Meet Our Team

Zubeda Limbada


Zubeda is a founding director of ConnectFutures. She previously worked for over 15 years in the public sector as a senior member in a wide variety of local, national and pan-European policy-orientated projects on topics such as extremism, equalities and leadership innovation. She developed an operational accredited mentoring programme on behalf of statutory agencies and partners for individuals vulnerable to violent extremism during a two-year assignment with West Midlands Police Counter Terrorism Unit, and worked for Birmingham City Council delivering aspects of the Prevent strategy from 2007.

Zubeda is a current EU RAN expert. She is the author of Education and Radicalisation Prevention: Different ways governments can support schools and teachers in P/CVE with Professor Lynn Davies (2019), “Counter-terrorism as conflict transformation (Routledge, 2014) and Formers and Families -transitional journeys and out of violent extremism in the UK (European Commission, 2015). She is a Clore Social Fellow (2014/15), an alumni of the IVLP programme (Dept of State, USA) and was invited to the White House Countering Violent Extremism (President Obama) summit in Washington in February 2015 as a result of the specialist work of ConnectFutures in developing community and schools based programmes.
She graduated from the University of Manchester with a BA in Politics and Modern History and an MA in Middle Eastern Studies.

Laura Zahra McDonald


Dr Laura Zahra McDonald is a founding director of ConnectFutures and former academic at the University of Birmingham. After studying Social Anthropology with sub-honours in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of St Andrews, she completed her PhD at the Centre for Women’s Studies, University of York in intersectionality and Islam. Her post-doctoral work at the University of Birmingham investigated state-community engagement in the context of security and conflict post 9/11, within which she highlighted the importance of community partnership with leadership from young people and women.

She has extensive experience in innovative programme design, critical enquiry and evaluation for policy, practitioner and community-based organisations. She has worked to counter extremism, exploitation and inequality since 2003, engaging formally in understanding and developing preventative approaches to extremisms since 2005. This includes bringing young people together with the police for problem-solving in the community, and engaging ‘hard to-reach’ youth for dialogue and skills-building across diverse communities.

She has been a key developer – designing, testing and evaluating - in the OSCE’s new Leaders Against Intolerance and Violent Extremism (LIVE) initiative, which is a long-term training and capacity building programme for young leaders in Western Europe, the Balkans and Central Asia to tackle extremism in their local contexts. Laura has also contributed to the development of an online course for UNITAR around countering violent extremism within a human rights framework.
She has developed training modules for the HMPPS funded Way Out Project: Supporting Muslims in Prison (2018), an action research project based on lived experience of offenders. In partnership with St Giles Trust, she has been a key developer of the Building Resilience to Violent Extremism (BRAVE) programme for schools and colleges, and is experienced in evaluating the impact of different forms of intervention such as films and testimonials as well as social media and dialogue.

Professor Lynn Davies


Lynn Davies is Emeritus Professor of International Education at the University of Birmingham, UK and Co-Director of the ConnectFutures. She has worked extensively in the area of education and conflict, and for the last 15 years specifically in education, extremism and security.

Major books in the field have been Education and Conflict: Complexity and Chaos (2004), Educating against Extremism (2008), and Unsafe Gods: Security, Secularism and Schooling (2014). Recent empirical research has included interviewing former extremists (far right and Islamist) about their family backgrounds for EU RAN (2018) and evaluating the Home Office funded Way Out Project: Supporting Muslims in Prison (2018), an action research project based on the lived experience of offenders. Recent reviews include the Review of Educational Initiatives in Counter-Extremism Internationally: What works? (2018),University of Gothenburgand this looked at 21 different types of initiatives in 23 countries and their evaluations. Another review is the Education and Radicalisation Prevention: Different ways governments can support schools and teachers in P/CVE (2019) for EU RAN This is a survey of 27 EU Member states of what their governments are doing in the area of counter-extremism.

She has acted as a senior consultant on areas of counter-extremism for a number of international agencies such as UNESCO, UNICEF, GIZ, OSCE and Club de Madrid, as well as the EU Radicalisation Awareness Network.

In 2014 she was given the Sir Brian Urquhart award for service to the UN and its goals by a UK citizen.

Malik Harrison

Lead Facilitator & Creative

Malik is a professional hip-hop artist, as lyricist and MC with MD7, and a solo career that has seen him touring with artists including Jay-Z, Mark Ronson, Professor Green and Wiley. Malik is a highly skilled facilitator, performer and public speaker, using his skills to work through music and spoken word therapeutically. He has worked with at risk young people within secure units and other institutions for over 10 years. His work with ConnectFutures includes national delivery for our BRAVE, Racial Justice, Contextual Safeguarding and Fake News programmes in targeted and assembly formats with a specialism in PRUs and SEND schools, large scale workshops, mentoring and 1-2-1s.

Carys Evans

Head of Programmes & Impact

Carys has 10 years experience working in communities and with young people in third sector organisations. Her specialism is the design of interactive programmes that seek to challenge, integrate and develop confidence in the attendees. She has extensive youth work experience, most notably in alternative education settings that encourage social integration and community-led development. Carys has a first class Masters degree in Terrorism and Political Violence from the University of Birmingham where her specialisms were far right extremism, gender and terrorism and countering violent extremism. She has written papers on the constructions of gender in public responses to women who engage in terrorism, as well as chapters on intersectional responses to all violence and the incorporation of a contextual safeguarding approach to CVE projects in educational environments.

Hashi Mohamed

Senior Advisor

Hashi Mohamed is one of the UK’s leading junior barristers, a broadcaster at the BBC and an author. Hashi presents documentaries on BBC Radio 4, including the lessons learned over the 20 years since the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and on access to the professions.
Hashi draws on his personal journey, from child refugee to public figure, to draw powerful conclusions - about devising better policy, about resilience, focus and the ability to adapt in the pursuit of success. The lessons to be drawn are multifaceted and relevant to our work at ConnectFutures with young people, the professionals working to support them, and the communities in which we all reside. Hashi's debut book on social mobility in Britain, 'People Like Us', is out on general release.

Sami Baloch

Marketing and Communications

Sami Baloch is a masters student at the University of Birmingham studying International Development, following his completion of a BA in Politics and Philosophy at the University of Liverpool. He has worked on a number of projects with organisations such as the NHS, KPMG as well as programmes designed by ConnectFutures, focussing on effective messaging of complex subjects to young people. Sami has written for the Guardian Newspaper on his family's political history and standing up for what you believe in. His interest in politics and development thus stems from his family's social, political and community legacy combined with his 4 years of high level studies.


Consultant Facilitator | Youth

Jacob is a passionate and experienced speaker, engaging powerfully on the toughest topics. Drawing from challenging lived experiences, he understands the pathways into and out of gangs, serious violence and radicalisation. Jacob works as a facilitator for both St Giles Trust and ConnectFutures, bringing insight and presence to the fore.

Connor Natella

Senior Facilitator | Youth & Professionals

Connor is a senior youth worker, football coach and expert public speaker, working on the National Citizenship Service (NCS), now based at West Ham United. His role with ConnectFutures as a facilitator includes BRAVE delivery to young people of all ages and educational needs, and specialist training to professionals around youth, violence, extremism and positive skills building.

Alex Long

Consultant Facilitator | Youth & Professionals

Alex has worked with with young people and in education for the past 10 years. His experience originated in working with youths from both Unionist and Nationalist backgrounds in Northern Ireland in order to further cross community relations and reduce violence as part of the peace agreement.
Since then, Alex has gone on to manage several youth programmes which aim at young people from all backgrounds. He is an experienced public speaker, D.S.O and youth worker who specialises in Pupil Referral Unit intervention.

Junior Higgins

Consultant Facilitator | Youth | SEMH & SEND

Junior is an experienced youth worker specialising in work with young people with complex needs, SEMH and SEND. Junior supports young people and their families in community settings, mainstream educational settings and alternative provision including Pupil Referral Units (PRUs). His innovative programme designs and delivery take a culturally sensitive perspective, raising awareness, reducing stigma, and educating to support mental health, resilience and emotional well-being. As a musician he utilises the arts in his work, as well as sport to develop programmes which connect with young people's needs and interests.

Elise Manon Smith

Consultant Facilitator | Youth & Professionals

Elise has 5 years experience working with young people in the UK and abroad. The bulk of this work has been spent working for a national charity providing young people aged 16-19 with enrichment & development opportunities. Elise is an experienced trainer and mentor having created and delivered a range of training to young people in her professional career as well as through ConnectFutures. She is an experienced public speaker, focussing on youth engagement.

Mike Younis

Consultant Facilitator | Youth

Mike is a powerful public speaker, MMA fighter and actor, who utilises his skills to connect with young people as a programme facilitator.

Kyle Lowe

Consultant Facilitator

Kyle is a passionate programme facilitator of young people and professionals with past experience in coaching and mentoring.

Kyle gained his Bachelors in Policing & Criminal Investigation from the University of Central Lancashire and has previously served as a Special Constable within Lancashire Constabulary with a focus on community policing and youth engagement

A confident public speaker with over 10 years experience in sales within the FMCG sector who utilises his experience to connect with young people as a programme facilitator

Sean Monaghan

Senior Consultant for Serious Youth Violence

Sean has worked for over seven years as a trainer and frontline practitioner supporting young people across the UK and for a short project overseas. His specialism lies in working with vulnerable communities and youth at risk of, or involved in: Youth violence, knife crime, gangs, extremism, CSE/CCE and substance misuse. His practice is through a contextual safeguarding approach, mediation, training and direct intervention work.

Alongside his frontline work, Sean has also conducted consultation pieces for various organisations on inclusivity, cultural competency and practice development for services working with vulnerable youth.

Si Philbert

Consultant Facilitator | Youth

Si is an experienced youth mentor and worker with Luton Tigers and St Giles Trust who has worked for many years around radicalisation, extremism and racism from a grassroots perspective. He has also worked with EPEX and Recora.

In his spare time, Si is a renowned musician and rapper with over 20 years worth of experience in the UK hip hop industry.

Paul Stringer

Filmmaker & Photographer

Paul specialises in photography and video production for commercial, editorial and individual clients. Paul’s passion lies in documenting the world, in particular, cultural and political events.

Richard Horton

Senior Associate

Specialist in the management and development of intelligence and the diversion of individuals away from violent extremism. Combines over 32 years of law enforcement expertise with private sector consulting and analytical skills. Currently working as a trainer for organisations in the education and health sectors delivering bespoke events and presentations on understanding and addressing violent extremist narratives.

Creating Change Together

Harnessing the experience and knowledge of an internationally respected team, ConnectFutures provides independent expertise to a wide range of clients.

Our unique approach combines academic excellence with extensive practitioner experience and is informed by our strong ethical framework and commitment to justice.

Our academic backgrounds include expertise in law, education, criminology, social anthropology, political science, and sociology, with practitioner experience in the fields of equalities, policing, security and peace-building.

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