Humanitarian Action 101

Want to change the world, but not sure where to start? Start here. Meet people working in conflict and emergency zones, and learn directly from refugees and field workers through live video feeds to Iraq, Kenya, and Myanmar.

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
Pier 17, Suite 800, San Francisco, California 94111 United States


January 28, 2017 from 8:30 am to 8:00 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-07:00)



What is it like to live and study in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya? What challenges arise for UNHCR when managing real-time crisis information in the midst of the Mosul attack? How does Cisco deploy connectivity technology after a hurricane or earthquake strikes?

Join live conversations with refugees and workers in Iraq, Kenya, and Myanmar. Then, gather for breakout sessions with leaders in humanitarian action and innovation from Switzerland and Silicon Valley. 


Click here to see the schedule.

08:30am – doors open

09:00am – LIVE conversations by webstream with Kakuma Refugee Camp (Kenya) and Erbil (Iraq)

10:30am – introduction to humanitarian action by CERAH

11:30am – breakout sessions

12:30pm – lunch break

01:30pm – breakout sessions

05:30pm – wrap-up, next steps, networking

08:00pm – doors close


Erika Barraza

Impact Partners, Senior Manager, Singularity University

is a Social Entrepreneur, Virtual Realities evangelist and Singularity University’s Senior Manager of Impact Partnerships. She brings nonprofits and non-governmental organizations together with exponential technologies to help them apply innovative technology solutions to the global grand challenges. Erika works with SU’s partners to ensure their projects and organizations are both cutting edge and fully integrated with uncommon partners to deliver multi-sided value. She achieves this by supporting purpose-driven exponential technologies and strong sustainable business models.

Erika has worked at the intersection of public and private collaboration for over 10 years in the GGC fields of Governance, Water, and Prosperity.  She is versed in multi-stakeholder management; systemic innovation and developing under-represented communities. Her work is fueled by empathy, creativity, and joy. Erika holds a Masters degree in Social Entrepreneurship and a BA in English and Theater from University of Michigan.

Rakesh Bharania

Network Consulting Engineer, Cisco

is the West Coast lead for Cisco Tactical Operations, Cisco’s primary technology response team for disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.

He is responsible for the design and implementation of secure emergency networks to support first responders, NGOs, government, and critical infrastructure restoration. He has over twenty years of field experience responding to disasters throughout the world including Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan, and most recently the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Europe. He is a Cisco representative to several industry and international forums on disaster relief and resiliency including the United Nations and FEMA / DHS.

Katya Cherukumilli

University of California, Berkeley

Katya Cherukumilli is graduating in May 2017 with a PhD in Environmental Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Katya has co-founded a nonprofit organization called Global Water Labs to further iterate and commercialize the scalable and affordable fluoride removal (SAFR) process developed and patented during her time working under the guidance of Dr. Ashok Gadgil at UC Berkeley. Her dissertation work is focused on using mildly-processed bauxite to design an ultra low-cost method to remove excess fluoride from groundwater in resource constrained regions of India. During her academic career, she has also conducted numerous interdisciplinary research projects, including analyzing climate change effects on ecology in the Rockies, studying health effects of wastewater irrigation in peri-urban Indian cities, and developing a low cost disinfectant for medical instruments used in African maternal health clinics. 

Julia Glosemeyer

Development and Impact Coordinator, Refugee Transitions

Julia Glosemeyer joined Refugee Transitions in 2014 and is responsible for the coordination of development projects, including the annual fundraising event, end-of-year appeals, and annual reports. She is also supporting social media and visual communications. Julia is a volunteer tutor in Refugee Transitions’ home-based program. 

Refugee Transitions’ mission is to assist newcomer families in becoming self-sufficient in the United States by providing services to help them attain the English language, life, job, and academic skills they need to succeed in their new communities.

Joseph Guay

Humanitarian Innovation Specialist

Joseph Guay is an independent consultant who has developed innovation strategies for the Global Alliance for Humanitarian Innovation (GAHI), World Vision’s Nepal Innovation Lab (NLab), the Global Protection Cluster at UNHCR, and the inter-agency Response Innovation Lab (RIL) drawing from Strategic and Evidence-based Design, Local Strategies Research, and systems thinking. Joe has helped developed information management solutions for human rights and humanitarian work, first at the Satellite Sentinel Project at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and later–through his teaching at Northeastern University’s Geographic Information Technology program—by providing remote-based information management and crowd-sourcing support for the Ebola pandemic (2014) and Nepal earthquake (2015) responses. Joe has published research at UNHCR, The Brookings Institute, ALNAP, The Boston Globe, Harvard University’s Institute for Global Law and Policy, and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

Erin Hayba

 oversees all of InZone’s initiatives in East Africa. In addition, Erin coordinates the Connected Learning in Crisis Consortium which brings together universities and organizations working to bring online learning to refugee communities. Erin is also pursuing her PhD at the Global Studies Institute examining the legal framework and application of the right to higher education for refugees. Until 2014, Erin worked with UNHCR as an education coordinator and officer with Syrian refugees in Lebanon and at Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya. She received a UNHCR Innovation Fellowship for her work adapting technology to promote learning in emergency contexts. Erin has also worked for the Earth Institute at Columbia University on an initiative promoting secondary education in Africa, as a fellow at Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the U.S. Congress, and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya, teaching at a school for Deaf children. Erin is a graduate of Harvard University, and holds an Ed.M. in International Education Policy and a B.S. from Penn State University.

Keith Hiatt

Vice President Human Rights Program, Benetech

Keith Hiatt leads Benetech’s efforts to empower human rights defenders around the world by providing technology solutions and capacity building. Keith is a member of the Technology Advisory Board of the International Criminal Court, a Research Fellow at the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley School of Law and an Affiliate at the Data and Society Research Institute in NYC. He previously served as Director of the Human Rights and Technology Program at the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley School of Law, recipient of the 2015 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

After graduating from Berkeley Law, Keith clerked for Judge Ronald Gould of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In 2014, as a community lawyer in East Palo Alto, he received the California Bar Association President’s Award for Pro Bono Service. Prior to attending law school at UC Berkeley, Keith worked as a software engineer at Microsoft and a systems analyst at Boeing.

Silvia Hostettler

Deputy Director, Cooperation and Development Center, EPFL


Silvia Hostettler studied Tropical Environmental Science at the University of Aberdeen (UK) followed by a postgraduate course on development studies with EPFL in Burkina Faso. She worked at IUCN (The World Conservation Union) as Coordinator of the Cloud Forest Initiative. In 2001, she joined EPFL in the framework of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research North-South. During the same time, she fulfilled a mandate for backstopping regional workshops in Ethiopia, Kenya, Cuba, Bolivia, Nepal, and Vietnam. In 2007, she obtained her PhD on land use change and international migration in Mexico. From 2008 to 2012, she was based in Bangalore, India as Executive Director of swissnex India.

Since 2012, she is Deputy Director of the Cooperation & Development Center [CODEV] at EPFL in Switzerland responsible for coordinating research activities and for directing the International Conference of the UNESCO Chair in Technologies for Development. Her research and teaching interests focus on sustainable development and on technologies and innovation in the global South. In 2016, she directed a MOOC on disaster risk reduction. She is passionate about sustainable development, yoga and hiking in remote corners of wilderness.

Malcolm Johnstone

Information Management Specialist, UNHCR

Malcolm is a humanitarian specialist with experience from 14 breaking emergencies in all parts of the world. His work spans crisis information management, coordinating assessments, developing strategies around cash transfers and advising on adaptation to the pressures of climate change. Recently with UNOCHA and UNHCR in the Middle East, Malcolm has been improving information management practices for the humanitarian responses to the conflict in northern Syria, the refugee influx into Lebanon and the current attack on Mosul, Iraq. Malcolm has a Master’s Degree in Humanitarian Assistance and is completing a second in Sustainability and Adaptation to Climate Change. He is particularly interested in reducing suffering and improving lives though the restoration of productive ecosystems.

Jonathon Keats

Experimental Philosopher

Jonathon Keats is a writer, experimental philosopher, and artist based in San Francisco and Northern Italy. He is the author of six books, most recently You Belong to the Universe: Buckminster Fuller and the Future, published by Oxford University Press.

His conceptually-driven interdisciplinary art projects have been exhibited at venues including the Mead Art Museum, the Arizona State University Art Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which recently awarded him an Art + Technology Lab grant to support his exploration of contemporary society through his artistic practice.

Jennifer MacCann

Director, Response Innovation Lab

has extensive experience in humanitarian programming having led World Vision’s Nepal Earthquake Response and held leadership roles in the Philippines Typhoon Haiyan response, Haiti earthquake and work in West, East and Southern Africa and Palestine. Her disaster response career has spanned management, strategy development, resourcing, implementation and preparedness.

Jennifer has a master’s degree in international development and worked on emergency responses across more than 15 countries. Jennifer is particularly interested in progressing the humanitarian sector to relieve suffering and build communities back better.

Barbara Moser-Mercer

Professor of conference interpreting, Ecole de traduction et d’interprétation, University of Geneva

’s research focuses on cognitive and cognitive neuroscience aspects of the interpreting process and on the human performance dimension of skill development. She has co-developed the Virtualinstitute, the first fully integrated virtual learning environment for interpreters, which she leverages in partnership with ICRC, ILO, UNHCR, UNAMA and MSF for enhancing interpreting skills of interpreters working in conflict zones; she is founder and Director of InZone.

She was a member of the High Level Group on Multilingualism of EU Commissioner for Multilingualism, Leonard Orban, coordinated the European Masters in Conference Interpreting, a consortium of 11 European graduate programs in conference interpreting funded by the European Parliament and the European Commission. She is also an active conference interpreter, member of AIIC and of AIIC’s research committee.

Mark Nelson

Co-Director, Peace Innovation Lab, Stanford University

Former relief-worker, investment banker, and social entrepreneur, Mark Nelson founded and co-directs Stanford Peace Innovation Lab, where he researches mass collaboration and mass interpersonal persuasion. Mark focuses on designing, catalyzing, incentivizing, and generating resources to scale up collective positive human behavior change. He has described a functional, quantitative definition of peace, in terms of technology-mediated engagement episode quantity and quality across social difference lines; he has identified innovative, automated ways to measure peace, both at the neighborhood and global level; and he has developed a formal structural description for Peace Data. He leads the Global OPEN Social Sensor Array project, and designs technology interventions to measurably increase positive, mutually beneficial engagement across conflict boundaries. Mark’s mission is to create an entire new, profitable industry, where positive peace is delivered as a service. Other projects include EPIC Global Challenge and Peace Markets. Mark is also a researcher and practitioner at Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, and a member of Stanford’s Kozmetsky Global Collaboratory.

Tara O’Shea

Impact Analyst, Planet Labs 

Tara O’Shea is passionate about realigning natural, social and economic systems through strategic design, communications, and stakeholder engagement. As an Impact Analyst at Planet, she drives partnership and impact evaluation strategies that help ensure Planet’s timely, global imagery empowers informed, deliberate and meaningful stewardship of our planet.

Tara began her career in academia, translating natural capital research into business accounting and policy practice at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. In 2012, she helped start a nonprofit to advance Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), a financial mechanism for sustainable land use in tropical forest countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Over the past several years, she has also advised several nonprofits, foundations, and investment firms on integrating the reality of environmental change into economic and policy tools. 

Michael Radke

Founder and CEO, Ubuntu Center

Michael Radke has been working in the social sector for over fifteen years on issues ranging from political self-determination to science education, in roles as executive, volunteer, educator, researcher and strategist. He now splits his time between leading ION studios – a global innovation, research, and strategy studio for social change – and building the Ubuntu Lab – a new type of experiential museum to help people understand people. He speaks and teaches around the world on building social movements, systemic change, and the importance of understanding people.

Doris Schopper

Professor at the medical faculty of the University of Geneva and Director of CERAH

Doris Schopper obtained a medical degree at the University of Geneva (1978), trained as a specialist in Internal Medicine (1986) and completed a Doctor in Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health (1992). Between 1982 and 1990, she spent several years with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in the field and was president of the Swiss branch of MSF (1991–1998) and twice president of the MSF International Council. In 2001 she was asked to constitute an Ethics Review Board for MSF International.

Schopper worked as health policy adviser in the Global Programme on AIDS at WHO headquarters in Geneva (1992-95). Further international work includes two years as senior health policy adviser at the Swiss Tropical Institute and developing several policies and strategies for WHO (e.g. guideline for policy makers on national policies for violence and injury prevention; strategy for mother-to-child transmission of HIV in Europe; WHO-wide strategy on child and adolescent health). In November 2012, Doris Schopper was appointed as a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Philippe Sion

Managing Director, FSG

The son of two refugees, Philippe Sion has over 12 years of consulting experience serving foundations, corporations, and nonprofits around the world. He leads FSG’s relationship with several very large Fortune 100 corporations in transforming their corporate philanthropy and CSR approaches towards greater impact. In this context, Philippe dedicates part of his time to engage with companies around accelerating solutions to the refugee crisis.

Prior to FSG, Philippe worked for the Bridgespan Group and McKinsey & Company, where he was a leader in the global economic development group and the public / social sector practice.

Before becoming a strategy consultant in 2004, Philippe was an Associate Director at the World Economic Forum (WEF), organizing the economic and finance discussions of the organization’s flagship annual meeting of Davos. Philippe holds a M.Sc. in Financial Economics from the University of London (SOAS) and a B.A in International Relations from the University of Geneva, his hometown.

Photo: Custom rug for swissnex Gallery designed by Manuel Herz Architects for “Everyone a Humanitarian.”

Event Photos