Filling the GAPs

Philanthropy Support in the Arab Region

Individual experts


Zeina Adra Akr - Community Development and Data Management
Zeina Adra Akr is holder of a Social Sciences degree in Marketing/Management from the Lebanese American University (formerly known as Beirut University College), has over 16 years of practical, management and research experience.  As a Partner and Executive Director for Information International, Ms. Adra leads the Beirut-based research and consultancy firm in survey research, database collection and analysis of projects for the Arab World and the Near East in the areas of health, education, agriculture, infrastructure facilities and demographic and socio-economic studies (including project evaluation and impact assessment). In addition to working with Information International, Ms. Adra is Founder and Program Director of the Social and Cultural Development Association (INMA), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that was established in 1997 and services clusters of villages and specific neighborhoods throughout Lebanon. For INMA, Ms. Adra directs national, sustainable projects in tourism and agriculture that focus on health, education, environment, cultural and income generating activities. 
Ms. Adra has significant experience working on international development and donor-funded projects, through which she has conducted needs assessment, reviews of literature, qualitative and quantitative studies, structured questionnaires for surveys based on random sampling, field visits, training and supervising of field surveyors, analysis of data and preparation of reports. She has also established and maintained close contacts with international donors, NGOs and UN agencies, local banks, financial institutions, auditors and Government of Lebanon ministries and local municipalities, which provide her with the ability to coordinate and meet with key stakeholders and city officials throughout Lebanon.  
Reem Aslan – Community Education and Enterprise Development
Reem Aslan graduated in 1989 with a B.Sc. in Nutrition and Food technology from the University of Jordan, Amman.  In 1993 she graduated with certificates in Community Education Development and Enterprise Development from the Community Education Development Center, Coventry and Quantum, Stoke on Trent in the UK.  Ms. Aslant began her career as Community Nutritionist with UNICEF in Jordan and shifted with Care International and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) into training, management and project initiation.  From 2001 to 2010 she managed the Iraq and Lebanon Programs of CIDA from her base in Gatineau, Canada. Since 2010 and back in the Middle East, Ms. Aslan has provided policy analysis for CIDA and led the successful launch of the National Steering Committee for Pay Equity “NSCPE” in close collaboration with the Jordan National Commission for Women (JNCW) and the Ministry of Labor (MoL).
Ruby Assad Al-Rousan – Community Development and Gender Specialist
Ruby Assad graduated 1984 with a B.Sc. in Plant Protection from the Faculty of Agriculture/ University of Jordan in Amman.  She is fluent in English, Arabic and has solid language skills in Persian.  Ruby Assad is socio-economic and rural development specialist with extensive field experience in the Middle East region.  She worked with international lending agencies and donor institutions such as EU, DFID, CARE, UNICEF, GTZ, GFA Consulting Group, and USIAD on project identification, appraisal, management and implementation.  Ms. Assad has designed and implemented revolving loan funds on the levels of community based organizations and conducted field studies using PRA methods in Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq, and Jordan primarily in the sectors of water and agriculture.  Ms. Assad is an experienced trainer and facilitator.   
Reem Bseiso – Management and IT
 Reem Bseiso graduated in 1980 with a B.Sc. in Pure Science and achieved her Advanced CAD (Computer Aided Design) from Virginia Polytechnic University and a Higher Diploma of Information and Communications Technology in Education (CADER) in 1995.  Ms. Bseiso has extensive experience in policy and public reform, governance and ICT in education and global training. She has organized global summits and managed national and international programs and organizations.  Ms. Bseiso is the Founder of Global Tech-Net (G-TeN) a non-profit initiative for ICT-based solutions, registered in Jordan.  From 2007 to 2010 Ms. Bseiso has was CEO of World Links (WL) International: and Worlds Links Arab Region (WLAR). She managed a global operation to spread Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Knowledge Economy skills in education, training in education, higher education, vocational and community sectors, for women and youth, through scalable and cost effective schemes.  
Barry Gaberman – Community Development, Management and Philanthropy Infrastructure  
Barry Gaberman completed 35 years with the Ford Foundation as Senior VP where he was responsible for managing the meetings and affairs of the foundation’s Board of Directors.  For five years he was Chairman and President of Boardsource, which is dedicated to advancing the public good by building exceptional nonprofit boards and inspiring board service.  Currently he is Chair of the Global Fund for Community Foundations and the Chair of OXFAM America.  He received the Council on Foundation's 2006 Distinguished Grantmaker Award for his untiring passion for philanthropy.  He has served on the boards of the Council on Foundations, the Independent Sector, the European Foundation Centre, the International Fellowships Fund, Hispanics in Philanthropy, the Trust for Civil Society in Central and Eastern Europe, and the Center for Global Partnership of the Japan Foundation. He is also the past chair of the Foundation Center and the chair emeritus of the Coordinating Committee of WINGS (Worldwide Initiatives for Grantmaker Support).
Nisreen Haj-Ahmed – Community Organizing
Nisreen Haj Ahmed received her bachelors’ degree in law in 1995 from the University of Jordan and her LL.M in international trade law from the University of Edinburgh. Ms. Haj Ahmed is the founder of Mujtama3i initiative whose mission is to openly share knowledge and experience on community organizing practices in support of campaigns for justice and freedom. She is a member of the Leading Change Network and a research fellow at the Hauser Center at the Harvard Kennedy School where she completing her Mid-Career Masters in Public Administration in 2008. That’s when she studied community organizing with Marshall Ganz and later joined his teaching team. For the past three years, she has been supporting communities organizing in Jordan, Tunisia and Syria and growing a group of community organizing coaches in the Middle East. Before entering the world of organizing, and from 1999 to 2007, she was providing legal counsel to the Palestinian negotiating team in the peace talks with Israel and before it, to the Palestinian Ministry of Economy on international trade agreements.
Nisreen Haj Ahmad and Mais Iraqsusi in 2011 founded “Ahel” a social enterprise that is located in Amman, Jordan and operates in the Arab World. Its mission is to support people, organize their power and resources to lead campaigns for change towards justice and freedom using a value-based community-organizing model. Marshall Ganz of Harvard Kennedy School taught and mentored Nisreen Haj Ahmad for the past three years and on occasion provides guidance and advice to Ahel’s work.  
Web link: AHEL
Christopher Harris – Social Justice and Philanthropy Infrastructure
Christopher M. Harris is currently Senior Consultant to the Foundation Center in New York and to the Bernard van Leer Foundation in the Netherlands.  Until last year  he served for ten years as the Senior Program Officer on Philanthropy at the Ford Foundation where he worked on strengthening new and existing philanthropy in the U.S. and globally.  The special focus of his work was on how philanthropy can be best used as a tool for social justice and peace.  His grants focused on increasing and improving funding by foundations for rights and justice efforts—racial, human, economic, civil, women’s, sexual and cultural rights as well as for peace and reconciliation.  He supported the founding of the Arab Human Rights Fund, Trust Africa and the Brazil Human Rights Fund.  He managed the design of the Foundation’s $100 million International Initiative to Strengthen Philanthropy, a support and learning network of 20 foundations across the globe; co-chaired the Foundation’s worldwide Philanthropy Learning Group; and was a member of the Ford Foundation Foreign Policy Task Force.  He founded the Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace, on which he still serves.  His work also included funding research and strengthening philanthropic infrastructure and foundation accountability.
Prior to his time at Ford, Harris was a vice president at the Council on Foundations where he directed work on professional development and international issues.  Earlier he served with the Council of Chief State School Officers, where he focused on improving education for marginalized students, and worked closely with federal agencies, Congressional staff, state departments of education and advocacy groups on policy development and legislation.    Harris also has substantial overseas experience.  He has worked on education and training in the West Bank and Gaza, and served on the founding staff of the International Relief/Development Project in Somalia and Ethiopia.  He has a doctorate in education from Harvard University and was on the Editorial Board of the Harvard Educational Review.  
He is currently on the editorial board of Alliance magazine (UK), the advisory board of the John Gerhart Center on Philanthropy and Civic Engagement (American University in Cairo), the board of directors of the Friends of the Foundation de France and is a trustee of the Philanthropy Bridge Foundation (London).   He also serves as senior advisor to the China Foundation Center (Beijing) as well as on several other advisory committees in the U.S. and other countries.  He has edited several books on education policy and written a number of articles on philanthropy.
Mazen Hashweh
Mazen holds a MBA from City University of London, a Higher Certificate and Diploma in Educational Administration and Educational Planning and Economics of Education from Bielefeld and Landau Universities in Germany, and a Bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin / USA. Mazen had a wide range of articles and books published in the area of human capacity development.
Mazen is a regional expert in organizational and human resources development focusing on strategic planning, capacity building, program design, and monitoring and evaluation as well as on technical and vocational education and training. In recent years, Mazen has worked as Founding CEO and Senior Consultant of a training and consultancy firm, where he has performed a wide range of local and regional assignments for the European Commission, USAID, ETF, GTZ, KFW and others. Prior to the consulting work, Mazen has held senior management positions at the Welfare Association, Save the Children, the Expert Team, and the YMCA.
Barry Knight  - Peace and Social Justice, Quantitative Analysis and Facilitation 
Barry Knight is executive director of CENTRIS, Barry has worked as an adviser to the Ford Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Global Fund for Community Foundations, Sabanci Foundation, Foundations for Peace and the Norwegian Peacebuilding Centre. He is co‚Äźchair of the Working Group on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace, which is developing a learning community of practitioners across the globe. His earlier career includes appointments at the Home Office and Cambridge University. He has written books about civil society, voluntary action, economic development, democracy and social justice.
Dina Sharif – Philanthropy and Civic Engagement
Ms. Sherif holds a BA in Political Science and an MA in Development Studies, both acquired from the American University in Cairo and is currently working on a PhD in Philanthropy Studies at Indiana University Purdue in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Ms. Sherif has been the Associate Director of the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement since it was established in 2006 at the American University in Cairo.  Further to that, she also frequently consults with companies based in the Arab region with regards to their corporate social responsibility efforts.  Prior to her position at the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement, she was the Deputy Director of Projects at Financial Technical Consulting Services, a consultancy firm that specializes in rural development in sub-Saharan Africa, where she travelled extensively throughout Africa. Ms. Sherif also has wide-ranging experience in development at the local level in Egypt through her work at the Institute for Cultural Affairs in the Middle East and North Africa, and her work at Environmental Quality International. Further to the above, she is currently a board member of the Arab Media Forum for Environment and Development, a US Based NGO called Soliya, the Alashanek ya Baladi Association (For You My Country), and Tawasol; all based in Egypt.  Ms. Sherif’s overall experience has led her to be qualified in project management, strategic planning, the design of public awareness campaigns, monitoring and evaluation, program design, organizational capacity building and socio-economic research. Over Ms. Sherif’s ten years of experience, her work has been applied to the following areas: environment, education, women’s empowerment, youth development, food security, agricultural development, public health, service learning and strategic philanthropy.
Ms. Sherif is co –editor and contributing author of the book: ”From Charity to Social Change: Trends in Arab Philanthropy”
Rania Sweiti – Business and Community development & training
Rania Sweity has a bachelor degree in Agriculture engineering and a master’s degree in business and management from the University of Jordan.  Ms. Sweity has more than a decade experience in the development sector in Jordan and the Arab region, primarily in business development and community mobilization.  She has conducted training, coaching and capacity building workshops for urban and rural development initiatives with various national and international NGOs, community- based organizations, and individual entrepreneurs. Ms. Sweity is a certified trainer and advisor in the Women Access to Entrepreneurship Development and Training Program (WAEDAT) and she is also a certified trainer in Youth Entrepreneurship.  She has conducted training in business planning, entrepreneurship, Result Based Management (RBM), Project Management project design, Monitoring and Evaluation, proposal writing, preparing feasibility study, microfinance and soft skills in English and Arabic language across the Arab Region. 
Setta Tutundjian – Project management, training and research
Ms. Tutundjan has a B.Sc. in Economics and Business administration from the University of Jordan, Amman, Jordan. Since 1992 has build her experience in program design and management in the areas of social marketing (communication for social change), water demand management, advocacy, strategic planning, and institutional and policy reform.  She is an experienced manager who has led the conceptualization, preparation and implementation of a diverse portfolio of large, multi-sectoral, complex projects that exceed the value of $70 million.  Ms. Tutundjan is an experienced trainer and researcher. 
Rien van Gendt – Management, Investment Management and Philanthropy  
Rien van Gendt (1943) has retired on October 1, 2007 as Executive Director of the Van Leer Group Foundation in Amstelveen (Netherlands). Previously he worked in the University of Amsterdam, in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris (France) and in the public sector as Deputy Secretary of the Scientific Council for Government Policy in the Cabinet of the Prime Minister (Netherlands) and as Deputy Director of the State Administration Limburg (Netherlands). He worked in the private sector as Chief Executive Officer of Wilma Vastgoed B.V., an international real estate development and management company (Utrecht, Netherlands) before joining the Bernard Van Leer Foundation (The Hague, Netherlands) in 1988 as Executive Director. In 2002 he was appointed Executive Director of the Van Leer Group Foundation. After his retirement in October 2007 he has started ‘Van Gendt Philanthropy Services’.
At present he serves on the supervisory/advisory boards of several foundations, not-for-profit organizations and corporations in the Netherlands and the United States, like the Van Leer Group Foundation (Amstelveen, Netherlands; also Member of their Investment Committee), Bernard van Leer Foundation (The Hague, Netherlands), Bernard van Leer Stiftung (Lucerne, Switzerland), Crecor BV (Amstelveen, Netherlands), Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (New York, USA), Flowfund (Hilversum, Netherlands), European Cultural Foundation (Amsterdam, Netherlands), Foundation 1818 (The Hague, Netherlands), Marie and Alain Philippson Foundation (Brussels, Belgium), European Foundation Center (Brussels, Belgium), Weekendschool (Amsterdam, Netherlands), International Council on Security and Development (London, UK), Partners in Health (Boston, US), Dance4Life International (Amsterdam, Netherlands) and the Cooperating Dutch Philanthropic Organisations/SBF (Amsterdam, Netherlands). 
He chairs the Board of Alliance Publishing Trust (London, UK), the Board of the Dutch Association of Foundations/FIN (The Hague, Netherlands) and chairs the Investment Committees of Foundation 1818 and the Flow Fund.
In 2005 Rien van Gendt received the Distinguished Grantmaker Award in the United States.