Harnessing the experience and knowledge of an internationally respected team, connectfutures provides independent expertise to a wide range of clients.
Our unique approach combines academic excellence with extensive practitioner experience and is informed by our strong ethical framework and commitment to justice.
Our academic backgrounds include expertise in law, education, criminology, social anthropology, political science, and sociology, with practitioner experience in the fields of equalities, policing, security and peace-building.
Dr. Laura Zahra McDonald
Laura has extensive experience in innovative enquiry and evaluation as an academic and independent consultant for policy, practitioner and community-based organisations. Specialising in qualitative methodologies and participatory action research in the areas of justice, security and social relations, she has a particular interest in the connectivity between the local and transnational. Her focus is on women and young people.
After studying Social Anthropology with sub-honours in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of St Andrews, she completed her PhD at the Centre for Women’s Studies, University of York in intersectionality and Islam. Her post-doctoral work at the University of Birmingham investigated state-community engagement in the context of security and conflict post 9/11, within which she highlighted the importance of young people and women. Prior to co-founding ConnectFutures, Laura lectured internationally while researching, engaging and advising high-impact projects for diverse organisations.
Zubeda has worked for over 15 years in the public sector as a senior member in a wide variety of local, national and pan-European policy-orientated projects on topics such as extremism, equalities and leadership innovation. She developed an operational accredited mentoring programme on behalf of statutory agencies and partners vulnerable to violent extremism during a two-year assignment with West Midlands Police Counter Terrorism Unit and worked for Birmingham City Council on delivering the Prevent strategy since 2007.
She is the author of A tale of 3 cities: Public officials and senior representation in the NHS, University, Police and Local Authority (2016) and Formers and Families of violent extremists (2015). She graduated from the University of Manchester with a BA in Politics and Modern History and an MA in Middle Eastern Studies.
Zubeda is a Clore Social fellow 2014/15, an alumni of the IVLP programme (Dept of State, USA) and was invited to the White House Countering Violent Extremism summit in February 2015.
Professor Lynn Davies
Lynn Davies is Emeritus Professor of International Education at the University of Birmingham, UK and Co-Director of ConnectFutures. Her interests are in education and conflict, extremism and education in fragile contexts, and she has done research and consultancy in conflict-affected states such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Angola and Sri Lanka. Her UK work includes evaluating programmes to counter extremism and radicalisation, a project interviewing former extremists about their backgrounds, and training young people and teachers in preventing violent extremism. She is a co-editor of Gender, Religion and Education (2015), author of Unsafe Gods: Security, Secularism and Schooling (2014) and Educating Against Extremism (2008). In 2016, she completed a major review for UNICEF Sri Lanka on the Sri Lankan National Policy for Social Cohesion and Peace, and also supports UNICEF UK’s Rights Respecting Schools. With UNESCO, she has jointly delivered a Guidance document for policy makers on Preventing Violent Extremism, which will be launched in late November 2016. She is a Visiting Professor at the British University of Dubai and the University of South Africa, and serves on the Board of Africa Educational Trust.
In October 2014 Lynn was awarded the Sir Brian Urquhart award for Distinguished Service to the United Nations and its goals by a UK citizen.
Programmes and Training
Carys is a specialist consultant with over five years expertise working with young people and community organisations where her role is to manage young volunteers in schools across the West Midlands. Her area of expertise is concentrated on social action, youth and community integration. In addition to delivering training programmes, she creates and designs bespoke training programme that are delivered in cities across the UK. She has over 6 years’ experience facilitating issue-based workshops with young people, encouraging lively, open discussions and engagement. Carys is a graduate of the University of Sheffield where she studied History and Politics.
Media content creator
Paul specialises in photography and video production for commercial, editorial and individual clients. Paul’s passion lies in documenting the world, in particular cultural and political events.
Whole school lead
Fiona’s experience lies in secondary education, where she has worked in leadership roles for fourteen years in Leeds schools. As head of Sixth Form and assistant principal, she was passionate about breaking down barriers to learning and promoting progression to higher education. She now works as an educational consultant and writer, where she specialises in tackling radicalisation and extremism as a whole school approach, RE, A’level and GCSE improvement and progression to HE.
She graduated from the University of St Andrews with a Masters in Theology and worked in television making drama programmes before studying for a PGCE in Religious Education and Drama. She advocates inter-faith dialogue and uses her background in RE and Drama to devise school assemblies that combat prejudice and promote tolerance of individual difference.
Sean has worked for over five years as a trainer supporting young people in the Midlands and for a short project oversees. His specialism lies in working with youth considered to be vulnerable or hard-to-reach; his practice is through mediation, discussion, mentoring and sport. Sean currently works for a national organisation as an outreach lead, engaging young people who display challenging and high risk behaviour. Through his work within different community groups, Sean regularly delivers workshops and motivational speeches to young people, peers and colleagues. Sean has written national strategies looking at the the participation and retention of such young people and those particularly susceptible to gang-culture. His engagement strategies have been implemented across cities in the UK within the organisation he works.
Richard is a former senior police officer with West Midlands police with over 30 years experience working with a variety of partners to tackle complex social issues such as domestic violence, violent extremism, diversion of offenders and child sexual exploitation. He was part of the policing unit responsible for the development of a partner based Prevent strategy in Birmingham from 2008-2015. As part of this strategy he worked alongside Birmingham City Council’s Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub, the education sector, communities and NHS to develop a programme designed to divert individuals from terrorism in a proportionate and balanced way. Part of this strategy involved the extensive briefing of partners and communities about the nature of the threat, delivering training and community involvement and leadership of many successful interventions.
Andy is a freelance consultant specialising in community engagement and delivering Prevent training to multi-agency staff. From 2007-11, he managed the interfaith Prevent youth project, and then being appointed as a senior Prevent manager at Wandsworth Borough Council commissioning their Prevent projects from 2011-2014, and facilitating the Council’s Channel panel. He also worked closely with the Home Office’s Office for Security and Counter Terrorism team.
Andy has completed a Masters of Philosophy degree in Islamic Studies from the University of Birmingham, which included a fourteen month period of field research in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. He has a BA (Hons) in Theology from the University of Birmingham. He has travelled extensively in the Middle East and has also conducted research trips in Iraq and Pakistan.
Ridhi is a community and social impact researcher specialising in social issues and inequalities. After graduating with an MSc in Global Ethics from the University of Birmingham in 2011, she opened and managed a profitable Art and Community café, run as a social enterprise. It aimed to create a community hub –with a clear social purpose- in a diverse area suffering with high unemployment that encouraged opportunities for a cohesive community. Her research expertise includes investigating inequality in the NHS, university, police and local authorities in three UK cities, one of the founder’s launching Birmingham’s first local currency and research into volunteering in and around parks and open spaces in Birmingham.
Raquel da Silva
Raquel is a Senior Manager at Listen & Learn Research where she is responsible for data analysis informed by different methodologies to shift thinking and inspire organisational change. She is a founding co-director of the Research Centre on Victimology and Qualitative Methodologies at Instituto Superior Politécnico Tundavala, in Angola. She co-founded ConnectFutures in 2013.
Raquel was awarded a Ph.D. in 2016 (Institute for Applied social sciences) by the University of Birmingham in the areas of Psychology and Justice Psychology. She has co-authored publications on conflict transformation, analysing particularly the role of counter-terrorism and exploring whether an alternative framework of conflict transformation is possible, looking at current and future trends in which more conciliatory measures are utilised in changing relationships between “terrorists” and the state. She continues to deliver training on different modules both nationally and internationally.
Ray is one of the UK’s leading trainers, thinkers and “doers” around reducing serious youth violence. A prolific social entrepreneur he has created numerous intervention programs tackling youth conflict and violence, reaching over 10,000 young people across the UK. His motivational training and development courses have been widely attended by YOS, prisons, YOI’s and youth practitioners in the interest of reducing the number of young people at risk of life threatening behaviours.
Hamzah is a freelance consultant specialising in Muslim communities and community leadership. In the summer of 2013, Hamzah graduated from his local Islamic seminary as an Imam, where he undertook a 6 year Arabic and Islamic Studies programme. Hamzah has since continued to supplement his studies, primarily through the Diploma in Contextual Islamic Studies and Leadership at the Cambridge Muslim College (CMC). The Diploma spans across 18 modules of secular studies including British Intellectual History and Astronomy. Since his initial graduation, Hamzah has become an alumnus of several leadership development programmes, namely the Young Muslim Leadership Programme at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, and the U.S. State Departments Young Muslim Exchange Leadership Programme. Since the latter, the U.S. Embassy have consulted Hamzah alongside public intellectuals, activists and academics, forming a concerted effort to challenge a range of issues facing British Muslim communities.
With nearly twenty years of experience in the education sector, both in UK and Pakistan, Tanzeela is currently working as a freelance trainer with a keen interest in youth empowerment, social cohesion and ‘Prevent’.
With extensive experience of working with extremely marginalised communities, particularly Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Black African/ Caribbean boys from the most disadvantaged areas of Leeds, Tanzeela has developed and delivered several projects and intervention programmes, designed to tackle barriers affecting BME achievement and integration. She was instrumental in setting up the first BME parents’ forum in Leeds, thus mobilising a large group of hard to reach BME parents from various communities to meet regularly in order to discuss and solve issues affecting their children’s progress in schools. She also organised the first ever conference in Lahore (Pakistan) addressing the importance of parental involvement in children’s education and well-being, unique in the sense that it was ‘for the parents – by the parents’ and was attended by a large number of mothers.
Accredited by the home office to deliver the Prevent (WRAP) training, her current work includes training, workshops and school assemblies around PREVENT. She is also working on a project commissioned by the Leeds Beckett University to help young Asian girls explore and reach their true potential.
Pardeep’s has over 10 years of practitioner expertise around issues of identity, belonging and radicalisation, working with young people with challenging backgrounds.
Pardeep graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in Arabic and International Relations, and has since split his time between living and working in Europe and the Middle East. This has included researching civil society’s contribution to the demise of the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia and the wider implications for the Arab Spring, in conjunction with The International Crisis Group, and for the Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem, where he worked on projects in the West Bank. Pardeep also spent a year living in the town of Fes, Morocco as part of his Arabic studies. In 2016, Pardeep graduated from the University of Nottingham with a MA in Diplomacy.
Paul Hamlyn Foundation Clore Social Leader Fellowship: Zubeda Limbada, 2014-2015
Social Value Mark Level 2
Unltd Build It Award 2013-2014