Our board

Meet our Board of Directors, who are committed to building a better future.

Board of Directors

Elizabeth Cousens, President & Chief Executive Officer, United Nations Foundation

Elizabeth Cousens became the United Nations Foundation’s third President and Chief Executive Officer in 2020, leading the Foundation’s next generation of work to support the United Nations. Elizabeth has been at the forefront of global policymaking and innovation for over 20 years. She is a diplomat and thought leader who has worked on the frontlines of peace processes, played an influential role in UN policy innovations from peacebuilding to the Sustainable Development Goals, and helped build public-private partnerships to solve global challenges at scale. 

Before joining the Foundation, Elizabeth served for several years at the U.S. Mission to the UN in New York. She was Principal Policy Advisor and Counselor to the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations and later served as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN Economic and Social Council and Alternate Representative to the UN General Assembly where she led U.S. negotiations on the SDGs; served on the boards of UN agencies, funds, and programs; and was U.S. representative to the UN Peacebuilding Commission. 

Elizabeth has lived around the world, serving with UN missions in Nepal and the Middle East, and working as an analyst in conflict zones, including Bosnia and Haiti. She was previously Director of Strategy for the HD Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue which promotes and conducts mediation of armed conflict; Vice President of the International Peace Institute, where she led initiatives on global crisis management and UN reform; and Director of the Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum, a research group that provides country and regional expertise to the UN on conflict and crisis situations.  

Prior to becoming President and CEO, Elizabeth served as Deputy CEO where she oversaw the Foundation’s policy, advocacy, and communications work.  

Elizabeth has a D.Phil. in International Relations from the University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar, as well as a B.A. in history and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Puget Sound. She has written widely on conflict management, peace processes, state-building, and the United Nations. She and her husband have one child. 

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Christopher Burns, Agency Chief Digital Development Officer & Director, Technology Division, USAID

Christopher Burns is the Chief Digital Development Officer (CDDO) for USAID and the Director for the Technology Division within the Innovation, Technology, and Research (ITR) Hub. In the CDDO role, he coordinates and tracks programmatic Digital Development investments across the Agency; represents USAID’s programmatic digital technology work across the interagency and with external stakeholders and partners; and guides the adaptation of the Agency’s programs as the digital landscape evolves.

He also chairs the Digital Sector Council that meets monthly with representatives from across USAID’s bureaus and independent offices to discuss and coordinate on Digital Development programming. In the role of Director for Technology, Christopher leads technical teams focused on Digital Finance, Development Informatics, Digital Inclusion, Emerging Technology such as Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity and advanced data and geospatial analysis, and the role they play in driving an inclusive digital economy. In his more than twelve years with USAID, he has spearheaded and served as technical lead for a number of public-private partnerships, including the Digital Impact Alliance, the GSMA Connected Women Program and the Alliance for Affordable Internet. He also spearheaded USAID’s first-ever Digital Strategy released in April 2020. 

Prior to USAID, Christopher spent nearly ten years with the Peace Corps, as Program and Training Officer for Peace Corps/Niger, Country Desk Officer for Central Asia, and Agroforestry Advisor in Ghana. He has supervisory and management experience and technical background in digital technology, natural resources management, agroforestry, food security, gender equality, and solar power design/installation. All told, he has 25 years of international development experience, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, including 6.5 years living on the continent. 

Christopher holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Development and Environmental Management from St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York and a Master of Science in Development Management from American University in Washington, DC. 

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True Schedvin, Head of Unit, Global Sustainable Economic Development, Sida

True Schedvin is Head of Unit for Global Sustainable Economic Development at Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). True has more than 20 years’ experience of development cooperation. She was acting Chief Economist at Sida from 2016 to 2017 and in that position led the team updating and conceptualizing Sida’s understanding of multidimensional poverty that since then has gained interest among many other development partners. True most recently worked as acting Head of Cooperation and lead economist at the Swedish Embassy in Dar es Salaam for four years and she has previously worked as Senior Economist at the Swedish Embassies in Nairobi and Lusaka.

She also worked at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and was for a couple of years seconded to the European Commission in Brussels. True has worked extensively on macro-economic analysis, different aspects of public financial management, social protection among other aspects of economic development, as well with different aid modalities including results-based financing and budget support. 

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Lauren Woodman, Chief Executive Officer, DataKind

Lauren has spent 25 years working at the intersection of technology, development, and policy. Most recently, she was the CEO of NetHope, a consortium of 60 of the largest global nonprofits and tech companies from 2014-2020. Before that, she held a variety of positions in the private sector, government, and the UN, including managing Microsoft’s global education and government programs for more than a decade and serving as an executive at the Software and Information Industry Association.

Currently, she is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Board of Stewards for its Initiative on Digital Economy and its Trustworthy Data Collaboration. Lauren holds degrees from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Smith College. She lives in Seattle with her partner and two daughters. 

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Deon Woods Bell, Senior Advisor, Global Policy, Financial Services for the Poor, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Deon recently joined the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as Senior Advisor, Global Policy, Financial Services for the Poor. She leads the Foundation’s digital financial services engagement with the U.S. Government, the World Bank and Africa regional regulatory and policy work, all with a gender lens. Deon has expertise in law, policy, and building international coalitions on digital policy issues, such as consumer protection, data privacy, cybersecurity, and competition. 

Prior to joining the Foundation, Deon was an Attorney Advisor and Senior International Attorney at the Federal Trade Commission, where she represented the U.S. at the United Nations, helped establish a network of African consumer protection/competition regulators and worked on artificial intelligence – Big Tech policy issues.

Prior to being a government official, she worked in private sector law, technology, and communications companies. Deon currently serves on the World Bank, Council of Governors for the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, the United Nations Development Program, Better than Cash Alliance Executive Committee, American University School of International Service Board of Advisors, American Bar Association’s Privacy & Information Security Committee (Antitrust Law Section) and Cybersecurity Legal Task Force. She also serves as a Commissioner on the Washington, DC Special Needs Advisory Panel and on the Smithsonian Women’s Committee.

Deon has a triple major Bachelor’s – International Studies, Economics, Spanish Latin American Affairs (American University) and was a Fulbright Scholar. She has a Master’s in Economics (University of Michigan), a Juris Doctorate (University of Chicago Law School) and studied Political Economy and Government (Harvard University). She was an official election observer for Nelson Mandela’s historic South African election and speaks Spanish, French, and Sign Language. 

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Alessandra Lustrati, Head of Digital Development, FCDO

Alessandra Lustrati is the Head of Digital Development in the UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). As part of her role, she leads the global Digital Access Programme, as well as overseeing a policy and programming portfolio focused on digital inclusion, digital transformation and the responsible use of digital technologies in developing countries and emerging markets. She is also an accredited Senior Private Sector Development Adviser within FCDO.

Before joining the UK Government, Alessandra worked with the United Nations, the European Union, and in the private and non-profit sectors – with an emphasis on inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and a deep interest in the role of digital technologies for the reduction of poverty and inequality. She has lived and worked extensively across Africa, Asia and Europe, and speaks seven languages. 

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Nanjira Sambuli, Fellow, Technology & International Affairs Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Nanjira Sambuli is a researcher, policy analyst and strategist interested in and working on understanding the unfolding, gendered impacts of ICT adoption on governance, diplomacy, media, entrepreneurship and culture. Nanjira is a Fellow in the Technology and International Affairs Program at The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a Ford Global Fellow. She is also a co-Chair of Transform Health, and board member at The New Humanitarian, Development Gateway, and Digital Impact Alliance. Nanjira advises the Carnegie Council’s AI and Equality Initiative and the  <A+> Alliance for Inclusive Algorithms.

She is a member of the Gender Advisory Board at the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD). She is also a Diplomacy Moderator at the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA). Nanjira served as a Commissioner on the Lancet & Financial Times Governing Health Futures 2030 Commission, as a panel member on the United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, and as a deputy on the United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Panel for Women’s Economic Empowerment.

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Björn Richter, Head of Digital Transformation Cluster of Global & Sector Programmes, GIZ

Björn Richter is heading the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) Sector Programme for Digital Development, advising German Development Cooperation to utilize digital technologies for leap-frogging. His team of tech experts is supporting German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and partners from developing countries to develop innovative digital projects and new approaches to utilize digital transformation for development. Currently GIZ is working closely together with other EU member states in the Digital4Development hub, fostering “Team Europe” for joint approaches – such as the #SmartDevelopmentHack with over 1,000 digital innovations.

Before engaging in digital development he was working ten years in the media business, experiencing the impacts of digital transformation. Afterwards he joined German Development Cooperation and was advising senior representatives of partner countries in the ASEAN and SADC Countries as well a Afghanistan and Pakistan. He draws from these roles in his current work, tapping into his concrete experiences on the ground as well as first-hand expertise from disruption in the field of media.

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