Strategic Thinkers

The mission of the Strategic Thinkers is to serve as BestCities’ marketplace co-creation partner, providing counsel on trends and operational experiences to help guide the future direction of the Alliance. One of the fundamental values of BestCities is our commitment to results-driven partnerships so we have recruited key association and meeting executives to not only share their experience, unique insights and knowledge but to also become international Brand Ambassadors for BestCities.

Lisa Astorga profile image

Lisa Astorga

International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis -ISTH-

The International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH) is a global not-for-profit organization advancing the understanding, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of thrombotic and bleeding disorders. Today, the ISTH’s impact and contributions span six continents. With more than 3,800 members in over 94 countries, we are now the leading thrombosis- and haemostasis-related professional organization in the world.

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Prof Bettina Borisch

World Federation of Public Health Associations

Dr Borisch is an MD and a Histopathologist, MPH and Fellow of the Royal College of Pathology (UK). Her scientific research work delves into neoplastic lesions of the immune system and breast cancer. Her interests also include community-based oncology, health communication and global health.

She studied medicine and history at the Universities of Kiel (Germany) and Lausanne (Switzerland). She is appointed professor and head of the Institute of Clinical Pathology / University of Geneva in 1995. She becomes the president of the Swiss Cancer League’s program against breast cancer. She completes an MPH in 2005 and orientates her activities to Public Health and Global Health. She joins the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine in 2005 (from 2015 on: Institute of Global Health.

She is Editor in Chief of „Pathobiology“ and the Co-Editor of „Journal of Public Health Policy“. In addition to her academic work she acts as the Director and Head of the World Federation of Public Health Associations and holds positions at several Committees of Public Health oriented institutions.

She was president of Europa Donna – The European Breast Cancer Forum and Founding President of the Swiss Forum of Europa Donna. She teaches at the University of Geneva, the Swiss School of Public Health and she also teaches patient support groups. She is (co)author of over 120 scientific papers.

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Alessandro Jacques Cortese

European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology

Alessandro Jacques Cortese is since 2009 the Chief Executive Officer of ESTRO, the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology and Chairman of the ESTRO Cancer Foundation, and was, until June 2015, President of ESAE, the European Society of Association Executives.

Founded in 1980, ESTRO is a non-profit and scientific organization that fosters the role of Radiation Oncology to improve patients’ care in the multimodality treatment of cancer. With over 6,500 members in and outside Europe, ESTRO’s mission is to promote innovation, research, and dissemination of science through its congresses, special meetings, educational courses and publications.

Previously, Alessandro was Director of the Association Management practice at MCI, based in Brussels. In this capacity he was responsible for consulting clients on strategy and products offering, and for the maintenance and development of the competency of the MCI Brussels office in the AM practice.

Alessandro has gained significant experience working with international associations, particularly heading up the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) office of the Project Management Institute (PMI).
Within the scope of the collaboration with MCI, Alessandro served in key management and consulting roles for several international associations such as IAEE (International Association of Exhibitions and Events), DMAI (Destination Marketing Association International), CIC (Convention Industry Council) and APICS (The Association for Operations Management).
Before working in the association domain, Alessandro worked as a marketing and communications specialist for AT Kearney and for McCann-Erickson, based in Milan, Italy.

Alessandro Cortese is a graduate from the University Statale degli Studi di Milano, with a degree in political sciences and an MBA from the same institution. He is also a PhD candidate in Management Sciences at the University of Antwerp.
Other academic accomplishments include serving on the Faculty of Economics, Department of Political Economics at the University Statale di Milano as a lecturer of economics of culture.

In 2015, Alessandro co-founded the Executive Master in International Association Management at the Solvay Business School in Brussels, where he also serves as a Lecturer in Strategy.

Alessandro is regularly invited to give talks to industry events and congresses, focusing in particular on strategy for International Associations. He is also a member of the International Advisory Boards for Destination DC, MyCEB Malaysia, PCMA (EMEA) and BestCities.

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Venus Ilagan

Harvard University

VENUS ILAGAN, is currently a Fellow and Consultant at the Harvard Law School Project on Disability of Harvard University. She served as Secretary General of Rehabilitation International from October 2008 to May 2019, the second longest serving RI SG and the first person with a disability from a developing country to have been appointed in that position in the organization’s 98-year history. She also holds the distinction of having been elected as the first woman World Chairperson of Disabled Peoples International, a global cross-disability organization with membership in 143 countries and in consultative status with the United Nations. Prior to joining RI, Venus was the project manager of a national rehabilitation program which provided services to over 14,000 children with disabilities in the Philippines. She had the distinction of having been a member of the Editorial Committee for the first ever World Report on Disability – a joint initiative of the World Health Organization and the World Bank which established that there were one billion persons with disabilities in the world in 2011 when the report was launched. The joint WHO-WB Report was instrumental in having over 177 countries sign and ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – one of the highest ratifications in a very short period of time. Venus very actively participated as an expert, in the elaboration of the disability convention as a member of civil society and is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s best known disability advocates. She is also known for her passionate advocacy for gender equality specifically in the context of Women with Disabilities and access and inclusion for all persons with disabilities.

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Sarah Johnson

International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery

Sarah Johnson is the Executive Director of the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

She has career long experience developing and driving new initiatives in education, and in increasing global reach and dissemination through online learning, satellite education, and through strategic communications and partnership programmes. Sarah is passionate about the role of the highest quality continuing medical education in improving global healthcare provision. Her professional interest in health and her early career began in science research and medical education. She holds a masters in non-profit management from City University, London and a Diploma in Charity Accounting.

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Lauren Kramer

Meeting Priorities, LLC

Lauren is experienced in many facets of association management, including strategic planning, branding, marketing and managing large-scale conventions. Her work at the International Council of Ophthalmology, the American Academy of Otolaryngology and the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging was global and diverse.

She wrote the transition plan for ICO to assume management of the World Ophthalmology Congress as well as the marketing and branding plans for the WOC, a global meeting of over 19,000 eye care physicians and professionals. At AAO, she was responsible for growing meeting revenues from $4 million to $6 million. Lauren has worked on programs in the US, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Brazil, Spain, the UAE, South Korea, Germany, Scotland, England and Italy.

Meeting Priorities is currently engaged in work with clients on events, social media and marketing plans, audits of CME/CE processes, designing educational sessions and contracting speakers, among other projects.

She served on the PCMA Board of Directors from 2000-2003, was a founding member of the Capital Chapter where she served as President, and is a member of the PCMA Foundation’s “Legacy Society”. Lauren has served on industry advisory boards and taught at a community college. She earned her Master’s in Tourism Administration from George Washington University in 2008.

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James Latham

Producer - The Iceberg presented by the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC)

James supports the advocacy of business and professional events as change
agents through The Iceberg – a collaborative industry movement curating
the storytelling required to illustrate the social and economic legacies
of meetings.

A publisher by trade, James also launched Intellectual Capitals, published
by CAT Publications, which profiles the world`s knowledge hubs suitable to
meet, invest, work, learn and live.

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Prof LEE Yuan Kun

International Union of Microbiological Societies

Professor Lee Yuan Kun is an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology at the National University of Singapore, where his professional interests lie in topics of Microbe-host interaction, probiotics, microbial fermentation, enzyme technology and photosynthetic algal biotechnology. His knowledge and strong leadership qualities lead him to being elected as the President of the Singapore Society for Microbiology and Biotechnology (SSMB).

As an expert in his industry, he was the former President of the Asian Federation of Societies for Lactic Acid Bacteria (AFSLAB) (2009–2014) and the current President of the International Union for Microbiology Societies (IUMS) (2014–2017.) He is also a Scientific Advisor to the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) Southeast Asia Region and Chairman of the Biological & Chemical Committee, Singapore Laboratory Accreditation Council.

Under his leadership, Professor Lee has led the Singapore Society for Microbiology and Biotechnology and worked alongside with Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to win the hosting rights for the World Congresses of the International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS) 2017, which is expected to attract around 4,000 foreign delegates over a six day programme.

Above all, Professor Lee is selected as STB’s Conference Ambassador and was recently awarded the Best Business Event Champion awardat the Singapore Experience Awards 2014, in recognition for his remarkable dedication and efforts in championing Singapore’s MICE industry. Professor Lee has also worked closely with STB on MICE 2020 –a medium-term roadmap jointly developed by STB and the industry to strengthen Singapore’s leadership position as a MICE city.

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Jack Sim

World Toilet Organization

Jack Sim is the founder of World Toilet Organization (WTO) and BOP HUB, and a leading global advocate for sanitation. Formerly a businessman he founded WTO in 2001, after attaining financial independence at age of 40 and deciding to devote the rest of his life to social work.

WTO broke the global taboo around toilets and sanitation by bringing it to centre-stage with a unique mix of humour and serious facts. In 2001 WTO declared its founding day 19 November as World Toilet Day. In 2013, 19 November was designated as UN World Toilet Day - the day is now celebrated globally each year as a day to raise awareness of the need for action to end the sanitation crisis.

In 2011, Jack founded BOP HUB to help scale up market-based solutions to alleviate poverty and improve lives at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP). The organisation catalyses and strengthens cross-sector collaboration and participation in inclusive business in sectors including energy, housing, water, agriculture, and health.

Jack received the Schwab Foundation award for Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2001. He is an Ashoka Global Fellow, and was named one of the Heroes of the Environment for 2008 by Time Magazine.

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Richard Torriani

MCI Geneva

MCI is the largest global congress management company in the world with offices in 55 cities and 28 countries in Europe, India, Africa, Middle East, Asia Pacific, Canada, and Latin America. I lead the congress management practice with responsibility to manage MCI's global congress solutions and implement ambitious worldwide expansion goals.

My mission is to help associations and federations take advantage of all the possibilities of the digital age, through product development, engaging with the online world, and generating revenue.

We work with associations and federations to help them leverage expert strategic knowledge, regional resources and local infrastructure, tap into new markets, drive membership, increase efficiency and improve return on investment.

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Douglas Oliver

South African Pharmacological Society

Douglas William Oliver, has specialized through obtaining two doctoral degrees, one in Pharmacology and one in Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry in the fields of in vivo cerebral perfusion pharmacology and in drug discovery, respectively. He has been in several managerial positions since late 1980s. He served in several managerial positions since the age of 32. He was Director (Dean of Pharmacy) at the North-West University and Research Director of Drug Research and Development and Director of Pharmacy at North-West University. He held positions as head and Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry as well as head and is still current Professor of Pharmacology. . He has trained more than 40 doctoral and master degree students in pharmacology and pharmaceutical and medicinal chemistry. He is author of some 110 publications, USA, European, South Africa, Japanese patents and involved in more than 250 national and international presentations in 25 countries. He served as executive committee member of International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology (IUPHAR); He is the Founder and Chair: of “Pharmacology for Africa” involved in training and capacity building on the African continent; President (past): South African Society for Basic and Clinical Pharmacology. He served as President of a most successful: 17th World Congress of Pharmacology 2014 (WCP2014), Cape Town recently. He has been appointed Ambassador of the South African of Business Events of the Department of Tourism. He has organized several national, continental and international congresses and has served on the boards of several international events. He has been active in medicine regulation since the late 1980s as an appointed expert in several committees of Medicine Control Council as member, chair and vice-chair (Pharmaceutical & Analytical, Scheduling); specialized task teams for biosimilars, non-substitutable medicines and complementary medicine. He is a current serving council member of Medicine Control Council. His regulatory skills extend to the field of regulatory auditing, i.e. Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) and Final Finished Products (FFP) and is also involved in regulatory training. He is certified European Council Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient auditor. He has serves on committees and as council member of the South African Pharmacy Council. He serves on several international scientific advisory boards. He is appointed South African Business Events Ambassador appointed by Department of Tourism since 2014.
He was a frequent marathon and Comrades runner, sky diver, bungee jumper. He is an advanced scuba diver and a keen underwater photographer. His hobbies are painting (oil and acrylic) and photography.

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Nick Woodward-Shaw

Forever Living

Forever Living is a privately-owned, global direct selling company with a head office in Arizona, USA. The objective of the organization is to make people look better and feel better with several million business owners sharing their aloe vera based nutritional products and home-based business opportunity.

As Vice President of Communications, Nick heads-up an extended team that manages global marketing activity and events across 150 countries. Nick worked on his first event for Forever Living in 1999 and has since gone on to personally produce events in over 40 Countries around the world, creating complex, award-winning incentives for up to 20,000 people.

Outside of Forever, Nick is a passionate photographer, specializing in theatre, dance and concerts, and has been commissioned to shoot well known performers such as Sting, Peter Gabriel, The Killers, Muse and The Rolling Stones.

What drives Nick? Creating emotional experiences that affect a lasting change for his guests.

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Ella Roberston

One Young World

Ella Robertson is the Managing Director of One Young World, the global forum for young leaders. Ella oversees the annual One Young World Summit which has taken place in nine different cities across the world, from Bangkok to Bogota. Ella’s main passion is building communities. Ella recently founded W1 Debates which seeks to create robust but civilised discourse on foreign policy issues by hosting live debates and forums. Alongside this, Ella is the Co-Founder of the Sino-German Initiative, a new venture which will be running conferences and programs to increase the business and cultural relationships between Germany and China.

Ella read English Literature at Balliol College Oxford and began a law training contract with a Magic Circle firm before changing track and pursuing a career in the third sector. She was on the Scottish International Debating team and lives in Marylebone where she is a governor at a local primary school.

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Laetitia Delzenne

International Association of Public Transport (UITP)

Laetitia Delzenne joined the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) in 2010, worked formerly as Events Manager before joining the Corporate Department acting as Senior Projects Manager, dealing with projects submission approval and management of major UITP projects (e.g. the Global Public Transport Summit). With almost 130 years of history behind it, the UITP Summit proudly remains the world’s biggest event dedicated to sustainable mobility.

Recently, Laetitia has also been appointed Manager of the Design & Culture Platform, a platform at the crossroads of several disciplines including product design, architecture, wayfinding, urban planning and experimentation of new forms of mobility.

As a passionate champion of sustainable urban mobility, UITP is working to enhance quality of life and economic well-being by supporting and promoting sustainable transport in urban areas worldwide.
Before joining UITP, Laetitia has been working for several temporary art projects, artists and art biennales in various location i.e. Brussels, Gwangju, Lille, Medellin, Oslo and Sydney.

She hold a Master in Cultural Projects Management (2005) from France and a Master in Art Administration/Management (2008) from Australia.

She lives since 2009 in Brussels. Her interests include all different forms of art and culture.

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Leslie Zeck, CMP, CMM, HMCC profile image

Leslie Zeck, CMP, CMM, HMCC

International & American Associations for Dental Research

Leslie Zeck, CMP, CMM, HCMM, has been managing global meetings and events for more than twenty-five years. As the Director of Meetings for the International and American Associations for Dental Research, a nonprofit organization with over 11,400 individual members worldwide, she is responsible for organizing over ten meetings per year, including the international general session with up to 7,000 delegates. Leslie prides herself in learning and speaking different languages as she travels the world.

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Sandra García Giraldo

Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates

During more than 15 years, Sandra has been involved in effective transformative initiatives.

As the Meetings and Events Tourism Manager at the Colombian Government agency, Procolombia, she was part of the team that created and put in place the successful strategy that improved Colombia´s international perception and strengthened the international tourists attraction.

As diplomatic official in charge of the Strategic Planning and team coordination at the Colombian Embassy in Ecuador, she was part of the team that rebuilt bilateral relations in the most critical and sensitive political context of the recent history of the country.

As Executive Director of the Bogotá Convention Bureau she led the strategy that made Bogota the leading Latin American destination for the Business, Meetings and Events Industry, ranking 1st position by total number of participants in the whole Americas according to ICCA 2017. Along with these recognitions the Convention Bureau under her leadership gave Bogotá in particular and Colombia in general, the opportunity to host the most important dialogues on the issues highly demanded by civil society as peacebuilding, economic development, youth development programs, among others.

Today as the Director for Global Development and Planning of the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, she is responsible for the development of the institution activities in the global level, the negotiation and maintenance of relationships and partnerships, and managing the global bidding procedures; looking forward to the generation of productive dialogues between different social groups regarding interaction, peacebuilding, and democracy as well as in the legacy of Nobel Peace Laureates.

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Guy Bigwood

Global Destinations Sustainability Index and GuBi Consulting

For the last 15 years, Guy has been delivering award-winning consulting services focused on helping cities, governments, associations and the hospitality industry step up, scale up and speed up their sustainability programmes and operational practices.

He is a recognised expert on creating sustainable destinations, communities and events through multi stakeholder collaboration. Currently Guy is the Managing Director of the Global Destinations Sustainability Index; a multi-stakeholder partnership to accelerate the development and performance of sustainable business tourism destinations. Today over 60 cities are participating in the

From 2006 to 2018, Guy was the Sustainability Director of MCI, the world’s largest association management, communications and events agency. He launched and developed a CSR program across the corporation’s 60 offices, developing a business strategy that positioned MCI to be an award winning sustainability champion, and the organiser of over 1000 events about sustainable development, Smart Cities and energy.

Guy is a passionate and outstanding communicator, who has delivered over 400 keynote presentations and facilitated workshops engaging over 35,000 participants in more than 40 countries. Guy’s pioneering work has been recognised with 21 sustainability awards including the prestigious Events Industry Council Pacesetter Award. He has co-written 3 Sustainable Event Guidebooks for the United Nations, and helped developed over 10 sustainability standards. He was previously the President of the Green Meetings Industry Council.

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