Expert Team: Global Initiative on Polarization

Hilary Pennington is Ford Foundation’s executive vice president of programs. She oversees all of our programs globally, working closely across programs and offices to ensure strategic, meaningful, and well-aligned global grant making. She also oversees the foundation’s BUILD program, and the Office of Strategy and Learning. Before assuming her current role, she served as the foundation’s vice president for Education, Creativity, and Free Expression.

A national expert on postsecondary education and intergenerational change, Hilary joined the foundation in 2013. Earlier, she was an independent consultant whose clients included the Next American University project of the New America Foundation and Arizona State University. She also led the Generations Initiative, a project funded by national foundations to develop effective responses to the dramatic demographic shifts occurring in the United States.

Between 2006 and 2012, Hilary served as director of education, postsecondary success, and special initiatives at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where she guided grant programs across the country and worldwide. Before joining Gates, she was a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and president and CEO of Jobs for the Future, a research and policy development organization she co-founded. In 22 years with JFF, Hilary helped the organization become one of the most influential in the country on issues of education, youth transitions, workforce development, and future work requirements. She also served on President Bill Clinton’s transition team and as co-chair of his administration’s presidential advisory committee on technology.

Hilary serves on the boards of Bard College, the Center for Effective Philanthropy, and Giving Tuesday, and she is a member of the Trinity Church Vestry. She is a graduate of the Yale School of Management and Yale College, and she holds a graduate degree in social anthropology from Oxford University and a master’s degree in theological studies from the Episcopal Divinity School. In 2000, she was a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Share this article

john a. powell is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of civil rights, civil liberties, structural racism, housing, poverty, and democracy.  He is the Director of the Othering & Belonging Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, a research institute that brings together scholars, community advocates, communicators, and policymakers to identify and eliminate the barriers to an inclusive, just, and sustainable society and to create transformative change toward a more equitable world.

john holds the Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion and is a Professor of LawAfrican American Studies, and Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley. Previously, he was the Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University where he also held the Gregory H. Williams Chair in Civil Rights & Civil Liberties at the Moritz College of Law.

He regularly appears in the major media offering expert insights on a host of issues. Recent appearances include NPR and WYNC’s On The Media in an episode about free speech and the constitution, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in an episode about housing segregation, CBS Evening News where john weighed in on police reform and the Chauvin trial. 

john has written extensively on a number of issues including structural racism, racial justice, concentrated poverty, opportunity-based housing, voting rights, affirmative action in the United States, South Africa and Brazil, racial and ethnic identity, spirituality and social justice, and the needs of citizens in a democratic society. He is the author of several books, including his most recent work, Racing to Justice: Transforming our Concepts of Self and Other to Build an Inclusive Society.

The founder and director of the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota, john has also served as Director of Legal Services in Miami, Florida and was the National Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, where he was instrumental in developing educational adequacy theory.

john led the development of an “opportunity-based” model that connects affordable housing to education, health, health care, and employment and is well-known for his work developing the frameworks of “targeted universalism” and “othering and belonging” to effect equity-based interventions.

john has lived and worked in Africa, where he was a consultant to the governments of Mozambique and South Africa, and has also worked in India and Brazil. He is one of the co-founders of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council and serves on the board of several national and international organizations. john has taught at numerous law schools including Harvard and Columbia University.

Share this article

Rima Maktabi is a communications professional with over 20 years’ experience in television. She is currently UK bureau chief for Al Arabiya, covering international news and interviewing top leaders and decision-makers. War torn Syria, Iraq and ISIS have been at the heart of Maktabi’s news coverage from the frontlines of Aleppo, Idlib, Daraa and Mosul. Prior, Maktabi worked at CNN as an anchor and reporter covering major news stories across the Middle East, including the Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain. She was also the host of CNN’s renowned show “Inside the Middle East”. Maktabi started her career in media in her home country Lebanon as a student, beginning with Lebanese Future TV where she spent 10 years and established her career in media and journalism. Maktabi has received numerous accolades for her work, such as the Mohammed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum award for her July war coverage in 2006. She has an MA in International Affairs and BA in Communication Arts from the Lebanese American University in Beirut (LAU).

Share this article

Dabesaki Mac-Ikemenjima is a program officer at Ford Foundation’s office for Western Africa in Lagos. He currently works at the intersection between gender and natural resources, and manages grantmaking that integrates women and girls, disability and youth lenses across these two domains. This work actively promotes the inclusion of the voices of diverse groups and perspectives.

Dabesaki has had extensive experience working on youth issues from research, policy and program perspective across Africa and beyond. Prior to joining Ford, he was a policy consultant to various international non-governmental, governmental, and multilateral institutions. He was an embedded consultant at the African Union Commission for an extended period and supported the development of regional frameworks and strategies, as well as providing technical assistance to its member countries. He was also the executive director of Development Partnership International, a youth-focused organization that worked to promote youth leadership in addressing health and education challenges in Nigeria and Zambia.

Dabesaki holds a PhD in international development and MA in development studies from the University of East Anglia, and a Bachelor’s degree in Educational Psychology from the Rivers State College of Education. He was previously an external research associate at the University of East Anglia and is a visiting researcher to the University of Witwatersrand.

Share this article

Usman Hamid is the Chairperson of the Public Virtue Institute, as well as the Director of Amnesty International Indonesia. He is also a lecturer at Indonesia Jentera School of Law and a human rights lawyer and expert council at the Indonesian Bar Association (PERADI-RBA).

Usman was coordinator of KontraS, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, an organisation that advocates for victims of State abuse in Indonesia. In 2004 he was appointed a member of the Presidential Fact-Finding Team that investigated the 2004 murder of prominent Indonesian human rights defender Munir Said Thalib.

Usman went on to a fellowship at Nottingham University in 2009. He served as an expert adviser to the International Center for Transitional Justice, Jakarta office, from 2010 until 2012. In 2011 Usman was appointed to the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development, where he reviewed the policy on Indonesia’s Human Rights Nation Plan of Action of 2011–2014. In 2012 he co-founded Public Virtue Institute and the Indonesian Branch of, the world’s largest online petition platform.

He has been a visiting scholar at Columbia University (2003) and held a fellowship at Nottingham University (2009).

Share this article

Javier Ciurlizza is Ford Foundation’s director for the Andean Region, overseeing all grantmaking in the region from Ford’s office in Bogotá, Colombia.

Before joining the foundation in 2016, Javier served as program director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the International Crisis Group. He led efforts to address armed, social, and political conflicts in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela, and Haiti. Previously, he worked as Americas director for the International Center for Transitional Justice.

Earlier, Javier served as executive secretary of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Peru, and as director of the Institute of Democracy and Human Rights at the Universidad Católica. He was appointed the chief of cabinet to the Peruvian Ministry of Justice and served as special adviser for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also guided truth commissions and judiciary processes in Paraguay, Kenya, Indonesia, and Liberia. He started his professional career closely linked to the Peruvian human rights movement, as assistant to the executive secretary of the National Coordinating Committee on Human Rights and later as secretary general of the Andean Commission of Jurists.

Javier holds a master’s degree in international political economy from the University of Warwick in England, and a law degree from the Pontificia Universidad Católica of Peru.

Share this article

Rachel Brown the Founder and Executive Director of Over Zero, an organization that works to build resilience to identity-based violence and other forms of group-targeted harm. She is a recognized expert on confronting hateful and dangerous rhetoric and her work for the past decade has focused on using communication to prevent violent conflict around the world.

Rachel authored Defusing Hate: A Strategic Communication Guide to Counteract Dangerous Speech and was a Fellow at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon Skjodt Center for Prevention of Genocide. She also founded and was CEO of Sisi ni Amani-Kenya (SNA-K), an internationally recognized organization that pioneered new strategies to build local capacity for violence prevention and civic engagement in Kenya. Rachel has provided training and strategy support to organizations and programs in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Africa and consulted for organizations including the World Bank, DAI, and Internews. 

Her work has been profiled at conferences, events, and publications globally, including CBS, PopTech, the United States Institute for Peace, United States Airforce Academy, UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Universities across the U.S., and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation International Conference on Philanthropy.

Share this article

Tamara is currently Senior Gender-Based Violence Specialist in the Office of the President of South Africa. She is an experienced development consultant with over 30 years in the field in different capacities, ranging from supporting locally based organisations and social movements to working with senior government and political offices, development agencies, and philanthropies on complex gender-based violence programming and policy initiatives.

Her areas of technical support have included gender-based violence programme design; monitoring, evaluation, and learning; policy analysis and research; organisational coaching; strategy development and facilitation; and diversity management. She has worked with clients across Africa, Europe, North America, Asia, and the Global South more broadly.

Tamara’s current work has included providing high-level technical support at the very senior government levels, providing strategy support for global coalitions in the field of sexual rights and intersectional feminism, and providing support for anti-racist interventions as a form of structural violence. Her approach to work is embedded within a deep commitment to social justice issues and profound love and sensitivity for humanity—particularly those historically marginalised by unequal power relations—coupled with an unwavering focus on delivering technically sound, client-focused, high-quality work.

Share this article

Barney Afako is a Ugandan lawyer with vast experience in conflict mediation. He has worked in the fields of human rights, refugee law, criminal justice and transition issues in several countries. He is a part-time tribunal judge in the United Kingdom. He is also a member of the UN Mediation Support Unit Standby Team. In June 2018, he was selected as the inaugural IFIT Alex Boraine Fellow: a fellowship established in honour of IFIT’s first Board president, Dr Boraine, who passed away in 2018.

Between 2006 and 2008, Afako was the Chief Legal Advisor to the Southern Sudanese mediation in the Juba Peace Talks between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army. In that capacity, he developed and drafted the Final Peace Agreement, with particular responsibility for the Agreement on Reconciliation and Accountability. These were the first efforts where transitional justice issues were addressed in a context in which the International Criminal Court was already active. 

In 2009, he advised the African Union Panel on Darfur (AUPD), chaired by former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, and was responsible for drafting the justice recommendations of the AUPD’s report.  From 2010, he has been an adviser to the African Union High Level Implementation Panel on Sudan and South Sudan, which was responsible for facilitating negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan on secession issues and continues to work with both states on a range of issues.

Afako has provided advice to other peace processes on addressing the past. In Uganda, he has advised the Government and particularly the Amnesty Commission on issues of peacebuilding and reconciliation. 

He is the author of several publications on justice and peace issues. He is a regular commentator in the international media – including print, radio and television – on political and international justice developments in Africa. 

Thomas Carothers is the senior vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In that capacity, he oversees all of the research programs at Carnegie.  He also co-directs the Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program and carries out research and writing on democracy-related issues.

Carothers is a leading authority on international support for democracy, human rights, governance, the rule of law, and civil society. He has worked on democracy assistance projects for many organizations and carried out extensive field research on aid efforts around the world.

He is the author or editor of ten critically acclaimed books and many articles in prominent journals and newspapers, including most recently, Democracies Divided: The Global Challenge of Political Polarization (Brookings Press, 2019, co-edited with Andrew O’Donohue). He has been a visiting faculty member at the Central European University in Budapest, Nuffield College, Oxford University, and Johns Hopkins SAIS.

Prior to joining the Endowment, Carothers practised international and financial law at Arnold & Porter and served as an attorney-adviser in the office of the legal adviser of the U.S. Department of State.