In 2008, Robert Macpherson created Cosantóir Group to address an unmet need among international organizations: for professional guidance in successfully navigating increasingly insecure, complex global environments in which the actors include governments, private companies, non-profit organizations, and national and/or international military and paramilitary groups. As President & CEO he provides executive level advisory services to clients and leads and mentors the Group’s Senior Associates. Mr. Macpherson contributes as a subject matter expert on risk management for a variety of groups including most recently the US Department of State Overseas Security Advisory Committee (OSAC), Foreign Service Institute, InsideNGO and the International NGO Safety & Security Association. Before founding Cosantόir, Mr. Macpherson enjoyed two successful careers: first as an infantry officer in the US Marine Corps, from which he retired at the rank of Colonel in 1996; and later as a senior advisor to the international humanitarian organization CARE.
While at CARE, Mr. Macpherson spent more than a decade leading emergency response and landmine programs, and, following the events of September 11, 2001 and a rapidly evolving geopolitical situation, he designed, launched and led CARE’s global safety and security structure. This included corporate policies, staff education and training, financial support and integration of CARE security with the UN, ICRC and the international humanitarian community. As a leader of CARE’s Emergency Group, Mr. Macpherson directed numerous emergency response deployments, including those to Bosnia, Rwanda, Burundi, Darfur, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, East Timor, Kosovo, Albania, Haiti, Indonesia and Zimbabwe. He provided coordination throughout the humanitarian community, among a variety of UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and among various civilian and military governmental representatives. As the Director of CARE’s Safety and Security Unit, Mr. MacPherson spearheaded the development, coordination, monitoring and integration of its global program strategy for safety and security, which covered 15,000 staff in 72 locations around the world. He also managed negotiations and coordination with evolving non-traditional powers such as commercial security companies, paramilitary forces and an assortment of armed local groups and militias controlling territory in which CARE operated. These efforts included responding to the kidnapping and illegal detention of CARE staff in Zimbabwe, southern Sudan, Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq. His experience also includes having been personally illegally detained in Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe.
Mr. Macpherson has testified before the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and served as an advisor to the National Security Council and has published a number of Op-Eds in the Washington Post. He is co-author of Prehospital and Disaster Medicine’s “Neglect and Failures of Human Security in Humanitarian Settings: Challenges and Recommendations” (April 2013). He is a member of the Board of Directors of the International NGO Safety & Security Association (INSSA). Mr. MacPherson earned his undergraduate degree from the Virginia Military Institute and an advanced degree in International Affairs and Strategic Studies from the Australian Defense University. He is the recipient of four awards for valor from the United States government, for service in Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia and Iraq, and was honored in 2008 with the InterAction Distinguished Achievement Award for Humanitarian Service.
Cosantóir Group Senior Vice President, Veronica Kenny-Macpherson, has over 20 years of professional experience in the international development sector. Since joining Cosantóir in 2011, she has managed the firm’s operations and business development activities. As a member of Cosantóir Group, she has also provided a wide range of technical assistance to clients. Her areas of expertise include organizational security management system audits, crisis management exercise development and delivery, integration of security and risk management into funding proposals, and social media and gender dimensions of NGO security. In eight years as Director of Business Development for Management Systems International (MSI), she managed the firm’s bidding process from tracking opportunities to proposal development and submission, including the integration of risk management and security solutions into technical proposals. Prior to joining MSI she held key leadership roles with the United Nations Foundation and CARE. As Senior Director for Development for Foundations at CARE, she worked closely with the President of CARE, executive staff and country directors to identify major foundation funding prospects and led the cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of multi-year grants. With the United Nations Foundation, she managed partnerships with individual, foundation, corporate and government donors within and outside the United States to support children’s and reproductive health programs.
Early in her career she led war-time relief programs for Action Contre la Faim in Bosnia and was responsible for the development and implementation of the organization’s operational security plan. She is a successful manager and trainer with experience building teams from the ground up. She has completed RedR’s Certificate in Security Management course. In addition to Bosnia, she has field experience in Africa. In her local community, Ms. Kenny-Macpherson is an active member of the Women’s Impact Fund and a volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte.
Proficient in French, Ms. Kenny-Macpherson earned her Master’s in Public Affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and a BA in political science and French from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Senior Associate, Virginia Vaughn, began her international work three decades ago as a volunteer with the Peace Corps in Niger, where she recognized first-hand the need for ‘results-oriented’ training to successfully implement any program. Her subsequent postings in Chad, Mozambique and Ethiopia sharpened her NGO project design and management skills and enhanced her passion for guiding adults through a learning process aimed at ‘doing things better’. After four years as a senior manager for emergency and humanitarian response with CARE International, she completed a graduate degree in Distance Learning. In doing so, Virginia turned her passion for education and training related to complex situations into a full-time endeavor. For the past 12 years, she has worked as an Instructional Design Consultant with a broad range of international organizations. Her principle focus is to ensure all staff have the knowledge and skills required to meet corporate and organizational objectives.
Ms. Vaughn is a noted and leading specialist in the design, production and delivery of a comprehensive variety of training methodologies to meet the needs of diverse audiences. As a practitioner, educator and trainer in 24 countries on 4 continents, she has extraordinary field experience in risk management; staff safety & security; accountability; livelihood security; and disaster preparedness planning. She has completed RedR’s Certificate in Security Management course. She also has a confirmed and proven ability to transform organizational requirements into training curricula on a broad range of subjects. Ms. Vaughn has an exceptional degree of analytical skills, which she has used to assist institutions in identifying weaknesses in complex situations and environments; to facilitate groups through the processes of problem-solving to action and improvement; and to create the design and structure required to establish and maintain beneficial and functional change throughout an organization.
Ms. Vaughn is proficient in French and has working knowledge of Portuguese. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota at St. Paul and her post-graduate diploma in Open and Distance Education from the Institute of Educational Technology, Open University, England.
Senior Associate, Neil Mackinnon, is an experienced risk management consultant specializing in working with humanitarian and development organizations, conflict resolution, defense and government sector projects. He possesses a recognized capacity for client focus and the ability to plan and execute multifaceted projects in demanding and volatile conditions. He brings very recent experience in the support of safety and security requirements for a USAID-funded project in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He has conducted numerous field-based security assessments for international development organizations, in contexts ranging from West Bank, to Lebanon to Pakistan. He has the maturity, experience and composure to work solely as an individual or in charge/part of a team. He is an experienced trainer, having designed and delivered sessions on a broad range of topics including crisis management, social media security, counter surveillance, personal security, and driver safety. Mr. Mackinnon retains a demonstrated capacity to deal with unexpected situations in very complicated environments. He is an excellent team player and strong communicator. Under a contract with Cosantóir, he provided security over sight for a US NGO by providing planning, counter surveillance and response support involving a sensitive US government sponsored project with assets based in over 20 challenging countries including Kazakhstan, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
Mr. MacKinnon has planned, prepared and executed Crisis Management exercises for organizations as varied as Rio Tinto, Chartis Insurance, Marymount University and the British Military. In addition, he has also been involved in a number of intricate crisis related responses for a diverse group of organizations including red 24 during the Haiti earthquake and kidnap for ransom investigations in Iraq on behalf of the British Government. He is recognized as a leader with a strong foundation in risk mitigation, security and intelligence related skills. His presence in complex and dangerous situations brings an element of composed and experienced stability, which is a critical determinant to the safety and security of staff. Mr. Mackinnon has considerable international and hostile environment experience including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cambodia, Haiti, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Tunisia and West Bank.
CHRISTINE RANI PERSAUD
Christine began her career in humanitarian assistance as a Project Coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in Chechnya and continues to be involved in security and in emergency needs assessments for several NGOs. Her association with CARE International spans nearly a decade. She is currently associated with the Canadian International Development Agency’s International Humanitarian Assistance Directorate involved in emergency response requirements and assisting with the development and implementation of operational security policies and guidelines.
She has been involved in operational risk management for 18 years. During this period, she has exclusively consulted as a safety and security advisor for several international humanitarian and development agencies in both disaster emergencies and protracted conflict situations. This work included situational and risk assessment activities, which required analysis and problem solving through operational strategies and other recommendations. Christine has also been involved in strategic policy development in issues of safety and security management at headquarters level for international agencies and donor governments. She is the author of “Gender and Security: Guidelines for Mainstreaming Gender in Security Risk Management”, EISF 2012 and “NGO Safety and Security Training Project: How to Create Effective Security Training for NGOs”, EISF and InterAction 2014.
She is an experienced Trainer and Facilitator who has delivered a courses and workshops varying from: Personal Security, Agency Security Management, Civil-Military Relations, Critical Incident Management, Project Management, Logistics and Emergency Needs Assessment. Recipients of these trainings include the US State Department – USAID, Canadian Government –Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, the American Red Cross and a multitude of high profile international NGOs that include the American Red Cross, CARE, John Snow Inc., Academy for Education and Development, Save the Children, Merlin, Americares, Concern, World Relief and World Vision.
Christine remains one of a very few number of women who has extensive operational experience working in the safety and security/operational risk management in complex situations such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Burundi, Sri Lanka and Darfur.
Claudia Meiling Chang is a senior global manager, thoughtful leader and experienced consultant specializing in mission driven programming and organizational effectiveness, intercultural leadership and meaningful partnerships and impact in development and humanitarian contexts. Her focus areas include integrated and secure social development program strategy and design, management and resourcing, cross cultural leadership and training, negotiation/mediation and representation. She has additional expertise in multi-level conflict resolution, executive level strategic planning/facilitation and communications.
For nearly 25 years, Ms. Chang has worked with global teams in more than 40 countries across three continents at the HQ, Regional and Country levels. She has held field positions with CARE International, the School for International Training as well as the University of Massachusetts/Amherst and previously worked for CNN International. Her initial emergency deployment was to Albania in 1999 during the Kosovo refugee crisis and drew on her decade of international education, training and communication experiences. Senior postings in Kenya, Nepal and Thailand further honed her program and organizational skill sets to deliver results within field based realities such as unpredictable conflict and political dynamics, environmental vulnerabilities, social unrest and post conflict dimensions of social change. Ms. Chang has partnered with private companies, INGOs and UN agencies such as UNHCR, OCHA and DPKO to design and deliver program and organizational assessments, specialized training/facilitation, executive coaching and team performance.
Ms. Chang is also Visiting Faculty at the Emory University Masters of Development Practice program where she teaches intercultural leadership and organizational effectiveness; her methodology is rooted in a results based approach to ensure the real time relevance of core academic curricula.
Claudia earned a BA in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst with a minor in International Relations and a certificate in Mandarin Chinese. She holds a Masters of Arts of International Studies/East Asia from the University of Washington/ Seattle and was a Jefferson Media Fellow at the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii/Honolulu. A native English speaker, she has varying language skills in German, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and French.
Senior Associate, Joel McNamara, advises and trains corporations, governments and non-governmental organizations on technology and security.
He has over 30 years of experience in the high-technology industry, including a number of years spent at Microsoft as a manager of training and education groups. During the formative years of the Internet he was internationally known for his work on computer privacy and security. He has written several best-selling books on technology.
Mr. McNamara also has an extensive background in disaster response, wild land firefighting and wilderness search and rescue. He holds a variety of Incident Command System qualifications and served as the Deputy Commander of a United States government Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) – leading deployments to natural and human-caused disasters, including New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
In 2005 Mr. McNamara began advising international humanitarian organizations on safety and security issues. He has performed field security assessments, developed and delivered training at staff and senior management levels, crafted policy, and championed risk management best practices for NGOs of all sizes. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Utah.
Before joining Cosantoir Group in 2014, Associate Megan Yaner served as Senior Global Security Officer at Counterpart International, managing all aspects of a new security unit for an international NGO with project offices in more than 20 countries. There she developed an extensive knowledge of operational risk management, traveler safety and security, emergency contingency planning, crisis management planning and integrating risk management and security solutions into proposals.
Megan Yaner completed RedR UK’s Certificate in Security Management course in March 2012. Prior to joining Counterpart, Ms. Yaner worked with Vital Voices Global Partnership and the International Commission for Dalit Rights, an advocacy group aimed at raising awareness of caste discrimination in South Asia.
Ms. Yaner earned her Master’s in International Affairs from the School of International Service at American University and a BA in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is proficient in French.