Meet Our Team

Zubeda Limbada

Director

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

Director

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, critical enquiry and evaluation both as an academic and independent consultant for policy, practitioner and community-based organisations. She has worked to counter extremism, exploitation and inequality since 2003 in a range of roles within those sectors, 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

Director

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.

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.

Carys Evans

Head of Programmes & Impact

Carys has years of experience working in the third sector with young people and communities across the country. Her specialism is programme design for youth engagement, social integration and community-led development. Currently studying her Master's degree in Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of Birmingham, Carys is focusing on a range of topics including far-right extremism in the UK, gender in terrorism and CVE. She has extensive youth work experience and develops volunteering opportunities centered on personal development for young people and social action in communities. She is currently writing a paper on #ShamimaBegum: an analysis of gendered social media narratives. She explores the constructions of gender in public responses to the case of Shamima Begum, a British born woman who travelled to Syria to join ISIS. The paper will be published in Autumn 2019.

Matthew Stone

Consultant

Matthew Stone is a Youth Leader, Mentor, Public Speaker and Trainer. He has over 10 years’ experience working in youth organisations across England and overseas. He has a passion for seeing young people unlocking their potential and loves generating discussion that will enlighten, broaden experiences and develop mindsets. This focus has included reducing the numbers of 18 – 25 year olds who aren’t in education, work or training, including through his role as a Programme Executive at the Prince’s Trust, creating training programmes to offer young people work experience, professional skills and knowledge to succeed. Matthew has 4 years pastoral support experience, in schools and community centres. He is also currently studying for his qualifications in counselling.

Josh Woods

Trainer

Josh is a skilled trainer who uses his intercultural skills and emotional intelligence gained from exposure and receptivity to a wide variety of people, organisations and cultures. His academic interests include research principles and methods acquired during studies at the University of Birmingham and consolidated during his time at Lefika La Phodiso under the supervision of Professor Paul Hoggett of the University of the West of England.

Si Philbert

Mentor & Trainer

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.

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.

Elise Manon Smith

Consultant

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.

Joe Molloy

Trainer

Joe is a qualified social worker with a professional background in homelessness, youth work and family services and additionally works with a range of students from schools, colleges and PRU’s across northern England. Joe lives in Manchester, where he is a case worker for a charity supporting young men in crisis. In addition to radicalisation, he retains an interest in youth justice, person-centred and strength-based approaches, and narrative approaches to social work practice. Joe has seen first hand how BRAVE training can help empower pupils and teachers to feel more confident in speaking and thinking about radicalisation issues, and the benefits that it can bring.

Jacob

Speaker & Trainer

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.

Saeed

Speaker & Trainer

Saeed uses humour and powerful testimony to engage young people on issues of which he has direct experience, including serious gang activity and the recruitment techniques of violent extremists.

Tyler Lee-Martin

Trainer

Tyler specialises in the engagement of ‘hard-to-reach’ and vulnerable young people within PRU's, Alternative provisions and is closely involved with Local authority teams such as LAC, YOT and Safeguarding. He uses humour and skill to focus on trust and relationship building, delivering presentations and facilitating workshops for young people aged 15-17 to build their resilience to exploitation and vulnerabilities.

Bethanie Brown

Mentor & Trainer

Beth has worked for 8 years mentoring, support and training, with young people and communities. Her specialism lies in working with young people with additional needs, those from a looked after background, and/or with a history of offending and/or display challenging behaviour. She co-founded Bloomin’ Brum, which engages young people and communities based in deprived areas to get involved with their own social action that benefits them and their environment. Using her skills and knowledge built from his experience she now delivers public speeches and training to young adults to create their own social action campaigns. She is currently studying Youth, Community and Families BA (Hons) at University College Birmingham and developing a training programme for professionals that work in supportive roles. The programme will address appropriate language, approach and deeper levels of understanding regarding LGBTQ+ themes. Alongside this, she continues to mentor in PRUs facilitating unique support and strategies based on the young person’s thoughts, feelings and situations.

Paul Stringer

Head of Media

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.

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.

Our Services