Nicole Behnam

Vice President, Strategy, Innovation and Special Projects

Dr. Nicole Behnam is the vice president of strategy, innovation and special projects at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, which works with funders, nongovernmental organizations and other partners to strengthen the ability of communities to withstand disasters and recover equitably when they occur.

Prior to joining CDP, Nicole served as the senior director of violence prevention and response at the International Rescue Committee (IRC). In this role, she directed IRC’s efforts on child protection, legal protection of refugees, and protection of women and other vulnerable groups in contexts of crisis and displacement.

In her almost 30 years of experience, she has lived in multiple overseas locations and worked directly with programs focused on women, children and others affected by violence worldwide. This includes roles as a fully deployable global emergency response team member and as a donor, serving as the Orphans and Vulnerable Children Senior Advisor in the Office of Global HIV/AIDS at the U.S. Department of State. Nicole has worked and lived in places as varied as Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Mozambique and Jordan, and she has supported programs globally, from Syria to Afghanistan to South Sudan.

As a sought-after expert and public speaker, Nicole has engaged multiple audiences on a variety of topics, ranging from challenges faced by adolescent girls in conflict to how to develop partnerships based on feminist principles. She has appeared in interviews on CNN and multiple international fora, representing issues around marginalization and prevention of violence against women and children.

Nicole has a master’s degree in German Literature from Harvard, a master’s degree in international development and economics from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania. She has served as an advisor and leader on multiple conflict-related task forces and also developed a small business (juice bar and guesthouse) in post-conflict Sierra Leone with Sierra Leonean friends and colleagues.

When she is not working, you can usually find her chasing her two rambunctious boys through the woods or (preferably) curled up on a couch with a book.