Joanna Knight: The Hatch Founder Strengthening Social Justice Organisations

Joanna Knight is the founder of merl, a purpose-driven consultancy supporting civil society organisations to achieve their social justice missions through monitoring, evaluation, learning and research work.

The particular focus of her work is on decolonising monitoring, evaluation and learning practices to amplify the voices of the people at the centre of the struggle, informed by her years of experience across the third sector.

What does merl do?

merl is made up of four core workstreams: Learning Together, Strategise Together, Evaluate, and Research and Knowledge Co-production.

Each of these elements of the business is about supporting clients to work through their challenges, taking a systems approach to navigating complexity to create real and lasting change.

For Joanna, learning is absolutely crucial in achieving social justice. She explains, “Monitoring, evaluation, learning, it’s all about creating space, ensuring that we’re thinking about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and the context we are doing it in, and bringing the people at the centre of an injustice to lead on informing what’s working and what’s not working.

“My role is more of a facilitator, creating space for reflection and learning for my clients.”

Through helping organisations to create more intentional, more informed, and more evidence-based campaigns and programmes, Joanna is helping to further the social justice goals of all of merl’s clients.

What do we mean by social justice organisations?

Social justice is a rather catch all term that encompasses any work to build a fairer society. From small community groups, to Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO), this sector does a huge amount of work to campaign for and enact better conditions for people right the way across the globe. 

Joanna works with a range of different groups across this sector with a focus on three main areas: building strong civil society; equality and rights for people forced to move; and social and climate justice.

Having built up a wealth of experience supporting organisations to achieve systemic social transformation, Joanna wanted to use her learnings to make a positive difference.

Setting up merl

With a career spanning a range of third sector organisations, and having operated as an independent consultant before launching merl, Joanna already knew her sector and knew what service she wanted to provide through the business.

It was the other elements of running a business such as branding and growing the business, that led her to seek support through a Hatch programme, joining the Incubator in 2022.

“Before setting up a company, I wanted to make sure all the foundational pieces were in place. I felt it would be really good to get support.”

The Hatch programme supported her to design the framework for her business, a safe space to think and develop merl’s values, principles, and strategy.

“The programme gave me the opportunity to hear from experts who helped me think through business processes and showed me different tools I might want to use and the space to practice using them. I really appreciated that.”

Joanna is based in Scotland and liked that as a virtual programme the support from Hatch was accessible for anyone right across the UK. She was able to connect with a cohort of like-minded entrepreneurs from a vast geographical spread.

Would you like support thinking about how to capture the impact of your organisation or put in place a learning framework?

Contact Joanna

Visit the merl website or reach out to Joanna directly on

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