Meet Our Experts

Lana Abu-HijlehLana Abu-Hijleh, Country Director, Palestine
Lana Abu-Hijleh is a Palestinian development expert working for the past 28 years with international development and humanitarian agencies in Palestine and throughout the Middle East region. Read more.
Elizabeth AdamsElizabeth Adams, Technical Specialist for Agriculture and Food Security
Elizabeth Adams is Global Communities’ Technical Specialist for Agriculture and Food Security. Read more.
Chase ConiglioChase Coniglio, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist
Chase Coniglio is an international development professional with eight years of experience in project design, monitoring, evaluation, and knowledge management. Read more.
headshot Milton Funes, Senior Development Advisor
Milton Funes has 15 years of international development experience, with expertise in capacity building, health, social infrastructure, urban/rural planning, micro-finance and economic development. Read more.
Natalie HillNatalie Hill, Technical Specialist for Governance
Natalie Hill has more than ten years of experience in democratic development to support the design and implementation of governance programs, including work with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) across the western Balkans, Eurasia, and Asia. Read more.
Marjan Horst EhsassiMarjan Horst Ehsassi, Director for Program Impact and Learning
Marjan H. Ehsassi is Director of Program Impact & Learning. Most recently, she led the Principled Engagement Initiative and was Senior Policy Fellow at Georgetown University's Institute for Women, Peace and Security. Read more.


Elissa McCarter-LaBordeElissa McCarter-LaBorde, Vice President, Development Finance
Ms. LaBorde is Vice President of Development Finance, where over the last 11 years she has built the technical department that manages Global Communities’ microfinance, SME, and housing finance. Read more.


Nancy McDonaldNancy McDonald, Senior Technical Specialist for Youth
Nancy McDonald is the Senior Technical Specialist for Youth at Global Communities, where she provides technical support to Global Communities youth programming. Read more.
Ashleigh MullinaxAshleigh Mullinax, Senior Knowledge Management Specialist
Ashleigh Mullinax is an international development and knowledge management professional with over 10 years of experience managing food security, agriculture, knowledge management, and learning programs for USAID and other donors. Read more.
Richard ShumannRichard Shumann, Director, Development Finance Operations
Richard Shumann is Director of Development Finance Operations for Global Communities, and Chief Operations Officer of Vitas Group. Read more.
Joanna SpringerJoanna Springer, Senior Research and Evaluation Specialist
Joanna Springer has seven years of experience in evaluation, research and technical writing for international development and international education. Read more.
Tuul TuvshinbayarTuul Tuvshinbayar, Program Manager, EMIRGE Mongolia
Tuul Tuvshinbayar is the Program Manager of the USAID-funded Enabling Market Integration for Rural Group Empowerment (EMIRGE) program. Read more.
Kelly Van HusenKelly Van Husen, Humanitarian Assistance Specialist
Kelly Van Husen provides programmatic support to emergency programs and develops and implements Global Communities’ overall humanitarian assistance strategy, focusing on programs responding to Gaza and Syria. Read more.
Pia WanekPia Wanek, Vice President, Humanitarian Assistance
Pia Wanek is Vice President of Humanitarian Assistance at Global Communities, which works closely with communities to help them recover and eventually rebuild in the wake of both man-made and natural disasters. Read more.
Kristin WilcoxKristin Wilcox, Technical Specialist & Program Manager, Cooperative Development Programs
Kristin Wilcox is a Technical Specialist and Program Manager for Cooperative Development Programs with Global Communities. Read more.
Karla YoderKarla Yoder, Economic Development and Workforce Technical Specialist
Karla Yoder is Global Communities’ Economic Development and Workforce Technical Specialist. She specializes in education, youth transition and workforce development. Read more.

Lana Abu-HijlehLana Abu-Hijleh,

Country Director, Palestine
Since 2003, Abu-Hijleh has been the Country Director of Global Communities Palestine, leading a team of 200 Palestinian and international professionals in designing and implementing assistance programs focusing on economic revitalization, community and social infrastructure, democracy/governance, job creation, and food security in the West Bank and Gaza. Among these programs is the Youth Local Council movement in the West Bank, which gives Palestinian youths a chance to participate in and run their own electoral process, respond to constituent concerns, plan and execute community improvement projects, and shadow local ministers and council members to learn good governance practices and become engaged citizens in the political process. In 2014, Ms. Abu-Hijleh was named a as a Laureate and finalist of the John P. McNulty Prize by the Aspen Institute for her work developing the program. 

Prior to her work with Global Communities, Ms. Abu-Hijleh served as the Deputy Resident Representative of the UNDP Program of Assistance to the Palestinian People for over 17 years and was responsible for developing policies and programs with a range of focus areas from water resource management, sustainable basic infrastructure development, good governance promotion and institutionalization to women and youth social, political and economic empowerment. In addition she is the first Palestinian woman to become a member of the Board of Directors of the Palestine Investment Fund and the Bank of Palestine, the leading National Bank in the West Bank and Gaza. She is a fellow of the Aspen Institute Global Leadership Network member of the Middle East Leadership Initiative; a member of the global Young Presidents Organization; and the Vice Chair of the Partners for New Beginning, Palestine Chapter. She also serves on the Boards of the Palestine Student Lending Fund, Riwaq - the Palestinian Center for Architectural Conservation, Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute, El-Funoun Palestinian Dance Troupe, and the Palestinian Institute for Public Diplomacy. She is also a member of the Education for Employment Foundation-Palestine and the Business Women Forum.

Recent Articles & Publications

Elizabeth Adams, Technical Specialist, Agriculture and Food Security

Ms. Adams has extensive technical knowledge on approaches for reaching smallholder farmers and their organizations; connecting them with inclusive market systems; and value chain analysis and development. She has 15 years of professional experience working with a variety of agricultural development projects in Latin America & Caribbean, Asia and Africa. She has engaged in a mix of technical services, project management, and business development for projects funded by USAID, USDA, MCC, foundations and the private sector.

Recent Articles & Publications

Chase Coniglio, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist

Mr. Coniglio is a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist with a technical expertise in mobile technologies and community-based M&E as practiced in food security and poverty reduction programs. Chase has led technology driven M&E strategies for USG funded programs in El Salvador, Guatemala, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Chase earned his M.A. in International Development with an emphasis in Evaluation Methods from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and received his B.A. in Global Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. 

Milton Funes in Haiti

Milton Funes, Senior Development Advisor
In Mr. Fune’s previous role as Director of Program Impact and Learning, he led a team focusing on taking lessons learned in the field and disseminating across the development field and other interested parties. Mr. Funes also spent three years as Global Communities’ Country Director in Rwanda, leading large-scale community-based programs that supported Rwandan families to develop sustainable ways of coping with health and economic challenges. He also served as Global Communities’ Country Director for Honduras, where he managed programs worth $60 million from Global Fund for health protection in HIV/AIDS with an emphasis on Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC). He has also worked with several country teams while providing short-to- medium term technical assistance to programs in Afghanistan, Haiti, Indonesia, Sri-Lanka, Colombia, Bolivia and Georgia. Mr. Funes has developed proposals and managed programs funded by a wide range of donors including USDA, World Bank, The Global Fund and USAID. He has also been a panelist / presenter in major international conferences such as the International Aids Conference (Melbourne 2014), World Urban Forum (Rio de Janeiro 2010), World Humanitarian Conference (Boston, 2011) and Steel Days Conference (Luxembourg 2011). Mr. Funes holds a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, completed M.B.A. coursework at the Catholic University of Honduras, and has received a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the National University of Honduras. He is a native Spanish speaker and speaks English, French and Danish. 

Recent Articles & Publications

Kelly Van Husen, Humanitarian Assistance Specialist
Ms. Van Husen also develops and implements Global Communities’ overall humanitarian assistance strategy, focusing on the Middle East and programs responding to humanitarian needs as a result of conflicts in Gaza and Syria. Ms. Van Husen has over ten years of experience working in humanitarian assistance and development. Prior to her current role, she worked as the Deputy Chief of Party for Grants and Contracts for IRD, and spent over two years working in Afghanistan for Development Alternatives, Inc. as a Field Director for development and stabilization efforts in the country. She worked for Global Communities on emergency and early recovery programming in Indonesia in the wake of the 2006 earthquake on Java island and as a program development assistant for Global Communities’ emergency and transition programs. Ms. Van Husen received her Masters of Science in Human Rights from the London School of Economics and Bachelors of Art in International Relations and Political Science from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Recent Articles & Publications

Natalie Hill,Technical Specialist for Governance
From local government town hall meetings in Albania to constituency offices for members of Parliament in Ukraine, she has broad experience in the technical approaches used to support government representatives’ capacity to be more transparent and responsive to citizen needs. Ms. Hill’s work has helped develop the skills and organizational development of local partner organizations, through such issues as strategic planning, fundraising and sustainability, as well as organizing large numbers of people and advocating for their interests with the government. She has also led programs to engage traditionally marginalized populations in public decision-making, and has extensive experience analyzing the barriers that women and youth face in entering politics or participating in their communities. For example, she supported local organizations to observe the November 2015 elections in Myanmar, but focused on the specific barriers and resulting levels of inclusion for women and youth in the election, respectively. Ms. Hill received a BA in Government from Cornell University and an MA in Conflict Management and International Economics from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).

Marjan Horst Ehsassi, Director of Program Impact & Learning

Marjan H. Ehsassi is Director of Program Impact & Learning. Most recently, she led the Principled Engagement Initiative and was Senior Policy Fellow at Georgetown University's Institute for Women, Peace and Security. With over 20 years of experience, she has served as Executive Director and COO in both public and private sectors. Marjan is the Founder and President of BlackFish Advocates, an organization dedicated to engagement with civil society in complex and closed environments. As Senior Program Manager, she managed democracy and governance programs in Asia at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) as well as rule of law and judicial reform programs in the MENA region at the American Bar Association (ABA-ROLI). She worked with the Gender Equality Group in the Office of the Chief Economist at the World Bank. Marjan began her legal career with Blake Cassels & Graydon in Toronto and later trained as a litigator at the New York offices of Sherman & Sterling. She earned a BA in International Relations from the University of Toronto and an LL.M from McGill University in Montreal. Originally from Iran, she was born in Geneva and speaks English, French and Farsi with native fluency. Marjan sits on several Boards, presents widely and has been a regular contributor to various news channels, such as BBC and Voice of America. Her published work includes:

Elissa McCarterElissa McCarter-LaBorde, Vice President, Development Finance
In addition to her role as Vice President, Ms. LaBorde serves as the CEO of Vitas Group, a commercial holding company established by Global Communities to expand its microfinance operations with a particularly focus on the Middle East region. Ms. LaBorde has 15 years' experience as a microfinance practitioner. Prior to Global Communities, she spent 7 years in the field, having started up and managed two microfinance institutions in Armenia and Turkey, and serving as technical advisor to more than a dozen MFIs in Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Ms. LaBorde has authored two books on microfinance mergers and continues to publish articles and opinion pieces that span a number of topics related to financial inclusion. She has a Master’s degree from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris; and currently serves as adjunct professor of a Masters level course on Financial Inclusion at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Recent Articles & Publications

Nancy McDonald, Senior Technical Specialist for Youth

Ms. McDonald has over 15-years’ experience managing large-scale, overseas development projects supporting at-risk youth including scholarship programs promoting girls’ education, English learning, and entrepreneurship skills. She has served as AMIDEAST Country Director in Jordan and as Chief of Party for a USAID-funded vocational education project in Macedonia. She has backstopped large USAID-funded programs such as the $75 million Education Reform Program in Egypt and the Revitalizing, Innovating, Strengthening Education (RISE) program working in earthquake affected  areas of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) in Pakistan. She has designed and managed girls’ scholarships programs in the Middle East as well as smaller UNICEF, US Department of State and corporate-funded projects. Before working in international development, Ms. McDonald worked at Harvard University’s Program on Nonviolent Sanctions and Cultural Survival working on conflict resolution workshops focusing on Oil Exploration in Fragile Environments bringing together indigenous groups, oil company executives and environmental NGOs to dialogue creative solutions to avoid conflict. She also served as an assistant to Prof. Herbert Kelman at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Trinity College and a Master of Arts in International Relations from Boston University. 

Recent Articles & Publications

Ashleigh Mullinax, Senior Knowledge Management Specialist

Ms. Mullinax has extensive experience designing and implementing knowledge management and organizational learning activities to further the reach of international development efforts. Throughout the last decade, she has successfully managed a diverse portfolio of projects and teams, emphasizing the timely delivery of high quality and creative deliverables. Through her work at the QED Group, the SEEP Network, and ACDI/VOCA, she has experience working with a variety of government and private international aid donors including USAID, USDA, and the MasterCard Foundation. She received her undergraduate degree in Anthropology from the University of South Carolina and her Master’s Degree from the George Washington University in Anthropology with a concentration in International Development.

Richard Shumann, Director, Development Finance Operations

Mr. Shumann has 25 years’ experience in international economic development. Mr. Shumann is a prominent expert in housing microfinance, having designed or modified products in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, and presented for Deutsche Bank, Lafarge and SEEP, among others. Mr. Shumann has led training on marketing and product development in Mozambique, South Africa, Morocco and Palestine. He provides oversight to Global Communities’ credit policies and internal auditors in eight countries. He has worked in over 40 countries, including long term assignments in Mozambique, Angola, Burundi and Guinea. He has a BA in Economics from Macalester College, and a Master’s Degree in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He is fluent in Spanish and French. 

Joanna Springer, Senior Research and Evaluation Specialist

Ms. Springer is a research, evaluation and learning professional specializing in governance reform and community resilience programming. She developed and implemented a rigorous research and learning agenda to provide an evidence base for a Community Driven Development (CDD) methodology for USAID in South Sudan. Her experience includes piloting and adapting a social capital index for USAID projects in multiple countries, M&E system start-up, management and reporting, and overseeing teams to carry out baseline and end-line assessments. From 2013-2014 she was on the core team of a rule of law advancement project in the Arab Gulf, and previously worked in project development and grant-writing in the West Bank and U.S. from 2009-2013. Ms. Springer utilizes practical tools, facilitated discussions and trainings to inform adaptive development programming, build staff capacity, improve M&E processes and systems and communicate with donors. 

Recent Articles & Publications

Tuul Tuvshinbayar, Program Manager for EMIRGE Mongolia
Ms. Tuvshinbayar has 13 years’ experience in the cooperative sector overseeing 53 cooperatives with over 700 members. As Program Manager for EMIRGE, she works with Mongolian farmers in the dairy and vegetable sectors to increase their production yields through cooperative development. She is deeply involved with cooperative programs in efforts to enhance program effectiveness, and raise incomes of clients. Her work also involves building networks between small farmers, key sector players, local associations, NGOs as well government authorities.

Recent Articles & Publications

Pia WanekPia Wanek, Vice President, Humanitarian Assistance

Ms. Wanek has directed Global Communities’ Humanitarian Assistance response for a variety of crises, including the West African Ebola epidemic, the 2014 war in Gaza, the ongoing Syrian and Yemen conflicts, and Hurricaine Marie in Puerto Rico. A seasoned humanitarian assistance professional, Ms. Wanek has more than 15 years of experience in the donor community and the NGO world. She worked for USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance for six years, predominantly on East and Central Africa emergency response programs, and supported the civil-military portfolio at the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration and strategic planning and policy development at the Consular Affairs bureau at the State Department. Ms. Wanek also worked in humanitarian response and resource planning at World Vision U.S. While with an Australian strategic consulting firm, Noetic Corporation, she explored the evolution of irregular threat groups and the potential implications of game-changing, disruptive technologies from technical, social, political, legal and ethical perspectives. She is adept at bringing together diverse stakeholders around complex topics to develop effective ways forward. Ms. Wanek was born and raised overseas, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and International Studies from Colby College in Waterville, ME.  She also holds a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in Anthropology and Development.

Recent Articles & Publications

Kristin WilcoxKristin Wilcox, Technical Specialist & Program Manager, Cooperative Development Programs

Ms. Wilcox provides strategic and technical leadership to economic development and livelihoods focused programming. In addition, she works to develop improved methods for group aggregation facilitation models, implements value chain competitiveness and market integration strategies and new approaches to business performance evaluation.

Recent Articles & Publications

Karla Yoder, Economic Development and Workforce Technical Specialist

Ms. Yoder leads has over 15 years of experience designing, implementing and providing technical assistance to workforce development, education, livelihoods and microfinance programs in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the United States. As Economic Development and Workforce Specialist, she leads the development and technical implementation of a global portfolio of economic and workforce development projects. Prior to working with Global Communities, Ms. Yoder worked with International Justice Mission in Zambia, developing and managing a microenterprise and microfinance program for its vulnerable legal clients. She also worked at the AED National Institute for Work and Learning  where she managed the Johnson & Johnson-funded Bridge to Employment program, co-authored a guidebook to assist community colleges in increasing their responsiveness to local labor markets, and assisted counties in the State of Georgia to develop innovative career and technical education academies. Ms. Yoder's publications highlighting private sector-driven approaches to workforce development include: The 21st-Century Community College: A Strategic Guide to Maximizing Labor Market Responsiveness and Strengthening Education to Drive Economic Development: A Manual for Replicating The CEC Experience in Your Community. She also authored a chapter “Women and Microcredit: A Critical Introduction” in The Women, Gender and Development Reader. Ms. Yoder holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies from the School for International Training and a Master’s of Arts in Sociology from the George Washington University.