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Board of Directors
Ronit Avni is an award-winning filmmaker and human rights advocate. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Just Vision, an organization dedicated to increasing media coverage and support for Palestinian and Israeli efforts to end the occupation and the conflict without arms. Her work has been featured in major news outlets, including Newsweek, The Washington Post, The BBC, NPR and The Economist. Ronit produced the documentary film, Budrus, which was hailed in The New York Times as "this year's must-see documentary" and has won twelve international awards.
Ronit directed and produced the documentary film, Encounter Point, which received several awards including the San Francisco International Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary. Encounter Point has screened in more than 200 cities worldwide and continues to be widely used in classrooms and community centers in America and the Middle East. Recently, Ronit's team at Just Vision released the short film series, Home Front: Portraits from Sheikh Jarrah, and the short documentary My Neighbourhood, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012. Previously, Ronit was a staff member at WITNESS.
Ronit has been recognized with a variety of honors, including: the King Hussein Leadership Prize, Search for Common Ground’s Common Ground Award, the Circles of Change Award, Auburn Seminary’s Lives of Commitment Award and a Joshua Venture Fellowship for young, Jewish social entrepreneurs. She is currently a United Nation’s Global Expert through the Alliance of Civilizations, a Young Global Leader through the World Economic Forum and a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Peter Gabriel started his solo career in 1975 after leaving Genesis. He has released eleven solo albums and written soundtracks for three films. In 1980 he founded WOMAD (World of Music Arts and Dance), which has presented 150 festivals in over 40 countries. In 1989, Peter Gabriel conceived and co-founded Witness.org, and was co-founder with Richard Branson of the Elders.org, which Nelson Mandela launched in July 2007.
In 1987 PG founded the Real World Group of companies. In 1999 he co-founded OD2 (On Demand Distribution). In 2005 PG became principle purchaser of Solid State Logic. He also co-founded thefilter.com and We7.com, and is currently developing several projects, including a visual language for the Internet.
Amongst awards received are the Man of Peace award, presented by the Nobel Peace Laureates in 2007, the ‘Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’ and the ‘Quadriga’ award. He has received various lifetime achievement awards and BT’s digital Music Pioneer Award, The Polar Music Prize, as well as five Grammy awards for his music and video work.
An actor nearly all his life, Gael García Bernal began performing in stage productions with his parents in Mexico, and made his major feature film debut in Alejandro Gonzalez´s Amores Perros, which was nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2000. He has gone on to star in more than 17 movies and has continued to perform in plays in Mexico, England and beyond. García Bernal made his directorial debut with Deficit, a low-budget feature film shot in Mexico and has directed several short films since then, including The Invisibles for Amnesty International.
In 2005 he founded the film production company Canana with Diego Luna and Pablo Cruz. They have produced many films including the critically acclaimed Sin Nombre. Together, they also run the Ambulantedocumentary film festival that travels extensively around Mexico and is branching out to other Latin American countries. García Bernal is a committed supporter of human rights causes and has long supported WITNESS including as a co-host for our 2006 annual Focus For Change gala.
John Hass (President) is the senior advisor to Osmium Partners, LLC. Prior to joining Osmium John was a Partner at PEAK6 Investments, LP, a leading proprietary trading, asset management and brokerage firm headquartered in Chicago. Previously, John served as the Chief Executive Officer of OptionsHouse, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of PEAK6. Prior to joining PEAK6 in 2006, John was a Managing Director at Goldman, Sachs & Co. John joined Goldman Sachs in 1988 and worked in its Investment Banking Division at various times, helping to lead its Chicago office and Financial Institutions Group. During his career John worked in the New York, Chicago and Sydney, Australia offices of Goldman Sachs.
John is a member of the Board of Directors of Platinum Underwriters Holdings, Inc., a publicly traded Bermuda-based reinsurance company. In addition, John serves on the boards of Marbles: The Brain Store, Telemedicine Solutions, Inc., and Safetec Compliance Systems. John is a trustee of the Museum of Contemporary Photography and Link Unlimited, a non-profit organization focused on providing mentoring and college prep opportunities for African-American students. John and his wife, Mary Frances Budig, have two children and live in Chicago, IL.
Samuel D. Heins is a lawyer and human rights advocate. In 1982, he founded, organized and served as the first Board Chair for the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, an organization that provides legal monitoring and aid on rights issues including education, women’s rights, immigration and refugee issues, and the death penalty. In 1985, he co-founded the Center for Victims of Torture to provide health services, research and advocacy for victims of torture, where he continues to serve as a board member.
He was recognized for his ongoing human rights efforts in 1987 with the Minnesota Governor’s Honor Award for International Human Rights Activities and in 2008 with the Advocates’ Don and Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award. In 2011, he also served as a Private Citizen Member of the U.S. Mission to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
In addition, Heins is a senior partner at the firm of Heins Mills & Olson, where he has served as lead counsel in various securities fraud and antitrust actions securing awards totaling in excess of $3 billion. He serves on the Board of Governors of the Endowment Campaign of the University of Minnesota Law School as well as on the board of the ACLU of Minnesota. Heins earned a B.A. and J.D. from the University of Minnesota, and was awarded the school’s Regent’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2010.
Michael J. Hirschhorn is the Executive Director of the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG). From 2003-08, Michael was Executive Director of the Coro New York Leadership Center and from 1995-2001 served as Executive Director of the Literacy Assistance Center in New York City. From 2001-03, Michael worked as a non-profit strategy consultant, primarily in the fields of education, human rights, and leadership development. Earlier, he was an Assistant to the Chancellor of the NYC Public Schools and a Visiting Non-Profit Executive at Yale's School of Management. Michael serves as President of the trustees of the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, and also serves on the boards of Witness, Breakthrough, American Jewish World Service and several other rights-related organizations. Michael received his BA from Yale University in 1981 and his MBA & MSW from Columbia University in 1989.
Joichi Ito is the Director of the MIT Media Lab. He is the Chair of Creative Commons, on the Board of the MacArthur Foundation, on the Board of Trustees of The Knight Foundation, and co-founder and board member of Digital Garage an Internet company in Japan. He is on board of a number of non-profit organizations including The Mozilla Foundation and WITNESS. He is a member of the IT Strategic Headquarters of the Japanese Cabinet. He has created numerous Internet companies including PSINet Japan, Digital Garage and Infoseek Japan and was an early stage investor in Twitter, Six Apart, Wikia, Flickr, Last.fm, Kongregate, Fotonauts/Fotopedia, Kickstarter, Path, Pinwheel and other Internet companies. He is the Guild Custodian of the World of Warcraft guild, We Know (http://weknow.to/). He is a PADI IDC Staff Instructor, an Emergency First Responder Instructor and a Divers Alert Network (DAN) Instructor Trainer.
Ito was named by Businessweek as one of the 25 Most Influential People on the Web in 2008. In 2011, Ito was chosen by Nikkei Business as one of the 100 most influential people for the future of Japan and by Foreign Poicy Magazine as one of the "Top 100 Global Thinkers". In 2011, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oxford Internet Institute in recognition of his role as one of the world's leading advocates of Internet freedom.
Perri Peltz is a distinguished television news journalist and public health advocate. She recently directed the highly acclaimed HBO documentary, The Education of Dee Dee Ricks. Thedocumentary profiles the disparities in the U.S. health care system as seen through the lens of an unlikely friendship between two very different women battling breast cancer. Currently, Perri is in production on a documentary about recidivism in the United States prison system. She also hosts, "Dr. Radio Reports", a one-hour weekly program about public health issues for the Sirius-XM Network.
Prior to concentrating on documentaries, Perri spent much of her career as a television news journalist. Her last position was as an anchor and reporter for WNBC-TV and NBC News where she focused on issues relating to poverty and health. She first joined WNBC in 1987, serving as a reporter, then as a co-anchor, of the weekend editions of “Today in New York” and the evening newscasts. She went on to serve as a contributor for NBC’s “Dateline” and as one of the first anchors at MSNBC. A news correspondent for ABC’s “20/20” from 1998-2000, Perri won numerous awards including several for her reporting on the misdiagnosis of melanoma.
She also worked at CNN as a reporter and anchored the award-winning show “CNN.com.” While at CNN, she reported a story about a chess team from a public school in the South Bronx that became national chess champions. Inspired by their story, Perri produced the feature film The Knights of the South Bronx, starring Ted Danson, based on their improbable accomplishment.
Both in and outside journalism, Perri has pursued her passion for public health and medicine. Working at the Robin Hood Foundation, she developed volunteer programs to assist organizations in their fight against poverty. Her contributions to public health advocacy were honored by the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center and the American Cancer Society. She continues to serve on the boards of the Medicare Rights Center and Single Stop USA. Perri holds a Bachelor of Science from Brown University and a master’s degree in Public Health from Columbia University where she is presently a Doctoral Candidate. A life-long New Yorker, Perri resides in New York City with her husband and three sons.
Regan E. Ralph is the founding Executive Director of the Fund for Global Human Rights, which supports frontline human rights activists with financial and capacity-building assistance.
Prior to launching the Fund, Regan was Vice President for Health and Reproductive Rights at the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C., where she led advocacy, policy, and educational strategies to promote the quality and availability of health care for American women.
From 1992-2001, Regan helped build and ultimately directed the Women’s Rights division of Human Rights Watch, where she developed campaigns to ensure the prosecution of sexual violence in conflict as a war crime, to secure recognition of gender-based persecution as grounds for asylum, and to promote women’s rights in countries including Russia, Egypt, Turkey, South Africa, Pakistan, and Mexico.
Regan is a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School, and studied international law at the London School of Economics and Arabic at the American University in Cairo.
She serves on the boards of EG Justice and WITNESS, the advisory council of the Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship Program at Georgetown University Law Center, the advisory committee of The Council for Global Equality, and the global practitioner council at Stanford University’s Program on Social Entrepreneurship.
Jeffrey Tarrant is founder, CEO and Co-CIO Protégé Partners, a specialized asset management firm that was founded in 2002 to focus exclusively on investing in smaller hedge funds.
Prior to founding Protégé, Jeffrey managed institutional size assets for private family fortunes in Europe and America since the late 80’s. In addition, he was a member of the board of The Investment Fund for Foundations (TIFF), the leading investment advisory firm for charitable foundations and institutions. He was active in the launch of the Absolute Return Pool (ARP), which is one of the first fund of hedge funds specifically designed for the charitable community.
Jeffrey is Vice Chairman of ARK US, the US affiliate of Absolute Return for Kids (ARK), an international charity with a mission to transform the lives of children.
Jeffrey is an active documentary film investor, backing such films as “God Grew Tired of Us,” “The Third Wave,” “Smash His Camera”, “Queen of Versailles” and “Sons of the Clouds”.
Jeffrey received an M.B.A. from the Harvard University Graduate School of Business in 1985 and a B.A. in Economics from the University of California at Davis.
Following fourteen years of success in the financial sector, Amy Towers turned her full-time attention to raising four young sons and running her philanthropic foundation. She established the Nduna Foundation in 2007 with the intent to focus her work on nutrition, human rights, health care, education and conservation, primarily in conflict and post-conflict countries in Africa.
Ms. Towers made her first trip to Africa in 2005 during the height of the food crisis in Niger. There she found that the causes for acute malnutrition that put hundreds of thousands of children’s lives at risk were entirely preventable. This fueled her passion to begin investing in areas, people and programs that proved early money mattered and would prompt other donors to follow.
This could not have been more evident than in 2006 when Ms. Towers’ investment in tankering water into some of the most dangerous regions of Somalia would not only prove that it could be done, but would prompt others to follow. Her $500,000 investment resulted in $5 million of donations from others. Another example is her investment in the construction of a facility to make ready to eat therapeutic food (RUTF) in Ethiopia. Today, this project is often referenced as a model of how partnerships can work with local players. Today, this facility is a thriving enterprise.
Since her initial trip in 2005, Ms. Towers has travelled to Ethiopia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, South Africa, and others. She has traveled to remote regions at considerable risk in order to research what interventions worked best and where early money mattered. She maintains a diverse portfolio of partners who manage a wide range of projects all intended to effect sustainable change in the lives of people who would otherwise be forgotten and live without a voice.
Her partners include UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, The Elders, WITNESS, The CDC Foundation, The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Millennium Promise, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Acumen Fund, Teach for America, MANA Nutrition, Robin Hood and others.
Ms. Towers has grown increasingly more focused on human rights, especially violence against children. She currently chairs a multi-million dollar fundraising campaign for Human Rights Watch and is funding household surveys in developing countries to gather data that is critical to holding communities and governments accountable in the quest to stop violence against children.
Mike Volpi has been a partner at Index Ventures since 2009. He is focused on investments in the enterprise software infrastructure and consumer Internet sectors. Mike led the investment by Index Ventures in Cloud.com (CTRX) and is currently a director of Sonos, Soundcloud, Lookout, Path, Big Switch Networks, Zuora, Hortonworks, Pure Storage, and StorSimple. Mike also serves on the board of EXOR SpA (EXO:IM)
Mike performed in various executive roles for 13 years at Cisco Systems from 1994. He served as the company's Chief Strategy Officer, where he was responsible for Cisco's corporate strategy as well as business development, strategic alliances, advanced Internet projects, legal services, and government affairs. During this tenure, Mike was instrumental in the creation of the company's acquisition and investment strategies, as Cisco acquired more than 70 companies during his tenure. He then became Senior Vice President & General Manager of the Routing and Service Provider Technology Group, where he led Cisco's business for the Service Provider market, and was also responsible for all of Cisco's routing products. In 2007, this was an $11 billion business for Cisco. Mike began his career as a product development engineer Hewlett Packard's Optoelectronics Division. Prior to Index, he was the CEO of Joost – an innovator in the field of premium video services delivered over the Internet.
Mike has a B.S in Mechanical Engineering and an M.S. on Manufacturing Systems Engineering from Stanford University, and an M.B.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He is a trustee of the Stanford Business School Trust and he also serves on the board of WITNESS, a non-profit organization focused on human rights.