Rana Dajani has developed a community-based model to encourage children to read for pleasure, We Love to Read (WLTR). Based in Jordan, WLTR has spread to more than 30 countries across the globe and has received numerous honors, including the 2009 Synergos award for Arab world social innovators, membership to the Clinton Global Initiative in 2010, the Library of Congress Literary Award for Best Practices in 2013, the 2014 WISE Qatar Award, the 2014 King Hussein Medal of Honor, a 2015 honor for the 50 Most Talented Social Innovators at the World CSR Congress, the 2015 OpenIDEO top idea for refugee education and a 2015 Star Award for education impact.
Dajani has been an Eisenhower fellow, a two-time Fulbright alumnus, an Associate Professor and Director of the center of studies at the Hashemite University in Jordan, a visiting professor at the Yale Stem Cell Center, a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge and a visiting professor at the Stem Cell Therapy center in Jordan. Her lab is comprised of world experts on the genetics of Circassian and Chechan populations in Jordan, focusing on diabetes and cancer. Dajani spearheaded the effort to establish a law for stem cell research ethics in Jordan, and is a strong advocate for the theory of biological evolution and of its compatibility with Islam. She has spoken on this topic, and many others, at numerous conferences across the globe.
Dajani is a consultant to the higher council for science and technology in Jordan. She has written in Science and Nature about women and science in the Arab world, and is on the UN Women Jordan advisory council. She has established a network for women mentors and mentees and received the PEER Award for the model Three Circles of Alemat. In 2014, she was chosen as one of the 20 most influential women scientists in the Islamic world, and in 2015, among the 100 most powerful women in the Arab world and elected to the women in science hall of fame. She was awarded the King Hussein Cancer & Biotechnology Institute award in 2009, and the 2017 Global Change maker Award from IIE/Fulbright. She has been appointed a Higher Education Reform Expert by the EU-TEMPUS office in Jordan and an Education expert consultant to the Islamic Development Bank in Saudi Arabia. Dajani is founder of the Center for Service Learning at the Hashemite University.
She has a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Iowa.
Michelle Neuman is Program Director for Early Childhood Development at Results for Development (R4D), a global non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. She has faculty affiliations with the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Victoria. Throughout her career, she has taken a comparative approach to study policies and programs for young children around the world. Her recent research at R4D focuses on strategies to strengthen and support the early childhood workforce globally and on financing early childhood programs in low- and middle-income countries.
In her previous role as Senior Education Specialist at the World Bank, she led analytical work and provided technical guidance to government officials to inform the design and implementation of early childhood systems, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Before joining the World Bank, Neuman was responsible for an international portfolio of early childhood policy, research, and program activities at the Open Society Foundation. She previously served as Special Advisor to the Education for All Global Monitoring Report Team at UNESCO for the report, Strong Foundations: Early Childhood Care and Education (2007). Earlier in her career, she directed the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s first review of early childhood education and care policy in 12 countries and co-authored (with John Bennett) the report, Starting Strong: Early Childhood Education and Care (2001). She frequently works with policymakers in the design and implementation of her research projects.
She holds an A.B. from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and a Ph.D. in Politics and Education from Columbia University.
Beatrice Ogutu has a decade of experience designing and implementing family and child development programs with national and international NGOs in Africa. As the Director of Investing in Children and their Societies (ICS SP), Ogutu is responsible for organizational management and the development and implementation of ICS’s skillful parenting and cease violence programs throughout Eastern Africa.
ICS SP focuses on rural development in Africa, with the hopes of helping every child to grow up in a safe and nurturing environment by working with parents and caregivers, strengthening families and communities, and pushing governments, civil society and the private sector towards better policies and practices to fulfill children’s rights. At the core of ICS’s approach is skillful parenting, both to prevent violence against children and to promote age-appropriate parenting. This methodology is combined with agricultural training programs aimed at promoting productivity, increasing family income, and promoting sustainable growth of family wellbeing. Ogutu is also a founding member and a current board member of the Parenting in Africa Network, which advocates for the rights of children by focusing on specific issues that affect African families. She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in environmental studies, planning and management.
Aisha Yousafzai is an Associate Professor of Global Health in the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She was most recently an Associate Professor in Early Childhood Development and Disability in the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health at the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan. She has extensive experience in evaluating early childhood interventions in south Asia, east Africa, and in central and east Europe.
One of Yousafzai’s most significant studies is the Pakistan Early Child Development Scale-Up (PEDS) trial, a cluster randomized controlled trial evaluating responsive stimulation and nutrition interventions to strengthen early child development and growth outcomes. Yousafzai has written extensively about early childhood interventions in low- and middle-income countries including recent articles in Annals of the New York Academy of Science, Annual Review of Psychology, Lancet, Lancet Global Health, and Pediatrics. She also service on a number of Advisory Groups on early child development for international organizations including co-Chair for the Intervention Taskforce of the Early Childhood Development Action Network-ECDAN.