Staff Spotlight: Lisa Kuhn

Executive Director
Lisa has provided training, assessment, and capacity-building services to more than 35 international organizations in 22 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. She has been driven by a desire to change the system and to create opportunities for people everywhere to reach their fullest potential. She has more than 15 years of experience in microfinance and international development specializing in multi-sectoral and sustainable solutions to development challenges such as food security, women's empowerment, access to affordable and adequate health care, education, and enterprise development.

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What position do you hold at FSD? What has been your career path so far?

Lisa:I’m the Executive Director at FSD. After college, I went to graduate school in Georgetown’s MS of Foreign Service program. From there, I began working in microfinance around the world for a variety of organizations over the following 15 years. Most recently, I was responsible for managing Freedom from Hunger’s programs in Latin America. I’ve always been interested in developing sustainable and empowering approaches to development which is why FSD fits my values so well.

Did YOU intern abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?

Lisa:I always wanted to work abroad. When I was in school, there weren’t many programs to support this—just a few focused on teaching English. I wanted to work side-by-side with local people to learn from their perspective rather than being a teacher, so I signed up for a study abroad program in Santiago, Chile.

While there, I took classes directly in the university with the specific goal of learning the local perspective on social, economic, and political issues--especially regarding the role of the U.S. in the country's history and economy. Gradually, I found my way into a few internship-type roles in different organizations and began collecting stories and oral histories from grassroots organizations in the city. Developing these relationships on my own was quite a challenge, and I would have loved to have had a partner like FSD to help me set that up.

What country have you always wanted to visit?

Lisa:I’ve had the good fortune to visit over 37 countries so far in my life—mostly for work, but occasionally for vacation as well. So, I’ve gotten to visit quite a few amazing places and wonderful people. That said, I’ve always been interested to visit India. I hope that through Foundation for Sustainable Development I’ll have that chance.

Why is language learning and cultural immersion important to you?

Lisa:I believe that language is a window into culture. The words that exist or do not exist in a language tell you a great deal about the society that uses that language as do the phrases and idioms that are in common use. The way we think is to a great extent shaped by language.

Learning a new language opens up new ways of thinking to me and gives me a greater ability to understand others. Whenever possible, I try to learn at least some phrases and concepts in the language of whatever place I am visiting—even if I am only there a few days. I think the language training FSD provides during orientation is an important part of our program.