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The Board of Directors are appointed members who bring wide and varied government and commercial experience in governing and overseeing the general activities of the organisation. The Board meet four times a year to effectively exercise the following responsibilities:

  • Safeguarding the good name and values of the organisation

  • Acting in the best interest of the organisation

  • The overall policy, direction and control of the organisation

  • Shaping strategy

  • Ensuring financial stability

  • Improving performance


Dr Paul Clark

A former government Minister and Member of Parliament, DR PAUL CLARK is a founding member and Acting Chair of Grassroot Diplomat. He established Gateway Associates in 2010 drawing on the skills and experience of policy, government and communications experts to help organisations from a variety of industries and sectors communicate with Westminster and Whitehall and inform Central Government’s political decision making processes. With a focus on transport, regeneration and social enterprise policies and government strategies, Dr Clark is specialised in helping company leaders understand the unique culture and stakeholder landscapes that they are operating within. Once this is known, a schedule of meetings, events and announcements can be identified or developed to help the company make its voice heard by the right people and not waste money on fruitless sponsorship, hospitality and lobbying exercises.


Talyn Rahman-Figueroa

A trained diplomat, TALYN RAHMAN-FIGUEROA is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Grassroot Diplomat. She is an experienced government communications consultant with board-level experience. With a track record of building robust government relationships, Talyn is known for being an excellent strategist and networker. Talyn leads on all aspects of the consultation process from conception to implementation, and has worked directly with CEOs, senior managers and civil servants for various foreign governments. She has over ten years' experience assisting on high-level projects from business, innovation and trade to public health, climate change and education, working alongside top leaders and senior management teams.

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Sandra Francius-Renaudot

SANDRA FRANCIUS-RENAUDOT is the Managing Director of the European branch of Grassroot Diplomat. Sandra is a multi-lingual, results driven individual with a passion for helping people. Fluent in English, French and Japanese, Sandra's broad experience and exposure to working in different cultures reflects her inquisitive nature and constant desire to learn new things.

With a background in events organisation and management, Sandra has a very scientific and methodological approach to scoping complex projects. Her process driven approach provides clients with absolute clarity as to what they need and to the service that is going to be provided. She is a no nonsense, non-fluffy professional. Time with Sandra is never wasted, so when you have a meeting with her, you get action and results. Sandra is a quirky, slightly eccentric and genuine individual who is a real asset to Grassroot Diplomat.

Bruno Bastit

BRUNO BASTIT is a Non-Executive Director of Grassroot Diplomat since 2016. He is an expert on governance and sustainability-related matters in emerging markets. He is currently the Director for Latin America at Sodali, a leading global governance consultancy and the founder of Quetzal Strategy, an ESG Advisory firm. He was Head of Latin America and Russia at Hermes Fund Managers EOS, representing the UK's largest corporate pension fund and some of the world's most prominent institutional investors. He advised senior executives and board members at companies on governance and sustainability risks, and has extensive experience of engaging with companies in the extractive sector. Bruno has also worked as an advisor to Brazil’s Investors Association AMEC and is a member of Russia’s International Monitoring Committee, responsible to assess the implementation of the new governance code. As a result of his governance work in Russia and Brazil, he was nominated for the Yale University’s Rising Star in Corporate Governance Award.


Dr Bela Arora

Professor BELA ARORA is a specialist in Global Governance with fifteen years experience in the sector and holds a PhD focusing on arms control. She currently leads the MSc in Global Governance, which will focus on practice, rather than theory alone. The highly applied Course would be of interest to professionals from NGOs, government and business. She has worked in some of the UK’s top ranked universities such as Birmingham, Warwick and Cardiff, where she has engaged in lecturing, strategic planning and policy development. She has experience of research and consultancy at national and international level including high profile projects for the United Nations Global Compact, the British Standards Institute Sigma initiative and the International Business Leaders Forum on conflict diamonds. She has engaged with public and private sector organisations. Bela provides analysis on international security for BBC Wales and ITV Wales.


Pierre Heistein

PIERRE HEISTEIN has over six years experience in economic advisory, specialising in Sub-Saharan Africa. He is a recognised columnist in South Africa and is regularly present on South African radio and television to discuss ways that policy and people can challenge the status quo. He is also the co-founder of The 12.01 Project – a documentary filmmaking company that focuses on up-scaling solutions to social and environmental problems. Pierre’s primary focus of interest is the development of systems that reduce the incentives for centralised control, misrepresentation of information and the predication of prejudice and this has led him to Grassroot Diplomat. With the ability to work remotely, Pierre is an avid traveller and uses this privilege to facilitate his passions for intercultural cooperation and understanding, global solution coordination and innovative economic systems. He is currently writing the book “Talking to Iran”.

Vanessa Thevathasan

VANESSA THEVATHASAN joined Grassroot Diplomat as a Non-Executive Director since 2016. She is a researcher, independent journalist and communications specialist focused on bridging the stabilisation, humanitarian, and development sectors. She started her career in journalism covering demilitarisation, demobilisation and reintegration of child soldiers in Myanmar for the Centre for Armed Violence Reduction, and has consistently published for Huffington Post, Insight on Conflict, and The Diplomat. Vanessa reports and consults for several non-governmental organisations on armed violence reduction, grassroots conflict-resolution and peacebuilding, humanitarianism and sustainable development. Trained in law and international politics, she has been attracted to Grassroot Diplomat's innovative approaches to enhancing the effectiveness of the diplomatic and political core to better to serve civil society.



The Advisory Council is an invite-only forum made up of professionals from the diplomatic and international relations field who provide impartial strategic advice to the Executive Team and Board of Directors.


Dr Jamie Shea

DR JAMIE SHEA has been working with NATO since 1980 with positions including Director of Policy Planning, Deputy Assistant Secretary General for External Relations, and Spokesman of NATO. He is a regular speaker on European security affairs and is involved with several prominent academic institutions including the College d’Europe, University of Sussex, and the American University. 

Dr Shea is member of the Advisory Board, Security and Defence Programmes at Chatham House, Member of the Policy Council at the World Economic Forum in Geneva and Founder and Member of the Board, Security and Defence Agenda Brussels. He holds a D.Phil. in Modern History from Oxford University, 1981. 

Sir Iftikhar Ayaz OBE

DR IFTIKHAR AYAZ is the Honorary Consul of the Tuvalu Islands in the UK. He served in Tanzania as a Senior Lecturer in the University of Dar-es-Salaam and worked with the UN Sponsored Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Africa. He served as a Field Expert of the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation, and served for many years the UN Council for Human Rights.

Dr Ayaz is an eminent member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association. He was the National President of the UK Chapter and is holding senior positions in the Association at present. He also represents the Community internationally to deal with issues related to Refugees and Asylum seekers. 

Alistair Starling

ALISTAIR STARLING is a creative senior international trade and investment expert with extensive international experience and proven achievements across government, private and non-profit sectors. He is currently Director, Making the Difference (Change) Programme, at Cambridge English Language Assessment, and was previously in the British Diplomatic Service where he was Higher Executive Officer.

Alistair is focused, driven, and multilingual, and is levering his 14 year private-sector/ 8 year government sector Business Development, Design and Innovation experience to achieve results within 1st, 2nd and 3rd sector organisations.

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Richard Griffiths

RICHARD GRIFFITHS is a member of Dentons' Public Policy and Regulations practice. He provides foreign governments international policy advocacy and issue-branding services. He has more than 15 years' experience advising national governments, including those of Antigua and Barbuda, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Kenya, Libya, Qatar, St. Lucia, Tanzania, Uganda and Ukraine.

Richard's diverse yet complementary capabilities include sovereign advisory, government sector crisis communications and strategy, international lobbying, UN agency advocacy, nation branding and investment promotion. He has held senior positions in several non-US government offices, including the American Chamber of Commerce in Libya.


Linford Andrews

LINFORD ANDREWS serves as Political Adviser at the Commonwealth Secretariat, where he is responsible for monitoring and analysing African political development, providing appropriate policy advice on key issues. His work also focuses on policy development for Commonwealth inter-governmental processes, including meetings of Heads of Government, Foreign Ministers, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group and other high-level bodies.

He previously served in interim roles as Head and Deputy Head of the Offices of the Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General and Secretary-General, respectively, and was a South African diplomat for ten years.

Dr Linda Papadopoulos

DR LINDA PAPADOPOULOS is one of the most well-known and respected psychologists in the UK. Her 14-year career as a research scientist and practicing psychologist has given rise to a high-profile media career. Her observations regarding the psychology behind news and current events are syndicated by the press and discussed by television and radio networks both in Britain and the USA.

Dr Papadopoulos has hosted the TV series My Naked Secret on the Discovery Fit & Health channel. In 2015 Papadopoulos contributed psychological analysis on perpetrators in the series Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer.

Syed Ejaz Kabir 

SYED EJAZ KABIR is a legal practitioner with 10 years experience as an advocate with subordinate courts and the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. He has close interactions with prominent figures of Bangladesh and works to promote democracy and good governance. He has expertise in awareness development and litigation issues, and regularly appears before various tribunals.

Syed appears in television talk shows on human rights, socio-political and legal issues, and has been credited to a number of articles including: "Way forward to peace democracy and rule of law in Bangladesh". He is member of the Hon’ble Society of Lincoln’s Inn, the Bangladesh Supreme Court Bar Association, Dhaka Bar Association, Bangladesh Bar Council, and Internet Society and Young International Arbitration Group.


Susanna Hughes

SUSANNA HUGHES joined Grassroot Diplomat as a Non-Executive Director since 2016. She advises clients on media and digital engagement strategy, international affairs, diplomatic communications and digital transformation. Previously she was a correspondent for, covering the United Nations and other international organisations.

Prior to this she was Head of Communications and Public Diplomacy at the Swiss Embassy in London, where she was responsible for media relations and political analysis. Susanna has helped individuals, brands, companies and countries with a variety of reputation challenges. She leads and coordinates multi-disciplinary experts in the delivery of often sensitive and complicated national and international programmes.



Cherisse Rao

CHERISSE RAO joined Grassroot Diplomat in 2015 as Non-Executive Director before transferring to the Council in 2018. With a mixed South African and Mauritian background, CHERISSE RAO is passionate about social entrepreneurship causes. She was formerly the Philanthropy Chairperson of the WGIRLS London charity and a member of the London School of Economics Programme for African Leadership. She moved to London on secondment with the global diversified miner, Anglo American, where she accumulated nearly a decades worth of corporate experience spanning from financial reporting, legal, company secretarial and managerial responsibilities at the CEO office. Educated in Law, Management and Economics, she has devoted the most recent chapter of her career to the field of corporate governance and legal advisory as part of a London based boutique firm.

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Karen Bellamy

KAREN BELLAMY joined Grassroot Diplomat as Non-Executive Director since 2015. She is currently a Councillor at the London borough of Waltham Forest, having served at the Cabinet Office until recently. She has worked for many years as a mental health professional, and business consultant working on projects from getting financial information for the FSA in setting up a credit union. 

Before being elected into office in 2010, Ms Bellamy was a community activist for 20 years and has a real understanding of local issues within her local borough. Ms Bellamy has a strong portfolio of tackling poverty with practical solutions and continues to work tirelessly to see an improvement in the quality of life for others.  

Sara Rahim

SARA RAHIM is a Pakistani-American youth advocate and United Nations Youth Ambassador. She has worked in a variety of settings to promote interfaith cooperation and intercultural exchange. 

Sara has worked in refugee resettlement at World Relief, and with Interfaith Youth Core, coaching students to be leaders of interfaith action. She has spoken prominently about the role of interfaith cooperation to institutions across the United States and in Europe. Sara is a UN Youth Representative to Parliament of the World’s Religions, and she recently delivered the youth keynote address to the United Nations for World Interfaith Harmony Week. Sara currently resides in Washington, D.C., and she hopes that faith-based partnerships will continue to empower communities in conflict.