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Francesca Grandi

About me

Before I started my undergraduate degree, I volunteered in a refugee camp in war-torn Croatia, then part of Yugoslavia. It was there that I discovered what I wanted to do with my life. I have since worked to understand and resolve conflicts, and to protect the victims of armed violence. Although professionally I work on policy-making and international programmes and diplomacy, I understand and strongly support the need to work locally within our communities. To that end, I volunteer regularly with refugees and homeless people, teaching English or yoga, or simply serving hot meals.

I’m from Italy. I studied my Bachelor in Philosophy of Science in Milan and Bremen before graduating with a Master of Arts in International Relations from John Hopkins University. My first experience with refugees gave me a purpose and led me to my first stint as an intern at the United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights. After that, I worked on a community development project in Ecuador and researched pro-poor fiscal policies at the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean in Chile.

I soon moved on to analyzing and addressing armed conflict. For four years at the UN, I supported the senior leadership’s work on conflict prevention and peace diplomacy, at both the headquarters in New York, in various Latin American countries, and in a peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste.


I left the UN to pursue a Ph.D. at Yale University, wishing to make a greater impact through rigorous methodology and evidence-based research. I wanted to understand the root causes of conflict and how to prevent and stop it. I also volunteered for refugees and homeless people to have a more direct impact in the community. After completing my Ph.D. I moved to Lebanon for a year, where I taught English and yoga in the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut.

I then moved to London where I led research projects in two think tanks, the Overseas Development Institute and the International Institute for Strategic Studies. We produced research to advance our understanding of the mechanisms driving armed conflict and forced displacement. These findings have informed policy-making and public debates in recent years.

Today, I work at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva as a research and methodology advisor, fostering a culture of making policy and operational decisions on the basis of data and evidence as well as carefully analysed humanitarian needs.

I discovered my love for teaching during my years in academia, and now it has become an integral part of my professional career. I find we never really know anything until we want to teach it to someone! Preparing classes that are compelling and rigorous is a wonderful challenge that keeps me up to date and open to feedback. I like my classes to be a genuine exchange, not just between myself and the students, but amongst the students as well. One of the biggest reasons I chose to join IE University is its commitment to diversity which facilitates a unique learning environment, especially for international relations. The students are genuinely interested in learning and contributing to the class. And that is really inspiring.

See more about Francesca Gandi.

"I like my classes to be a genuine exchange, not just between myself and the students, but amongst the students as well."