Senior Management Team (SMT)

The SMT provides strategic leadership to Wilton Park,  offering support and advice to the Chief Executive to ensure the effective running of the organisation.


Sharmila Nebhrajani OBE, Chief Executive

Sharmila has had a varied career spanning medical research, business, technology and the media. A biomedical scientist by background, before joining Wilton Park she was Chair of the Human Tissue Authority, regulating live organ donation and the use of tissue in research, and also Director of External Affairs for the Medical Research Council, the UK research funder. Sharmila was previously Chief Executive of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) a policy think tank that represents the interests of most of the UK’s best known medical research charities.

Before that she spent 12 years at the BBC, latterly as Chief Operating Officer of BBC Future Media and Technology, managing the business functions of including the launch of the iPlayer. She holds a broad range of non-executive roles including Board member for National Savings and Investment, the British Medical Journal and the University of Sussex. Earlier she was Deputy Chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the organisation that regulates assisted reproductive medicine in the UK and advises on embryo research and related bio-ethics issues.

In addition to her non-executive work, in 2007-2008 Sharmila was a World Fellow at Yale University with a specialism in innovation and practical cases in bio-ethics.

Sharmila read Physiological Sciences (Medicine) at the University of Oxford and was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s 2014 Birthday Honours List for services to medical research.

Kirsty Cockburn, Director of Policy and External Affairs

Kirsty joined Wilton Park in September 2016 as Director of Policy and Programmes and leads the team in identifying, developing and facilitating policy events. She oversees policy profile and positioning and leads on stewardship and development of partners. Kirsty has enjoyed a career with a triple focus on journalism and communications, leadership roles at non-governmental organisations, and international affairs. She has worked for BBC World Service, in senior communications roles at academic and policy institutes that include the Overseas Development Institute, and as Director of Communications and Fundraising at BBC Media Action, the BBC’s international development charity. In addition she has worked as Managing Editor for SciDevNet, a digital news and analysis service focused on science and development, and in the private sector writing and editing for arts and culture magazines and academic publishers.

As part of Wilton Park’s Senior Management Team, Kirsty shares in overall leadership of the organisation and is developing her own portfolio of events. Thematic areas for potential future events and partnerships include soft power, digital communication, the creative industries and human rights.

Kirsty holds an MA (Cantab) in English.

Jo Lawrance, Director of Operations

Jo joined Wilton Park in June 2001 where her early positions included Senior Conference Administrator and Communications and Change Manager. In December 2012, she was promoted to Director of Delivery and Communications, and in April 2015 took on additional responsibility as Director of Operations. Committed to continuous innovation, Jo’s strengths include strategic business planning, integrated operational delivery and complex change management. She now leads a large and dynamic cross functional team, overseeing the day to day running of Wiston House as well as operational delivery of all Wilton Park events.

Prior to Wilton Park, Jo worked in private sector sales and marketing. As Marketing Manager at Groupe Elis Paris, she was responsible for all sales and new product development in both Europe and Asia, and previously worked for Northern Foods Ltd as National Account Manager / Brand Manager with responsibility for managing a range of accounts across the UK’s top grocery multiples.

As part of Wilton Park’s Senior Management Team, Jo shares in the overall leadership of the organisation and is responsible for the effective and efficient management of Wiston House, as well as all other operating locations. A CIPR Accredited PR Practitioner, Jo also has responsibility for internal communications and oversees delivery of the annual Civil Service People Survey.

Elise Maddocks, Director of Finance and Corporate Services

Elise joined Wilton Park in November 2012 as Director of Finance and was promoted to Director of Finance and Corporate Services in March 2015 increasing her responsibilities to include Human Resources and Information Technology.  Her key strengths lie in getting to the heart of the business and its drivers and implementing strong and robust financial controls. She was awarded Fellowship of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants in December 2016.

Elise has enjoyed a varied career, running her own business until 1998, where she learnt commercial awareness and financial planning skills. She sold her business to study as a Chartered Management Accountant at the same time as developing her career in finance. Her career path since then has seen her working in businesses ranging from pharmaceutical communications, to insurance, telecoms and the electricity industry.

As part of Wilton Park’s Senior Management Team, Elise shares in overall leadership of the organisation and is responsible for the financial planning, ensuring targets are met on an annual basis. She reports to both the Wilton Park Board and the Audit Risk and Assurance Committee.

Elise studied Botany at the University of Manchester (Bsc Hons).