The Strong Cities Network is led, managed and facilitated by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD). For 10 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.
Jonathan Birdwell – Deputy Director of Policy and Research, ISD
Jonathan Birdwell is Head of Policy & Research at ISD, overseeing ISD’s policy work and networks including the Policy Planners’ Network and the Strong Cities Network, as well as overseeing ISD’s work on education policy and programming. On the research side, Jonathan oversees ISD’s research and primary datasets, programme monitoring and evaluation, and edits all of ISD’s written outputs. Since starting at ISD in 2015, Jonathan has overseen the launch and expansion of the Strong Cities Network from 25 to over 110 cities from every global region and growing. In addition to convening Global Summits in Turkey and Denmark, bringing together over 800 practitioners from nearly 75 countries, Jonathan leads on an exciting Strong Cities capacity building project in the Middle East, supported by the Danish Government. Overseeing a growing ISD team in the Middle East, Jonathan has worked closely with ISD Regional Manager Khadije Nasser to build six new ‘Prevention Networks’ and provide training to over 90 local stakeholders across six municipalities in Lebanon and Jordan. On research, Jonathan is currently focused on building out ISD’s unique partnerships and online analytic technology and capabilities to provide up-to-date understanding of extremist propaganda and recruitment tactics in addition to the evaluation of online campaigns and ISD’s online one-to-one interventions. Prior to joining ISD, Jonathan was Head of Programme at the UK cross-party think tank Demos, where he published over forty research reports on topics including violent extremism both Islamist (The Edge of Violence, 2010) and Far-Right (The New Face of Digital Populism, 2011). Jonathan has also written extensively on education (The Forgotten Half, 2011), social and emotional learning (Character Nation, 2015), youth social action and attitudes towards politics (Tune In, Turn Out, 2014), digital politics and marketing (Like, Share, Vote, 2014), trust in government (Trust in Practice, 2010) and religion and integration (Rising to the Top, 2015), among other topics. Jonathan holds a Master’s degree (with distinction) from the London School of Economics and Political Science as well as Bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Philosophy from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Rebecca Skellett – Head of Strong Cities Network, ISD
Rebecca Skellett is a Senior Programme Manager at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) managing the Strong Cities Network (SCN) and working across ISD’s Policy Portfolio. 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 114 cities from across 40 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 policy makers 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 case work, 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.
Khadije Nasser – Senior Regional Project Manager, ISD
As a Senior Regional Project Manager based in Beirut, Khadije Nasser leads ISD’s implementation of a Strong Cities Network Municipality Project with Lebanon and Jordan promoting the role of sub-national actors in PVE funded by the Government of Denmark. Khadije manages the team of Lebanese and Jordanian project staff including overseeing capacity building of six local Prevention Networks across the two countries. She maintains relations with mayors, Prevention Network focal points and Danish project stakeholders as well as national and international interlocutors in Lebanon and Jordan involved in formulation of national P/CVE policies. Prior to joining ISD, Khadije worked as Projects Manager and Cultural Advisor to the Danish Embassy in Beirut responsible for managing its projects and NGO relations. Earlier on she worked for national and international NGOs in the region managing prevention and advocacy projects in Lebanon and as a trainer/facilitator in Jordan. In Denmark, Khadije has managed crime prevention initiatives targeting marginalised youth in Copenhagen and integration of former prisoners. As a former Role Model and Dialogue Ambassador for the Danish Ministry of Refugees, Immigrants and Integration she has extensive experiences in working with direct interventions with youth at risk. Khadije is fluent in Arabic, English and Danish, and holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Anthropology from the University of Copenhagen.
Daniel Hooton – Senior Manager, Strong Cities Network, ISD
Daniel Hooton is a Project Manager at ISD, working on the Strong Cities Network (SCN), responsible for managing SCN regions, practice and partnership development in support of the SCN’s leadership in strengthening local capacity to counter all forms of violent extremism and polarisation on a global scale. In addition to developing and delivering training and cooperation on local action planning, regional collaboration and direct city consultations on local P/CVE strategy and practice, Daniel works to expand inter-disciplinary learning and expertise across violent extremism and urban violence prevention, including related integration and cohesion agendas. Prior to joining ISD in January 2016, Daniel worked in the UK Parliament as a researcher and policy advisor to the Shadow Minister for Communities, developing Labour Party national policy and government scrutiny on community cohesion, social exclusion and public services. He holds a Master’s degree with Distinction from the London School of Economics and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Bristol.
Sabine Barton – Project Manager, ISD
Sabine Barton is a Project Manager at ISD, working on the Institute’s Strong Cities Network (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 focussing 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.
Marta Lopes – Project Coordinator, ISD
Marta is a Project Coordinator at ISD, working on the Strong Cities Network (SCN). She supports local authorities in developing and implementing programmes and models in the SCN’s regions to ensure tailored bottom-up responses to local challenges posed by violent extremist movements. Prior to joining ISD in July 2018, Marta completed a traineeship at the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in the Human Security Division. In previous positions she had the opportunity to work in several countries across Asia, in the US and in South Africa. Marta holds an MA in Conflict, Governance and International Development from the University of East Anglia. Her dissertation focused on local challenges and legitimacy issues in the peace-building process in Colombia, studying the interplay between state, civil society and local populations in the department of Chocó. Marta is bilingual French and Portuguese, and is also comfortable working in Spanish and German.
Nayla-Joy Zein – Project Coordinator, ISD
Based in Beirut, Nayla is a Project 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.
Tim Hulse – Project Coordinator, ISD
Tim is a Project Coordinator at ISD, working across the Strong Cities Network (SCN), Youth Civil Activism Network (YouthCAN) and Against Violent Extremism (AVE) projects. He is currently responsible for network engagement and project delivery for ISD’s YouthCAN programme. 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 Kings College London and a Bachelors in the Study of Religions from the School of Oriental and African Studies.
Yomn Al-Kaisi – Project Coordinator, ISD
Yomn is a Middle East and North Africa Project Coordinator for the Strong Cities Network Municipality Project in Lebanon and Jordan. She has previously worked with a think tank based in London focused on Syria and the wider Levant, coordinating workshops and events on Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding for Syrian activists and CSOs in Lebanon. She also interned at Amnesty International with the East Gulf MENA office in London. Yomn has a BA International Relations from Goldsmiths, University of London, and an MSc Middle East Politics from SOAS, University of London. She is comfortable working in both Arabic and English.
Hélène Bradburn – Project Associate, ISD
Hélène is a Project Associate at ISD, working on the Institute’s Strong Cities Network (SCN). She is currently supporting the implementation and development of the SCN project, connecting local-level policymakers and youth across multiple regions. Hélène has a humanitarian background, having worked in Mali and France, as well as having conducted research in Lebanon, with a specific focus on community-level capacity building, and monitoring and evaluation. Hélène holds an MSc in International Humanitarian Intervention from University College Dublin, with a minor in Religion, Peace and Conflict from Uppsala Universitet. She also holds a BA in International Politics from King’s College London. She is bilingual French and English, and is also comfortable working in Spanish.
Joseph Downy – Project Associate, ISD
Joe is Project Associate for the Strong Cities Network at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. Having graduated with distinction in Conflict, Security and Development (MA) at the University of Sussex, he joined ISD as an Intern on the Strong Cities Network before becoming Project Associate.
He specialised in Middle Eastern Politics, Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Peacebuilding, focusing primarily on the geopolitics of the Syrian Civil War. 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.