Todd Lester

Senior Fellow

Expertise: Africa; Conflict Prevention; Human Rights; Immigration and Asylum; Media; Natural Disaster Response; Southern Caucasus; Middle East; Art & Culture; Refugee Services; Humanitarian Response

Todd Lester has worked in leadership, advocacy and strategic communications roles at Reporters sans frontiers, the Astraea Lesbian Justice Foundation, and most recently as the Executive Director of the Global Arts Corps, an organization that creates theatre to advance reconciliation in societies emerging from violent conflict. He founded freeDimensional & the Creative Resistance Fund, an organization that helps activists-in-distress by providing safe haven in artist residencies.

He has dedicated periods of his career to work on microfinance in Cameroon, refugee rights in Egypt, post-genocide reconciliation in Rwanda, Track II diplomacy in the Southern Caucasus, at-risk youth engagement in Brazil, and the North-South Peace Accord in Sudan working with organizations such as CARE, International Rescue Committee, Carter Center, Peace Corps, Population Services International, Dutch Refugee Council, and the United Nations.

Todd holds a Masters of Public Administration from Rutgers University and diplomas from the Summer School in Forced Migration at Oxford University and Film & Media Studies at the New School. Todd received the Peace Corps Fund Award for founding freeDimensional; was named Architect of the Future by the Waldzell Institute; and serves as a Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute where he leads the Arts-Policy Nexus initiative. His new project, Lanchonete, is a 5-year experimentation of artistic witnessing focused on a neighborhood in the center of São Paulo.

Honors & Affiliations:

Member, 21st Century Trust and Think Tank 30 of the Club of Rome

Waldzell Institute 'Architect for the Future'


Rutgers University, Camden, NJ
Master of Public Administration, International Public Service, January 2002
The New School, New York, NY
Diploma in Film Production, Media Studies, May 2004
University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
Institute on Forced Migration, Refugee Studies Centre, 2007
American University in Cairo, Cairo, Egypt

Gerhart Center for Philanthropy & Civic Engagement, Fellow – Fall 2008   Center for Migration & Refugee Studies, Fellow – Spring 2008

University of Osnabrück, Osnabrück, Germany

Summer School on the Cultural Study of the Law, Institute for English & American Studies, 2009

Spoke on a panel about Partnerships & Models at the "GlobalPerformance, Civic Imagination and Cultural Diplomacy Convening" at Georgetown University between  June 14-16, 2012. 
Keynote speaker at TPAM / Performing Arts Meeting in Yokohama on the theme of “What is an 'Accident' of a Nuclear Plant? An Analysis & Forecast on new modes of sharing,” February 13-19, 2012. 
Panel Convener on “Conditions that put Artists in Danger” at the Radius of Art / Heinrich Boell Foundation Conference, February 8-9, 2012. 
Moderated "Expression and Exile in Burma: A Discussion and Reception with Chaw Ei Thein" at the Asian American Writers' Workshop, June 8, 2011.

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