and education of mothers. Sophie manages Best Beginnings websites and Baby Buddy app, content production and digital and print marketing as well as Maternity Rights projects.

Jackie Lee, Heads Together Coordinator


Born and raised in Australia, Jackie joined the Best Beginnings team in April 2017 as Project Coordinator of the Out of the Blue and Heads Together projects. She is passionate about reducing social and health inequalities through effective community action and programmes and has a particularly strong interest in mental health. 

Prior to working at Best Beginnings, she worked as a trained physiotherapist, specialising in paediatrics and disability, with a strong focus on facilitating inclusive environments and holistic management. She has worked with children and adults with special needs in Australia, UK, and Ecuador. Looking to expand her horizons beyond 1 to 1 therapy and developing school communities, Jackie moved to London to complete her Master's in Public Health, specialising in Health Promotion at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in September, 2016. She has conducted research work in Ghana evaluating caregivers' mealtime experiences when feeding their child with cerebral palsy. In her free time, she enjoys travelling, knitting, and all manner of sports.


Embedding Programme

Elizabeth Bayliss, Interim Head of Operations

Working with homeless women in Soho in the 1970’s opened my eyes both to the personal impact and social policy implications of homelessness.

This led me into setting up a housing association for single homeless people and from there, when I saw the misery caused by the lack of coordination in service provision,  I went to work in the NHS on joint planning.

In my role as the Manager of the Community Psychiatry Research Unit in the NHS, supported service evaluations, developed and managed mental health services, levered in £9m for community care services. Then I realised that the real action of community building was in the hands of ordinary people living in their communities, so I went on to support community action through building a community development agency called Social Action for Health, directly working with people from most of the excluded communities in London, promoting health and wellbeing.

Moving to the country after 16 wonderful years as Chief Executive, I am now working with my husband to build the Peace Place Trust, a rooted, peace-seeking creative community on the land. And keeping in touch with charity life, I am working part time with Best Beginnings on fundraising, which certainly keeps me on my toes!

Natalie Woods, Programme Manager for Commissioned Services

Natalie has a varied background working with children with disabilities; providing 1 to 1 support to children and young people of all ages, as well as managing a 'siblings' project, supporting young carers with a disabled brother or sister. Natalie is also a trained Portage Home Learning Practitioner, working as a Project Coordinator and line manager within a London Portage service for 4 years. ​

Prior to joining Best Beginnings, Natalie managed a Department for Education grant funded project to pilot an online Level 3 qualification for practitioners supporting children and young people's speech, language and communication development. Within this time, Natalie volunteered and travelled around South America, spending a month in the Ecuadorian Amazon teaching English as a foreign language. Natalie joined Best Beginnings in May 2016 to coordinate the embedding of the charity's resources into mainstream health services across the UK.


Fiona Dry, North of England Regional Facilitator

Fiona is the North of England Regional Facilitator. Before joining the Best Beginnings team she worked as an Infant Feeding Coordinator for the Acute Midwifery services in County Durham and Darlington.

Fiona has worked as a Midwife in Hospital and Community settings and also worked as a Sure Start Midwife for nine years embedding Services in County Durham.

Fiona lives in rural Teesdale with her husband Steve and four children and enjoys running, participating in events whenever possible and being involved in a local Amateur Dramatics group,  as both an actor and choreographer of their annual pantomime.   

Tercia Santos, Project Support Officer

Tercia joined Best Beginnings in 2017 to be part of the Embedding team as a Project Support Officer. Tercia was born and raised in Brazil where she worked with vulnerable families in a big variety of projects; from building emergency houses to early childhood development. She worked in one of the most vulnerable neighbourhoods in Sao Paulo with families, health professionals and teachers in order to ensure better opportunities for children in the area.

In the UK she has worked with the Latin American community, especially women and children fleeing domestic violence. She has a master degree in Social Development and is passionate about engaging and supporting communities to achieve positive change.


Evaluation and Research

Nilushka Perera, Evaluation and Impact Lead

Born and raised in Sri Lanka, Nilushka joined the Best Beginning’s family after completing her masters in Public Health [International Health] in September 2016. With a strong interest in research, behavioural health and a background Psychology, Nilushka is the Evaluation and Impact Lead for Best Beginnings where she explores the impact of all the charity’s work through a public health and well being lens. Nilushka has worked with multiple communities that includes children, parents, health professionals and corporate organisations. She also has experience in teaching and working with rehabilitating communities that are dealing with conflict and disaster in Sri Lanka. She spends her free time singing, traveling and reading.


Finance and HR


David Pope, Finance & Office Manager 

David joined Best Beginnings in December 2015 after a career in the British Army, where he reached the rank of Captain and was responsible for managing the finances and administration of an Infantry Battalion. In addition to being responsible for maintaining the budgets of the charity and providing financial advice to the CEO and project leads, David manages the office and facilities to ensure all staff receive suitable administrative support to carry out their roles effectively.

David has been a keen sportsman throughout his life representing Great Britain at Bobsleigh and playing rugby at a high level, and now passes on his enthusiasm to his son, Daya.