Ruth Rhoads Allen

President and Chief Collaboration Officer

[email protected]

Meet Ruth

“Learning with people – about the forces impacting their lives and our connected future – is a passion. And as a practitioner or advising policy on complex global issues, I’ve admired CDA’s commitment to centering lived experience in practical, impactful research. Today, environmental change and evolving conflict dynamics demand the curiosity, optimism, and creativity at the heart of CDA. It’s a privilege to help continue CDA’s legacy as a common good, equipping effective, accountable action wherever communities experience conflict.”

As President and Chief Collaboration Officer of CDA, Ruth Rhoads Allen believes in the power of local capacities for peace. She weaves learning partnerships to tackle pressing questions that challenge humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding efforts today and into the future.

Over 20+ years, Ruth has been inspired by colleagues and community members doing the daily work of building peace, standing up for injustice, and caring for their environment in some of the most challenging places around the world. She began her career in newly post-apartheid 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, then supporting research at Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai’s Greenbelt Movement. Ruth has since worked in 30 countries, from Somalia to Myanmar, designing and leading programs that build on community resilience in the face of social, political, and environmental systems-level challenges. From 2004 to 2013, Ruth served in multiple positions at Mercy Corps, including as Director of Governance and Partnerships, and with postings in Ethiopia and Tunisia. She founded ViewFinder International, a nod to her love of photography, to expand her expertise leading strategic organizational change processes with UN agencies, private foundations, and local and international organizations. 

Ruth joined CDA staff in 2019 to lead the organization in its next chapter as a collaborative platform. Having partnered with CDA throughout her career and previously serving on the board, Ruth understands the power of CDA’s collaborative learning approach, the resulting principles and practices for positive social change, and the global network grown over nearly 30 years. Her shared leadership approach facilitates co-creation of CDA’s vision, culture, technical focus, learning partnerships, and network engagement. Ruth also works directly on several CDA project teams, lending her expertise in participatory research, cross-sector partnerships, civil society leadership, and good governance related to peacebuilding and humanitarian action.

To more fully reflect CDA’s values and global mission, Ruth has worked closely with the board to build governance and advisory bodies that include diverse countries of origin, lived experiences, and expertise. She has championed CDA’s active and sustained work on Anti-Racism and Social Inclusion, introduced a culture of collective and individual public service, and committed CDA to sector-wide compacts on safeguarding, climate change, and Indigenous rights.


Ruth is a human geographer and earned her MSc from Clark University’s International Development, Community, and Environment program, where she has also been a Department Instructor. She serves on the Advisory Board of Global Oncology and lives in the US with her young family.

What constitutes effective use of evidence to inform peacebuilding project design?

Conflict Sensitivity and Public Health Emergencies

CDA-Humanity United Unrestricted Grant – Final Report – Summary Version

At Long Last, a Better Response to Confronting Violent Conflict: Reflection on the USIP Task Force on Extremism in Fragile States Report

Responding Amid Uncertainty and Managing Risk in Humanitarian Settings – A Learning Guide

Responding Amid Uncertainty and Managing Risk in Humanitarian Settings – A Resource Guide

Responding Amid Uncertainty and Managing Risk in Humanitarian Settings – Summary Findings Report

The quality of a leader: How photography helped me see peers everywhere

Meeting Complexity with Creativity: 5 themes in unpacking “local” in aid