Staff and Board


Click to scroll down to our Board of Directors and Advisory Council

Polly Byers

Polly Byers

Executive Director

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Kiely Barnard-Webster

Kiely Barnard-Webster

Program Manager

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Susan Brau

Susan Brau

Finance Manager

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Sarah Cechvala

Sarah Cechvala

Senior Program Manager

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Gabrielle Collins

Gabrielle Collins

Administrative Coordinator

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Ben Miller

Ben Miller

Associate Director

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Sweta Velpillay

Sweta Velpillay

Senior Advisor - Conflict Sensitivity and Peacebuilding Effectiveness

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Board of Directors

Ruth Allen, Board Chair

Ruth Rhoads Allen joined CDA’s Board in 2017 after collaborating as an advisor, trainer, or consultant with CDA for over 15 years. Ruth brings her passion for fostering community resilience in the face of inevitable social, political, and environmental systems-level challenges, as well as her expertise in strategic organizational change processes. From 2004-2013 Ruth served in multiple positions at Mercy Corps, including leading the agency’s global technical portfolio as Director of Governance and Partnerships, and sat on Mercy Corps’ Leadership Council. As Founder of ViewFinder International in 2013, Ruth enjoys integration of governance, social inclusion, and peacebuilding through long-term engagements with INGOs and UN agencies. As Senior Advisor at Mercy Corps and in other consulting, Ruth focuses on strategic planning in sensitive environments. Ruth began her career in South Africa as an international observer for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and lived in Kenya while a Rotary Foundation Scholar at the University of Nairobi and researcher at Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai’s Greenbelt Movement. Ruth is a Department Instructor at Clark University’s International Development, Community, and Environment program and guest lecturers elsewhere. Ruth holds an MSc from the same department at Clark University and a BS in Geology/Environmental Sciences from Dickinson College.

Neil A. Levine, Board Vice-Chair

Neil A. Levine joined CDA’s Board in 2018. Neil retired from federal service in 2017 after 30 years in the Executive Branch and on Capitol Hill.  He taught Strategic Leadership at the National Defense University’s Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Policy and taught at American University School of International Service.  While at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), he led the Center of Excellence for Democracy, Human Rights and Governance (2014-17) and the Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation (2008-13).  He is now a certified professional coach with over 20 years of experience in advising individuals and groups on setting the conditions for success.  Neil has a M.S. in National Security Strategy from the National War College (2008), a Masters in International Affairs from Columbia University (1986) and a B.A. from Earlham College (1983).   In 2017, he received his Executive Coaching certification from the College of Executive Coaching.

Dave Truesdell, Treasurer

Dave Truesdell has more than four decades of experience in financial reporting and technical compliance issues as a forensic accountant, as the audit partner on his client engagements and as the quality control reviewer responsible for reviewing the performance of other audit partners.  In his role as a forensic accountant, Dave has written a number of expert reports and has testified in trials and depositions. He is past president of the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants and received its Professional Service Award for excellence in the industry in 1999. An authority on accounting and auditing matters, Dave also possesses extensive knowledge of auditing automation technology. His areas of expertise include high technology, manufacturing, not-for-profit entities and construction. In addition, Dave was controller at a regional leasing company.

Dan Connell, Board Member

Dan Connell is a researcher and writer whose primary focus over the past 40 years has been Eritrea. He is currently working on a book on refugees and migration routes for which he has interviewed more than 500 Eritreans in camps and communities in nineteen countries across five continents since 2014. Dan is a visiting scholar at Boston University’s African Studies Center and a retired senior lecturer in journalism and African studies at Simmons College. His reports and commentary on Africa were carried by the BBC, Reuters, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, The Financial Times, The Guardian, Le MondeWashington Post and other media, and he’s the author or editor of ten books. He is also the founder and former director of Grassroots International, the chair of the Cape Ann Forum, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Middle East Research and Information Project.



Sharon Flynn, Board Member

Sharon Flynn brings to our Board more than 20 years of experience designing and implementing sustainability strategies with global multi-nationals in the mining, oil and gas, construction and forestry sectors. These organisations include Rio Tinto, Bechtel, and GrupoNueva, where Sharon developed social performance and social impact management approaches. Sharon also brings considerable experience with the not for profit sector in community development, biodiversity conservation and peace-building with organizations including the One Earth Future Foundation, Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy, all dedicated to building local solutions. Sharon is currently the Executive Vice President and Head of External Affairs and Social Performance with OceanaGold. She holds a Master of International Relations and Management from the University of California, San Diego.

Richard (Dick) Harter, Board Member

Dick Harter serves as a director, trustee or advisor for affiliates of the United Church of Christ and other non-profit organizations. Dick serves as a Trustee of Chicago Theological Seminary and served as its interim president in 2002. He also previously served as President of the Massachusetts Council of Churches and as a director of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay. In addition, he served as President of the Union Club of Boston. Dick retired from serving as a partner in the large law firm Bingham McCutchen LLP.

Elizabeth D. Gibbons, Board Member

Elizabeth Gibbons‘ career in social development and humanitarian affairs has spanned more than three decades, during which she lived and worked in Togo, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. She is currently a Visiting Scientist at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights in the Harvard School of Public Health, and a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Kozmetsky Center of Excellence in Global Finance at St. Edwards University. Prior to these academic appointments, Elizabeth enjoyed a lengthy career in the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and served as head of UNICEF’s offices in Haiti and in Guatemala. Elizabeth is the author of Sanctions in Haiti: Human Rights and Democracy under Assault, and a contributing author to several other books.

Irene M. Santiago, Board Member

Irene M. Santiago has been involved for more than 40 years in the quest for a just peace for the Bangsamoro in Mindanao, Philippines. Her range of involvement covers organizing in grassroots Moro communities for almost 10 years starting in 1977; engaging in continuous advocacy for women’s participation in peace processes; being a member of the Philippine Government peace panel negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front from 2001-2004; and being the first chair of the government panel implementing the Bangsamoro peace agreement signed in 2014. Currently, as the Peace Adviser to the Davao City Mayor, she is providing technical advice as well as training to local people’s organizations and elected officials to broaden people’s participation in peacebuilding. A gender expert, she is focusing on ensuring women’s voices are heard and their capacities for peace strengthened.

David Whittlesey, Board Member


David Whittlesey is a Senior Advisor with Interpeace and founder of MaineStreams Finance. In the span of the past 30 years, David has worked as a Foreign Service Officer with the US Department of State as a Consular Officer and in the Bureau for Refugee Programs; as Head of the Refugee and Humanitarian Assistance Division and subsequently as Director for Strategic Planning and Human Resource Development at the International Organization for Migration (IOM); and as Director of Operations and Senior Advisor with Interpeace. Now living in Maine, he is focusing his attention more locally through serving in local town government and spearheading local development initiatives, while continuing to consult with Interpeace.

Advisory Council

Mary B. Anderson, Founder

Founder of CDA

Severine Autesserre

Severine is an award-winning researcher and author on war and peace, as well as a Professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University (USA). She is an expert in peacebuilding, peacekeeping, international aid, and African civil wars, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is the author of the books Peaceland and The Trouble with the Congo, as well as numerous scholarly, policy, and news articles. [read more]

Ambassador Rick Barton

Co-director of Princeton’s Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiatives and Ullman Fellowships [read more]

Melanie Greenberg

President and CEO of the Alliance for Peacebuilding [read more]

Elisabeth Kvitashvili

Independent International Development Advisor [read more]

Emma Leslie

Executive Director, Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies [read more]


Cully Lundgren

Cully is a Major Gifts Officer with Oxfam America. He has spent much of his career working with international development organizations focused on alleviating poverty and saving lives, including time with Mercy Corps and Save the Children.  [read more]

Rob Ricigliano

Rob Ricigliano is the Systems and Complexity coach at The Omidyar Group, where he supports and guides teams within organizations and initiatives in efforts to better understand and effectively engage with dynamic systems. The Systems Practice at The Omidyar Group is built on Rob’s pioneering work using systems and complexity tools in peacebuilding and social change. [read more]

Graeme Simpson

Graeme Simpson is the Director of Interpeace USA and Senior Adviser to the Director-General of Interpeace, a global peace-building organization headquartered in Geneva and working in 20 conflict and immediate post-conflict zones around the world. In September 2016, he was appointed by the UN Secretary General as the Lead Author on the UN Security Council-mandated “Progress Study” on Youth, Peace and Security, under UN SCR 2250 and served in this role until June 2018. [read more]

Lisa Williams

Head, Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Team, Development Co-operation Directorate, OECD [read more]