Meet the Team

The Strong Cities Network is led, managed and facilitated by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). For 15 years, ISD have responded to the rising challenge of extremist movements and the ideologies that underpin them, delivering cutting-edge programmes built from world-leading expertise in communications and technology, grassroots networks, knowledge and research, and policy advice.

Rebecca Skellett – Head of Strong Cities Network

Rebecca Skellett is Head of Strong Cities Network (SCN). Rebecca also supports ISD’s Education and Prevention activities regularly representing ISD at international events and in the media. Rebecca spearheads the Strong Cities Network (SCN), advocating for cities to have a central seat at the table in preventing and countering violent extremism in all its forms. The SCN is the first ever global city network devoted to uniting cities around the world to build social cohesion and community resilience to counter violent extremism in all its forms.

The network comprises more than 140 cities from across 45 countries. Rebecca oversees the SCN’s activities ranging from advising cities directly, arranging global and regional training and capacity building activities engaging with mayors, municipal-level policymakers and practitioners to its long term strategies such as designing regional models for P/CVE.

Previously, Rebecca worked on the front-line of the UK’s Prevent CVE Programme across several London boroughs and has extensive experience in overseeing individual casework, conducting community engagement, developing local CVE programming, training and policy frameworks for local government and the education sector. Rebecca also advises national level policy-makers in the UK as a member of the UK Department for Education’s Expert Advisory Panel for Extremism.

Daniel Hooton – Deputy Head

Daniel Hooton is Deputy Head of ISD’s Strong Cities Network (SCN), with responsibility for strategy and delivery of international cities programmes. This includes current projects to develop institutional approaches to long-term governance, human security and social policy challenges in cities across Africa, Asia, the Balkans and the Middle East. He has advised and worked with numerous international governments, UN agencies and mayors on international counterterrorism and counter-extremism strategy, briefing senior ministers and leaders and shaping multilateral cooperation on grassroots practice in cities around the world.

Daniel previously served as policy advisor to the Shadow Minister for Communities in the UK Parliament, developing opposition policy and scrutiny on community cohesion, social exclusion and public services reform.

He holds a Master’s degree with Distinction from the London School of Economics, a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Bristol, and has a longstanding interest in devolution, borders and port cities.

Sabine Barton – Senior Manager

Sabine Barton is a Senior Manager on the SCN, with a particular focus on youth engagement in P/CVE. Sabine is responsible for managing SCN regions and member engagement and training, including through city exchanges, practitioner workshops, and direct city consultations on local P/CVE strategy and practice to counter all forms of violent extremism and polarisation.

Sabine is currently focusing on developing regional models for local youth engagement in Europe, Africa and MENA, including through a joint project with the Nordic Council of Minister’s Nordic Safe Cities Network. She also works on the topics of integration and cohesion, in particular through the SCN’s workstream on Refugees and IDPs.

Sabine was previously involved in a research project on countering lone actor terrorism (CLAT) implemented by a consortium led by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), in cooperation with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, Chatham House and Leiden University. Prior to joining ISD in June 2015, Sabine worked as a research assistant focussing on consumer rights and ethical consumption in Australia.

Dominic Pkalya – Senior Programme Manager, PROACT

Dominic Pkalya is a Senior Program Manager at ISD, working across ISD’s counter-extremism initiatives in Kenya and the Eastern Africa region as a whole. Dominic also supports the policy development, research, education and monitoring & evaluation methods to measure the impact of counter-extremism programmes off and online.

Dominic is managing the PROACT – Community Based Interventions Program as well as supporting the SCN and YC initiatives in Kenya. He ensures that ISD interventions in Kenya complement each other, support national and sub national (county) counter-extremism and hate strategies.  He represents ISD in formal and informal engagements with government and other stakeholders.

He was previously the Chief of Party for the Strengthening Community Resilience against Extremism (SCORE), a USAID Kenya and East Africa funded counter-extrenmism project that was being implemented in the coastal region of Kenya by Act Change Transport (Act!) and 17 local partners. Previously, he worked with UNDP Kenya where he was seconded to National Drought Management Authority, a government agency, where he provided technical support in addressing Armed Violence reduction efforts amongst pastoralists communities in Kenya. He holds a Masters in Arts (Media, Conflict and Peace studiers) from University for Peace (Costa Rica) and a Bachelors of Arts (Government and Public Administration) from Moi University (Kenya).

Lama El-Awad, Regional Programme Manager, Middle East and North Africa

Lama El-Awad is the Regional Manager for the Strong Cities Network in Lebanon and Jordan, working across both countries to provide support to SCN, subnational entities and local prevention networks to prevent and counter violent extremism. Lama coordinates with national government and international organisations and represents SCN in formal and informal engagements with government and other stakeholders and in media.

Lama is also responsible for managing member engagement in the Middle East region, including through city exchanges, practitioner workshops, and direct city consultations on local P/CVE strategy and practice to counter all forms of violent extremism and polarisation.

Lama is also a founding member of “Dawaer”, a Lebanese NGO committed to increasing the resilience of children and youth. Lama holds a Master’s degree in environmental management and has been an activist striving for the achievement of environmental and civil rights in Lebanon. Currently, she is a trainer on child rights and peacebuilding, and advocates for issues related to human rights, gender, diversity and peace, and has contributed to the launching of peacebuilding units at the municipal level and to several campaigns aimed at influencing public policies such as the “Campaign against Child Marriage”, the “Petition and Complaint” campaign, and the reform of the civic education curriculum in Lebanon.

Patricia Crosby – Programme Manager, East Africa

Patricia joined ISD as a Programme Manager leading on the SCN expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia as part of its delivery of new pilot programmes in the regions. Under this new phase, Patricia will be responsible for strengthening sub-national governments’ capacity to prevent and counter all forms of violent extremism (P/CVE). This includes developing context-specific training materials and tools, supporting national/local cooperation, facilitating whole-of-society approaches, city exchanges to share good practice, and direct policy and programming support to cities and sub-national governments.

Previously, Patricia worked for the Commonwealth Secretariat’s CVE Unit designing and implementing government capacity-building projects on community policing, youth empowerment, and education and dialogue in the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa and South and South-East Asia. Patricia has also worked for the Canadian Government focusing on crisis response, consular emergencies and MENA development programming. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Social Sciences in International Development and Globalisation with a Minor in Political Science from the University of Ottawa.

Simeon Dukic – Manager, Balkans and Central Asia

Simeon Dukic joined ISD as an SCN Programme Manager for the Western Balkans and Central Asia. His main responsibilities will be to strengthen national to local coordination and cooperation in preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) in the Western Balkans. Namely, Simeon will work on setting up a multi-stakeholder and multidisciplinary Local Prevention Network (LPN) in  SCN member-cities. The primary role of the LPN will to draft and implement a tailored Local P/CVE Action Plan. Simeon will also be responsible for increasing SCN membership and engagement in Central Asian states.

Prior to his role at ISD, Simeon was a Project Associate at the National Committee for Countering Violent Extremism and Counter-Terrorism (NCCVECT) of the Republic of North Macedonia. He supported the coordination of 22 Line Ministries and Institutions involved in the work of the NCCVECT, CSO groups, the international donor community and regional counterparts. Additionally, he was involved in the drafting of the first National CVE Strategy.

Simeon holds an MA (Distinction) in Intelligence and International Security from King’s College London and a BA (Magna Cum Laude) in Global Challenges from Leiden University College, The Hague.

Marta Lopes – Manager

Marta is a Manager at ISD, working across Strong Cities Network (SCN) projects. In addition to delivering analysis and advise on local P/CVE policies and practices through city consultations, she leads on the SCN’s programming in Sub-Saharan Africa, post-incident response and public-private partnerships work. Marta also supports the strategic development of the wider network through member engagement and research.

Prior to joining ISD in July 2018, Marta worked at the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in the humanitarian policy team. In previous positions she worked in several countries across Asia, in the U.S. and in South Africa. Marta holds an MA in Conflict, Governance and International Development from the University of East Anglia. She is bilingual French and Portuguese, and is also comfortable working in Spanish and German.

Besim Dogani, Local Prevention Coordinator, North Macedonia

Besim is the Local Prevention Coordinator responsible for facilitating cross-municipal learning and sharing of best practices between the pilot and co-pilot cities in North Macedonia. He has been previously engaged with the Strong Cities Network as a consultant/project assistant responsible for recruiting municipalities to the network.

During his career, Besim has served as a member and vice chair of the Parliament of the Republic of North Macedonia. Moreover, he has worked as a business advisor and PR Manager for the British Government’s “Know How Fund”, which funded Enterprise Support Agency from 1998 to 2001. He was also engaged with Washington DC’s Social Impact project to evaluate the integrated education in the Republic of North Macedonia in 2013.

Nayla-Joy Zein – Regional Coordinator

Nayla is a Regional Coordinator for the Strong Cities Network Municipality capacity building project in Lebanon. She is currently providing support to the Regional Project Manager in implementing the project across Lebanese municipalities.

Nayla was previously a Research Assistant at McGill University, where she undertook research on issues of transitional justice in the MENA region, and women militancy and civil war in Lebanon. She recently interned at the Carnegie Middle-East Centre where she worked extensively on women radicalisation. She holds a B.A in Political Science and Philosophy from McGill University, Canada.

Ghida El Assaad – Project Coordinator

Ghida is a Coordinator for the Strong Cities Network in Lebanon and Jordan. She is responsible for coordinating the implementation of community based activities and capacity building activities for local stakeholders and partners.

Ghida has been engaged previously in prevention of violent extremism, dialogue, peace building, relief, education and civic engagement programs in various projects in Lebanon. She holds a B.A. in Economics from the American University of Beirut.

Tim Hulse – Coordinator, Monitoring and Evaluation

Tim is a Coordinator at ISD, working predominately on the Strong Cities Network (SCN) and Google Innovation Fund. His role consists of developing monitoring and evaluation systems for a range ISD programmes in order to demonstrate the impact that the Institute has in preventing and countering violent extremism. As part of this role Tim also supports a number of ISD partners in demonstrating the sustainable impact of their projects.

Tim has previously been engaged in research for a number of UK charities and NGOs focusing on extremism, Middle Eastern politics and refugee issues among other topics. He holds a Masters in Intelligence and International Security from King’s College London and a Bachelors in the Study of Religions from the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Joe Downy – Coordinator

Joe is a Coordinator for the Strong Cities Network at ISD, and leads the Communications and Membership, as well as providing support on key initiatives within the SCN, including the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s Initiative on National-Local Cooperation.

He holds a Master’s Degree with distinction in Conflict, Security and Development from the University of Sussex with a focus on Middle Eastern Politics and Post-Conflict Reconstruction, he joined ISD as an Intern on the Strong Cities Network before becoming an Associate. Prior to joining ISD, he was a Research and Communications Assistant for Children on the Edge, with voluntary experience with NGOs in the UK, Lebanon and Turkey.