Our advisors

The Asfari Foundation has a small team which is supported by a range of expert advisors, particularly from our target countries. Our advisors over the past few years have included the experts below. We are very grateful for their support and also wish to thank many others who have provided informal support and advice to the Foundation; together they have helped improve our work with our partners and for our target communities.

Anies Al-Hroub

Dr Anies Al-Hroub is an Associate Professor of Education Psychology and Special Education and the former Chairperson of the Department of Education at the American University of Beirut (AUB). Currently, he is a Visiting Scholar at Renzulli Center for Creativity, Talented Development and Gifted Education at Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut. His research interests focus on gifted and talented education, special education and learning disabilities, twice-exceptionality, creativity, vulnerability, educational assessment, and school counselling. He has led a number of educational projects sponsored by UNICEF, UNRWA, UNESCO, the British Academy, USAID, World Bank, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI), and Welfare Association and served as advisor for the Asfari Foundation, the Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (CCECS) at AUB, and the Middle East Professional Learning Initiative (MEPLI) at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

BDB Pitmans

BDB Pitmans was established in 2018 following a merger between legacy firms Bircham Dyson Bell (BDB) and Pitmans Law. It advises the Foundation on charity law, grant making, corporate governance, property, employment and immigration matters.

Celine Cantat

Dr Celine Cantat is an academic and professional researcher focusing on refugee and forced displacement issues in Europe and the Middle East. Recently, Celine’s research has concentrated on solidarity initiatives with refugees in different contexts and on forced migration from Syria. Celine has helped the Foundation with project management and research.

Claude Isakov

Involved in international aid and humanitarian work for the past thirty years, Claude Isakov acquired her expertise in programme assessment and management mostly in the Africa and Middle East regions in various organisations, from the UN to Save the Children International, Oxfam and other national and local organisations. She specialises in local economic development and health, programme design, especially at the community level and with and for youth and women, and in strategic planning. She lived in Syria, and has worked in countries hosting large communities of Syrian refugees. Claude helped the Foundation with programme planning on education.

Columbia Global Centers Istanbul

The Columbia Global Centers promote and facilitate the collaborative and impactful engagement of Columbia University’s faculty, students, and alumni with the world to enhance understanding, address global challenges, and advance knowledge and its exchange. Columbia Global Centers Istanbul supported the Asfari Foundation with research and the organisation of a workshop for female Syrian civil society leaders.

Hala Raad

Hala Raad is a special education teacher at the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Program of the Department of Psychiatry at AUBMC. She has extensive programmatic, educational and clinical experience in dealing with children and adolescents whose special educational needs in Lebanon and other Arab countries. Hala has worked in academic, clinical and community development settings at national and regional levels, and has managed large development programmes related to education, inclusion and disability, including managing various projects in Syria over three years. Hala monitored one of the Foundation’s projects for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

HW Fisher & Company

HW Fisher & Company’s not-for-profit group is one of the leading professional advisers to the voluntary sector, acting as auditors and accountants to over 300 charities and other not-for-profit associations. At HW Fisher & Company, a dedicated team of partners and specialist managers across all disciplines work to ensure an integrated and comprehensive approach to the requirements of its clients. HW Fisher supports the Foundation with its audit, financial advice and services.

Ibtikar Consultants

Ibtikar Research and Consulting is a social development consulting firm based in Lebanon. Ibtikar, owned and run by women, promotes participatory social development through research, strategic planning, proposal and project design and evaluations. Ibtikar assisted the Asfari Foundation with assessing Syrian civil society partners, including developing a capacity building programme, and did research on the crisis in Syria.

Jean Kors

Dr. Jean Kors is an international expert and strategist with over 25 years of experience in socioeconomic development, strategic planning and NGO management. He is a leading authority on issues related to the civil society, human rights, gender equality, GBV, case management, protection, advocacy, policy development, game theory, social norms, human behavior, social and behavior change, nudge theory, emotional intelligence, emergency response, refugees, Sphere, conflict transformation, research, andragogy, education, e-learning, capacity building, project planning, fundraising, accountability and quality assurance. He is currently the Managing Director of the International Center for Organizational Development (ICOD), an institute that collaborates with local and international development, advocacy and relief organizations that aim to optimize the organizational performance, effectiveness and social impact of the public and civil organizations in the MENA region. He assisted the Asfari Foundation with capacity building training for Syrian civil society organisations.

Laila Atshan

Laila Atshan is an internationally-recognized mental health expert who focuses on war and trauma. She has earned degrees from Harvard, Rutgers, and Birzeit University. She has consulted for UNDP, UNICEF, CARE, the YMCA, Save the Children, the US Institute for Peace, the American Friends Service Committee, the Red Crescent, and other leading international organizations. Atshan has worked with Iraqi refugees, Syrian war survivors, and minority and vulnerable populations across the Middle East/North Africa region, including children, rape survivors, as well as civil society leaders. She also conducts training for mental health workers to ensure that their own well-being is cared for as well. Laila was a trainer on a course for women civil society leaders organized by the Foundation in Turkey in collaboration with Columbia University.

Leila Hilal

Leila Hilal is a Fellow at New America, where she previously directed a program on the Middle East. She currently consults and writes on Middle East affairs and is a Senior Adviser with Search for Common Ground. She has conducted numerous research missions on refugees, governance and transitional justice issues in the Middle East. Leila has assisted the Asfari Foundation with the monitoring and evaluation of several projects.

Maha Shuayb

Maha Shuayb is the director of the Centre for Lebanese Studies. Prior to that she was a Senior Fellow at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge. Maha’s research focuses on the sociology and politics of education particularly equity and equality in education and the education of marginalised groups including refugees. Over the past six years, Maha has been occupied with the education response to the Syrian Refugee crisis in Lebanon. She has headed a number of research studies looking at access and quality of education for refugees and the obstacles they face.

Matt Jackson

Matt Jackson has nearly 20 years experience in social change, with a unique mix of experience in the UK and international development globally. He has worked on both the programmes and the communications/advocacy sides within the sector. He was Director of Comic Relief’s Futures Lab and held senior roles at Scope and Oxfam and Y Care International. Earlier in his career he worked in the education and parliamentary programme at the Council for Arab British Understanding and spent some time volunteering in Palestine with UNIPAL. As a consultant he enjoys developing strategy, programmes and projects and is an expert in using Foresight and Human Centered Design and tries to make his work as practical and accessible as possible. His full bio can be seen here.

Noa Maxwell Associates

Noa Maxwell Associates has worked with the Foundation’s students and staff by offering advice and coaching on how to be confident communicators. As trained actors and performers, Noa and his team bring the skills and energy of performance to help clients project themselves as passionate and articulate leaders.

Penny Wood

Penny is a highly experienced career coach with a background in executive recruitment and has been supporting individuals with their career development for over 15 years. She works with talented individuals on all aspects of career coaching and provides ongoing career mentoring and performance coaching, as part of talent management and professional development programmes. Penny supported the Foundation by running an interview skills workshop for the Foundation’s scholars.

Rana Khalaf

Rana Khalaf is the author of several publications on Syria that seek to bridge the gap between academia and the world of civil society, activism and policy making. Rana has led and co-founded local civil society projects, movements and organizations. She supported the Foundation through project development, management and assessment.

Research Centre on Asylum and Migration

The Research Centre on Asylum and Migration (IGAM) is an independent policy group and research institution in Turkey. Its President, Metin Çorabatır, represents IGAM on the Syrian refugee crisis. Together with Columbia Global Centers Istanbul, IGAM carried out consultancy work for the Asfari Foundation on the higher education landscape for Syrians in Turkey.

Samia Tabari

Samia El Tabari is a social development consultant with 25 years’ experience in humanitarian and development programmes in the Middle East. Samia has provided frequent support to the Foundation’s Youth Empowerment and Civil Society Programmes as well as delivering staff training and recruitment advice. Samia also worked with the Foundation through Ibtikar.

Samir Seifan

Samir Seifan is a prominent Syrian economist and previous Chairman of the Syrian Management Consultants Association. He worked as the Syria country manager for Petrofac, and has written and co-authored various studies about economic issues. Samir helped the Foundation with scholarship recruitment and advice on the situation in Syria.

Sari Hanafi

Sari Hanafi is Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Media Studies at the American University of Beirut. He is also the editor of Idafat: the Arab Journal of Sociology. He is the President of both the International Sociological Association and previously vice-president of the Arab Council of Social Science. He mentored Asfari scholarship students at AUB and provides general advice to the Foundation.

The Solutions Focus

The Solutions Focus (TSF) deliver team training, consultancy, coaching and facilitation. Their programmes take a proven and pragmatic approach towards outstanding performance. By clarifying a project and keeping it on track, their innovative work brings fresh perspectives to client problems and challenges. TSF’s team is led by directors Paul Z Jackson and Janine Waldman. TSF provided training for Foundation staff.