Whether as a community organizer or an economist, a development specialist, researcher or social entrepreneur, Nadia has worked tirelessly to uncover hidden talents and resources within individuals and organizations, and to build collaborative, creative, learning communities committed to social change.
She first learned to take a people-centered approach from economics Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz. “He’s the one that made me realize the importance of asking questions and the power of unbound curiosity,” she says of Stiglitz, a mentor and her former boss at the World Bank. After graduating from Stanford, Nadia worked with Stiglitz to launch the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University, where she earned a master’s degree in international affairs.
In the next ten years, Nadia launched several initiatives and organizations addressing a wide range of global social and economic issues: from the Women Leaders Intercultural Forum with Ireland’s former president Mary Robinson, to the Global Policy Innovations Program at the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, to the International Network of Foundations with the UN Alliance of Civilizations.
In Nadia’s desire to understand and bring about systemic change, she not only worked with global institutions, but also prioritized change at the grassroots level. In 2008, she co-launched the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California. AMCLI helps young, pioneering Muslim non-profit executives and public officials realize their full potential to foster healthy, civically engaged communities needed to sustain a robust, pluralistic American public square. “These communities have a lot of talent,” Nadia says. “If you can harness their contributions, it symbolizes the best of what America’s all about.”
Nadia also recognized the critical role that foundations play in brining about social change, and has played an increasingly significant role in this sector. She is a program officer for the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art’s Building Bridges Program, which she helped launch in 2007, and also has consulted for several other foundations, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; the Rothschild Foundation; Bend the Arc: a Jewish Partnership for Justice; the Nathan Cummings Foundation; Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy; and the California Community Foundation.
Last year, Nadia was a project partner for the foundational d.school course, “Design Thinking Bootcamp: Experiences in Innovation and Design,” where she challenged Stanford students to redesign the American-Muslim philanthropic experience, post-9/11. Nadia will continue that work as a d.Fellow, where she’ll use design thinking to develop collaborative, creative networks to unlock talent and resources within philanthropy, and within largely underrepresented communities in America.