Dr. Sousan Abadian holds a Ph.D. in Political Economy and Government from Harvard University, an M.P.A. in International Development from Harvard's Kennedy School, and an M.A. in the Anthropology of Social Change and Development, also from Harvard University. She has served as a Fellow at M.I.T.'s Dalai Lama Center for Ethics & Transformative Values as well as at the Harvard Center for Public Leadership. Currently, she serves as a Franklin Fellow at the U.S. State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Her portfolio includes gender, preventing violent extremism, conflict mitigation, atrocity prevention and recovery.
Sousan has delivered talks and facilitated leadership trainings for international audiences from the business and nonprofit worlds, for government and religious leaders, tribal chiefs, conflict resolution experts, as well as civil society actors, both independently and as an Associate at Cambridge Leadership Associates. She is equally comfortable facilitating meaningful conversations and processes in mud huts, in religious sanctuaries, as she is in corporate settings.
A global citizen with feet planted in diverse worlds and disciplines, Sousan has command of a vast and unique field of experience. As a young woman, she studied international economic development and cultural anthropology, her earlier research focused on culturally appropriate and gender sensitive poverty alleviation strategies in non-Western contexts. Beginning in the early 1980s, she traveled to Bangladesh and India to research BRAC, Grameen Bank, and other micro-lending enterprises and methods of income generation for the poorest of poor, mostly women and children.
Sousan's research interest in population policies was a natural outgrowth of her concern for the welfare of impoverished women, their children, and the natural environment. She was among the early researchers who wrote about the importance of investing in women’s health and education as a means of reducing fertility. In “Women’s Autonomy and its Impact on Fertility,” lead article for World Development (1996), she provided an econometric analysis demonstrating that reducing population worldwide requires empowering women -- giving them greater autonomy and say over their lives. She also surmised that this requires leadership to initiate and sustain the necessary cultural changes, and trained at Harvard's Kennedy School in their Adaptive Leadership programs.
Turning her attentions closer to home, Sousan began to research tribal communities in the U.S. and Canada. In her Harvard doctoral dissertation, From Wasteland to Homeland: Trauma and the Renewal of Indigenous Peoples and their Communities, supervised by Nobel Laureate in Economics Amartya Sen, she describes how unresolved collective trauma contributes to keeping individuals and their communities stuck in generational cycles of poverty and violence, and how some have broken through by undergoing healing and exercising leadership.
Having plumbed the depths of trauma, Sousan has also trained in positive psychology and non-traditional modalities to bring a deeper understanding of what it takes for individuals and cultures to become healthy, resilient, and innovative. She offers talks and workshops, coaching and consultation for individuals and organizations internationally so that they can create from a place of expanded possibility and wellbeing.
Sousan currently lives in the Washington D.C. area where you might find her riding her bike or writing at her favorite spot at the National Cathedral. She has two beautiful children, David and Ariana.