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The Leaders Europe program identifies emerging leaders working in government, civil society, and the private sector who have demonstrated a commitment to advancing the common good. It aims to build a growing network of innovative and values-based changemakers who seek to drive change in their communities while developing and supporting one another. Through a core set of shared values and leadership skills, the program seeks to lift up a new generation of civically active, positive role models who are prepared to create tangible solutions to the challenges in their communities, countries, Europe, and the world. Program offerings include:

Timely conversations
Over six months, Leaders come together for virtual meetings to discuss some of the most challenging issues confronting Europe with the community leaders at the forefront of them.

Skill-building trainings
Tailored workshops support Leaders in identifying and activating personal values; engaging across differences and harnessing inclusive forms of power, and building skills for pragmatic, adaptive leadership over the long haul.

A community of support
The program includes opportunities for Leaders to meet virtually in small groups and for one-on-one conversations to build deep, lasting relationships that will carry them through their leadership journey.

Inspirational cultural events
An exciting series of virtual cultural events like live performances and stimulating conversations with artists and creative thinkers fosters a strong spirit of hope and community.

Timely conversations
Over six months, Leaders come together for virtual meetings to discuss some of the most challenging issues confronting Europe with the community leaders at the forefront of them.

Get to know the 2023 Leaders below!

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Obama Leaders are emerging leaders who have demonstrated a commitment to advancing the common good. Our Leaders tackle a diversity of issues, but they have a lot in common—they have all driven positive change for their communities, are guided by core values, and share the Obama’s Foundation’s vision of leadership rooted in service to others.



President, Voices of Young Refugees in Europe

Chougher Maria Doughramajian is the president of Voices of Young Refugees in Europe, a network established in 2008 to unite and strengthen the voices of individual young refugees and groups around Europe. She also holds leadership positions at two LGBTQ+ human rights organizations, the Rainbow Project in Northern Ireland and Pink Armenia, an Armenia-based non-profit. Chougher was born and raised in Aleppo, Syria. The strength and resilience of the Syrian community, along with her lived experience as a refugee, drive Chougher’s work to develop more inclusive societies in Europe, the Middle East, and beyond. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in conflict resolution and reconciliation at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.



Member, Vienna State Parliament

Mireille Ngosso is a member of Austria’s Vienna State Parliament. Her parliamentary work focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion, with a specific emphasis on gender medicine and diversity in medicine. Mireille is an anti-racism advocate who initiated the first-ever petition for a referendum against racial discrimination in Austria. She was an organizer of the Austrian Black Lives Matters protest that mobilized over 50,000 people in 2020, and thanks to her efforts, the City of Vienna will host an inaugural anti-racism conference in 2023. Originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mireille’s family came to Austria as refugees when she was four years old. As a politician and the city of Vienna’s first Black female council member, Mireille believes it is her duty to support civil initiatives by advocating for the rights of underprivileged groups and educating the public about racial injustice. She is also a practicing medical doctor.



Co-Founder and Development Director, Gender Hub Azerbaijan

Roman Gojayev is the co-founder and development director of Gender Hub Azerbaijan, a community-based platform that addresses violence against women and systematic discrimination in Azerbaijan through educational initiatives, advocacy campaigns, and capacity-building projects. In this role, Roman has worked to create Papa Schools, an initiative with the United Nations Population Fund that provides safe spaces for men to challenge restrictive gender norms and practice skills and actions that will help them become more engaged fathers and supportive partners. Roman is a human rights defender who believes in the meaningful participation of young people of all sexes, genders, ages, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds.


Bosnia and Herzegovina

Senior Legal Advisor, NGO Trial International

Adrijana Hanušić Bećirović is a senior legal advisor at NGO Trial International, which works to end impunity for international crimes. In this capacity, she represents survivors of conflict-related sexual abuse and torture seeking justice and recompense. She also serves as a human rights consultant for several international organizations. Adrijana and her team successfully litigated the first-ever UN Committee Against Torture case involving rights violations of a victim of torture and conflict-related sexual violence on a global scale, as well as the first ruling by this organization on a case made against Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her legal and advocacy work also resulted in the first legal recognition of children born due to wartime rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Europe as a category of civilian victims of war. She is deeply committed to using her knowledge and abilities to improve the lives of those whose rights have been violated.



Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Connectology

Ana Barjašić is the founder and chief executive officer of Connectology, an expert in innovation and investment readiness, and an ecosystem builder and behavioral scientist. In these capacities, she is responsible for maximizing entrepreneurial and innovation potential in emerging markets, with a particular emphasis on women entrepreneurs and investors. Combining her hands-on experience and knowledge of startup and innovation ecosystems and investment communities across Europe, Ana founded Connectology, an international agency for access to finance, investment readiness, and behavioral science. Ana is also a member of the Global Entrepreneurship Network Europe’s Executive Committee and is the youngest board member of the European Innovation Council, Europe’s largest deep tech innovation fund with over 10 billion euros allocated for supporting innovative companies in Europe.


Czech Republic

Chief Executive Officer, Compas Charity

Petr Torak is the chief executive officer of Compas Charity, which provides advice, support, and information to members of migrant communities in need and works with service providers, public bodies, institutions, and organizations to help those entities better adapt their services, policies, and activities to the needs of migrant communities. Previously, he worked as a police officer, investigating modern-day slavery crimes. A Roma migrant, Petr moved from the Czech Republic to the United Kingdom in 1999. His own migratory experience inspired him to help other Roma migrants settle into their new homes and foster community cohesiveness. He has since worked as a mentor and champion for Indigenous and Roma migrants worldwide. Petr is based in England.



Project Associate, Alliance of Democracies Foundation

Richard Walakira is a project associate at the Alliance of Democracies Foundation, where he oversees the foundation’s initiatives on democracy, technology, and entrepreneurship. In this capacity, Richard established and now directs a democracy and technology entrepreneurship
fellowship. He also leads democratic tech hackathons in Georgia and Moldova and sits in the advisory group of Tech for Democracy, a Danish-government-led effort that strives to make technology work for, rather than against, democracy. Outside of his professional work, Richard is a rapper. He is known as Bana Mutibwa in Uganda, where he grew up, for utilizing his music to advocate for political causes.



International Communications Officer, Office of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya

Karim Pedersen is the international communications officer in the office of Belarus’ democratically-elected leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. Karim, a former journalist and educator at a Danish folk high school, became interested in joining the frontlines of democracy building after the winner of the 2020 Belarus elections was forced to flee her country. Karim joined the Danish-Belarusian group Talaka at the time, where he is now vice-chairman, and became active in organizing a number of activities, including demonstrations, workshops, political conversations, and cultural events, to support the democratic forces of Belarus. Karim is also a driving force behind UNLEASH, a 5,000-member global sustainability network. He is deeply committed to securing democracy in Belarus and beyond, believing it to be the most essential mission of our time.



Executive Director, Estonian Roundtable for Development Cooperation

Susanna Veevo is the executive director of the Estonian Roundtable for Development Cooperation, a network of development aid and global citizenship education organizations. Her work involves generating support for the most under-resourced communities. Susanna is also the founder of Peace Action Community Estonia, Estonia’s sole peacebuilding organization, which implements peace education initiatives in minority communities. Susanna is motivated by equality and equity in both her professional and personal life, and her main purpose in life is to reduce inequities in the world and redistribute resources in accordance with social justice.



Chief Impact Officer, Contentsquare and Board Member, European Innovation Council

Kat Borlongan is the chief impact officer of Contentsquare, a French analytics startup. She is working to transform the company’s purpose, policy, philanthropy, and identity to build a mission-driven organization. She also serves on the board of the European Innovation Council, a 10 billion Euro flagship effort by the European Commission to identify and scale innovative technology. Kat, originally from Manila, has spearheaded technology initiatives for presidential administrations in both the Philippines and France. Her philosophy is that technology can and should be a powerful vector for systematic change.



Founder and Chief Executive Officer, DemocracyNext

Claudia Chwalisz is the founder and chief executive officer of DemocracyNext, an international non-profit, nonpartisan research, and action institute with a mission to shift political and legislative power to people through empowered Citizens’ Assemblies. She works to build new democratic institutions that give people agency and dignity through participation, that distribute political power equally through selection by lot, and that channel collective intelligence and enable people to find common ground through deliberation.Previously, Claudia served as the innovative citizen participation lead in the open government unit of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. She was involved in designing the world’s first permanent deliberative bodies made up of people drawn by a lottery in Ostbelgien, Paris, and Brussels. Claudia is interested in finding new ways to give people a meaningful say in shaping the decisions affecting their lives. She is also the author of two published books about democracy.



Program Manager, The German Marshall Fund of the United States

Steve Bazikwinshi Irakoze is a program manager at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, where he oversees a program that supports developing and diverse leaders in Europe. Previously, he advocated for the rights of migrant families, especially LGBTQ+ migrants, before the European Court of Human Rights. Dozens of people have avoided deportation as a result of his legal assistance. Steve volunteers to address a range of issues, including the European Commission on migration issues, and the United Nations to help people of African heritage in Europe use their power. He also supports the LGBTQ+ community in France. He considers radical kindness and empathy to be two of his biggest strengths.



Founder, Tbilisi Pride

Gvantsa Dzerkorashvili is the founder of Tbilisi Pride, an organization dedicated to achieving equality and justice for Georgia’s queer community, and one of the most influential LGBTQ+ organizations in the region. As an LGBTQ+ and feminist activist, Gvantsa has won strategic LGBTQ+ assembly rights and anti-discrimination lawsuits in the European Court of Human Rights and the Georgian Constitutional Court. Gvantsa is also the organizer of Tbilisi’s largest and first-ever LGBTQ+ demonstrations, the Women’s Solidarity March, and Horrom Nights, Georgia’s first LGBTQ+ club nights. They are committed to addressing systemic and internalized homophobia and misogyny and believe that free expression and equality for all are essential in any democratic society.



Chief Executive Officer, Center for Progress

Maka Tokhishvili is the chief executive officer of the Center for Progress, a non-profit organization that develops education, women’s rights, and environmental policy and reform. Maka led one of Georgia’s largest political youth movements, engaging over 10,000 young people in higher education policy-making for the first time,creating new scholarship opportunities for more than 6,000 students. As a result of her efforts, the government created a new strategy for education funding. She also filed a successful constitutional lawsuit to overturn a ban on political debates in universities, and as a result of her efforts, they are now permitted in Georgian universities. Maka describes herself as a “one-for-all entrepreneur of democracy,” and her personal mission is to be an ambassador of peace and equality for a better world.



Managing Director of RESPOND, BMW Foundation

Bennet Barth is the managing director of RESPOND, a startup accelerator at the BMW Foundation. The program strives to facilitate a sustainable transition to a fair, inclusive, and regenerative economy by uplifting entrepreneurs through responsible leadership. The accelerator has evaluated over 5,000 ventures and has worked directly with 30 startups from 13 countries across five continents since its inception. Bennet is also a member of the BMW Foundation’s investment team, where he manages a worldwide portfolio of impact investments and oversees sustainable finance programming. Before joining the BMW Foundation, he worked at a startup focused on improving social outcomes through public and private sector innovation. There, he was part of a team that launched a 50-million Euro Impact Venture Capital fund. Bennet is driven by curiosity and loves to be outdoors, especially surfing.



Founder and Managing Director, RECUP

Florian is the founder and managing director of RECUP, a company that eliminates single-use packaging in the takeout industry by offering reusable cups and bowls to caterers and coffee shops via a consumer deposit system. The RECUP system now covers over 20,000 coffee shops and restaurants throughout Germany. His goal is to maximize the impact of this initiative by campaigning for mandates requiring reusable packaging. Florian strongly believes in steward-ownership and coaches other business owners on converting their business structures to steward-ownership models.



Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Mexoxo

Anastasia (Elpida) Kokkota is the founder and chief executive officer of Mexoxo, a non-profit that promotes women’s economic empowerment. Originally launched in Tijuana, Mexico in 2013, Mexoxo has since grown to serve women worldwide. Anastasia specializes in building social impact plans for corporations, as well as small and medium businesses, and achieving measurable growth through strategies that support the socio-economic growth of communities as a whole. She has developed a circle of influence with more than 250 global stakeholders from corporations, academia, government, and local NGOs. Through her work at Mexoxo, she has directly served more than 27,300 women and reached more than 109,200 women. The organization is the result of Elpida’s life mission, which is dedicated to supporting all women seeking equality. She intends to reach 5 million women by 2030.

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Director of Sustainability Policy, Microsoft

Ornella leads Microsoft’s EU Sustainability policy engagement in circular economy, carbon reporting, and the current energy crisis, supporting the business in the design of Microsoft devices and servers so that they meet the requirements set by ecodesign rules at EU level, or in the reporting of the company’s GHG emissions in line with EU legislations. Ornella became interested in sustainability when she lived through the waste crisis in the region of Naples while in school. Once at university, she—alongside other students—set up an NGO to foster sustainability best practices across European universities.



Founder and Chief Executive Officer, International Sustainable Finance Center

Linda Zeilina is the founder and chief executive officer of the International Sustainable Finance Center, a non-partisan, non-profit think tank based in the Czech Republic. The Center educates and brings professionals and young people together to increase their financial literacy and encourage new collaborations. With her leadership, the Center launched the Czech Sustainable Investment Forum and the region’s largest sustainable finance event, the five-day Central and Eastern Sustainable Finance Summit. Linda is also a non-executive director at Pedal Me, a London-based startup aiming to decarbonize urban passenger and cargo services. Linda’s key values include kindness, empathy, and generosity, and she volunteers as a mentor to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Linda is based in the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom.



Program Coordinator, Project Harmony

Maria Stratan is the program coordinator at Project Harmony. In this role, she acts as the key intermediary among policing, education, and municipal authorities to promote equal opportunities for youth and to develop prevention strategies to limit the impact of juvenile delinquency across Moldova. Maria is particularly proud of her contributions to a pilot course, “Education for Legal Socialization.” The curriculum is taught in 100 Moldovan schools in 20 districts by collaborative teaching teams composed of police personnel and teachers. Maria is passionate about leadership development and advocates for a more active civic engagement of young people in their communities.



Associate Lawyer, Brækhus Law Firm and Chief Executive Officer, Brighter Tomorrow

Pamir Ehsas is an associate attorney at the Norwegian law firm, Braekhus. In this position, he specializes in IT law and privacy. In the past, he has also assisted Afghan victims of war crimes with representation before the International Criminal Court. Pamir is also the founder and chief executive officer of Brighter Tomorrow, a non-profit dedicated to providing and advocating for Afghan children’s right to a quality education. To date, the organization has provided quality education to over 2,200 Afghan children, with a goal of serving 10,000 children through their EdTech projects in Pashto and Dari. Pamir is originally from Taloqan in Afghanistan.



Founder and Director, Pocket Stories

Ingeborg Mehus is the founder and director of Pocket Stories, a non-profit foundation that connects people with unheard voices to embrace and celebrate diversity. The organization utilizes storytelling workshops, events, and media productions to meet its mission. Ingeborg also runs her own consulting firm, specializing in program design, facilitation, and communications for similar projects. Ingeborg oversaw the creation of Roots Guide, an unconventional travel guidebook that encourages readers to engage with diverse people and places in the Netherlands through stories. Over 300 copies of Roots Guide have been sold since its release. Encouraging individuals to discover and develop their superpowers is at the heart of Ingeborg’s work, and her storytelling work has supported hundreds of social innovators and young people to become changemakers in their communities.



Managing Director, Philanthropy for Impact

Maciej Kuziemski is the managing director of Philanthropy for Impact, a philanthropic network that promotes democratic resilience. In this role, Maciej works to educate, organize, and encourage people of means to stand up for the democratic resilience of Central and Eastern Europe through systemic philanthropy. He is also the creator of the Zofia Institute, a small society of executives who participate in political philosophy seminars. Previously, Maciej acted as a policy adviser to the governments of Poland and the United Kingdom, as well as international organizations such as the European Commission and the G20. He is motivated by three core values: commitment, curiosity, and humility.



Deputy Managing Director, The German Marshall Fund of the United States

Joanna Krawczyk is a media and civil society organization expert and leader who builds socially impactful development strategies and projects, with over 15 years of experience in media management and philanthropy. She was head of news partnerships at the biggest legacy newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, and the president of the Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation where she established the first Investigative Reporting Grant Scheme in Poland, the Local Media Development Program, and initiated the European-scale Ukrainian Media Fund. Under her leadership, the Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation was awarded the Golden Pen of Freedom Award. Currently she is a deputy managing director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, where she focuses on the Modern Marshall Plan for Ukraine development and implementation and strengthening democracy and security in Central and Eastern Europe.



Galati County Deputy Prefect, Romanian Ministry of Internal Affairs

Andra Costache works for the Romanian Ministry of Internal Affairs as the deputy prefect of Galati County. She is the youngest person in this position, having previously served as the youngest secretary of state in post-communist Romania at the Ministry of Youth and Sport. Andra’s work primarily focuses on youth engagement in the electoral process and other decision-making spaces at all levels of society, and she strives to develop youth policies made by young people, for young people. She is also the founder of Romania’s National Youth Council, an institution composed of government representatives and youth organizations that provides pathways for young people to become involved in civic matters. In addition to being a youth advocate, Andra is an outspoken champion for women and disabled people, both of which she strongly identifies with.



Founder and Coordinator, IntreVecini

Mihai Toader-Pasti is the founder and coordinator of IntreVecini, an organization working to build a decentralized network of sustainable micro-communities throughout Romania. He also co-founded and directed Romania’s most awarded sustainability non-profit, EFdeN, which connects students and young professionals with sustainability efforts. Under his leadership, the EFdeN team designed and built two of the world’s most sustainable homes and Europe’s highest scoring certified green-building project. In 2021, Mihai coordinated Romania’s Presidential Administration Green Schools national strategy for almost 4,000 schools in urban and rural areas. Mihai believes that sustainable dwellings are simply one component of a successful sustainability movement, and he also incorporates community engagement, nature, energy, culture, and the arts into his work.



Co-Executive Director, Pontis Foundation

Martina Kolesarova is a co-executive director of the Pontis Foundation, Slovakia’s largest non-private foundation. She is leading programs in social innovation and impact philanthropy as well as the organization’s strategic focus and vision. Martina has strategically led the foundation’s first accelerator and impact philanthropy fund for social innovation in education, which has expanded to include nearly 70 alumni organizations. The fund will provide $2 million in awards to Slovak civil society over the next two years. Martina has actively collaborated with the Office of the Prime Minister and other ministries in order to shape public policies on social innovation and she is a member of the Impact Measurement working group within the European Venture Philanthropy Association. Martina is passionate about innovation as the main driver of societal change and cross-sectoral cooperation as the main tool to achieve it.



Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Spotlab

Miguel Luengo-Oroz is the founder and chief executive officer of Spotlab, a social enterprise that uses artificial intelligence and mobile technologies to make medical diagnostics more accessible to people worldwide. He is the former first Chief Data Scientist at the United Nations, where he worked for more than a decade bringing data innovation to operations and policy in humanitarian response, global health, sustainable development and human rights. He has published over a
hundred multidisciplinary scientific articles, policy briefs and op-eds about applications and ethics of artificial intelligence. Miguel has been awarded the Ashoka fellowship and is a professor at the doctoral school of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Miguel is passionate about imagining, building, and sharing responsible artificial intelligence for people and the planet.



Co-Founder, ChangersTech powered by ChangersHub

Binette Seck is the Co-Founder of ChangersTech powered by ChangersHub, an academy that works to provide technical education to young adults between the ages of 14-40 from under-resourced communities. She is also a partner at iCog Anyone Can Code, an Ethiopian-based EdTech company that has taught nearly 30,000 individuals programming. She is particularly proud of her work launching the Space Academy, a learning hub for youth that provides programming and game development boot camps for young people at Space Stockholm. Binette’s goal is to design a society for everybody through inclusivity, gender equality, and sustainability-driven activities.



Secretary General, Daniel Sachs Foundation and Co-Founder, Multitudes

Paul Alarcón is the secretary general of the Daniel Sachs Foundation, which was founded on the conviction that a new generation empowered to reimagine a shared future will pave the way to inclusive democracies. Through the foundation he has co-founded several organizations that
empower young and diverse voices to enter politics as well as to democratize higher education, including the Apolitical Academy and F1RST. He is also the co-founder of Multitudes, a new foundation and funder that supports the emerging ecosystem of organizations in Europe reimagining political power. Previously, he served as the chief sustainability officer for the City of Stockholm. Paul believes that to address today’s most pressing challenges, Europe must invest in a future in which elected leaders are deeply rooted in their communities.



Ukraine Program Lead, Choose Love

Alexandra Kutas leads the Ukraine program at the humanitarian aid organization, Choose Love. Headquartered in the United Kingdom, Choose Love works across 26 countries to elevate the voices and visibility of refugees, and provides critical support services to refugees along migration routes globally. Previously, Alexandra worked as a military psychotherapist in a combat hospital during the Russian invasion of Donbas in 2014 and later co-founded Puffins, an adaptive clothing line of fashionable outerwear for people with disabilities. After the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, she redirected her efforts to work in the humanitarian sector and support Ukrainian refugees and internally displaced people. Alexandra is also the world’s first runway model in a wheelchair, and her award-winning modeling career has spanned Asia, Europe, and North America. She is based in the United Kingdom.



Member of Parliament, Verkhovna Rada

Oleksandr Sanchenko is a member of the Ukrainian parliament who also founded and now leads the youth wing of Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Servant of the People party, which he expanded to 5,000 members. During his time in office, Oleksandr has pushed for the creation of youth advisory boards at all levels of governance, the building of youth centers, and giving grants to fund projects and offer youth organizations institutional support. During the 2004–2005 Orange Revolution, Oleksandr worked to engage university students in advocacy initiatives, which spurred him to continue making a difference through youth organizing. He believes that every person, regardless of age, should have the right to be heard.


United Kingdom

Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Founderland

Alina Bassi is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Founderland, a non-profit organization that supports women of color in Europe who face barriers in their entrepreneurial journeys due to gender, race, and ethnicity. In this role, she assists impact entrepreneurs in receiving investments to build and scale their startups. Alina is also the co-founder of Kleiderly, a startup that recycles textile waste from the fashion industry. As a chemical engineer herself, Alina is a strong advocate for women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, and is passionate about leveling the playing field for underrepresented founders.


United Kingdom

Co-Founder, Too Good to Go

Jamie Crummie trained as a lawyer before pursuing his mission of fighting food waste. He is the co-founder of Too Good To Go, the world’s largest marketplace for surplus food. The app lets consumers buy unsold food from restaurants and retailers so that it doesn’t go to waste. Too Good To Go is now active in 17 countries. The market-leading app has 61 million users and 163,000 food businesses signed up, who have rescued over 195 million bags of food collectively. Jamie was named Sustainability Entrepreneur of the Year at the GB Entrepreneur Awards 2022, a Trailblazing Activist in the 50 Next class of 2021, One Young World’s Entrepreneur of the Year in August 2020, and one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in Europe in February 2019.


United Kingdom

News and Information Credibility Lead, Google

Mevan Babakar is Google’s News and Information Credibility Lead. In this capacity, Mevan advocates for an open, community-led response to fighting misinformation. Previously, she was the Deputy CEO of Full Fact, the United Kingdom’s independent fact-checking charity. During her time at Full Fact, Mevan founded and led a team to build AI tools to scale the work of fact-checkers around the world. This work went on to win the Google AI Impact Challenge. Mevan was born in Iraq, and her experiences as a Kurdish refugee motivated her to dedicate her career to protecting and strengthening democracy. She sits on the boards for the UK for UNHCR, which is the UK arm of the UN refugee agency, and the Democracy Club, which empowers voters to find their polling stations and voting information in the UK.