Founded by international and Afghan communication specialists in 2003, Sayara creates research-based, innovative solutions for development and stabilization initiatives. We rely on a regional network of offices to investigate in-depth local knowledge that helps us produce target audience analyses, atmospherics and engagement products for various public sector initiatives.
We are an Afghan company committed to the development of the local economy and building local capacity. Since Sayara's creation, we have strived to be an example of sustainable development -- economic responsibility is at the center of all our decisions and we take pride that out of Sayara's 75 employees, 96% are Afghan nationals.
We have an established network of correspondents in all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Our 10, full-time regional coordinators are responsible for implementing and coordinating all of our field activity that includes research, outreach, capacity building, media monitoring and placement. Our regional offices are located in Badakhshan, Balkh, Farah, Helmand, Herat, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Nimroz, Uruzgan and Zabul.
We are a full service media and communication company that conceptualizes, produces and disseminates digital, video, radio and print products, but also focuses on interpersonal communications. Our field teams have produced everything from community radio campaigns to national television series to comic books to mobile theatre tours.
Scott Shadian is the Chief Executive Officer of Sayara. He is a strategic communication specialist with nine years of experience in the public and private sectors, mostly within post-conflict environments. He has unique insight into how mainstream media and digital platforms, and non-traditional means of communication, relate to stabilization operations and development activities.
Scott started his career as a junior aide at the White House in 2003. In 2005, he began his tenure as a communications advisor to two U.S. ambassadors to Afghanistan, during which he assisted with the coordination of communication and public diplomacy strategies for the U.S. embassy in Kabul. He went on to assist the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Transitional Initiatives (OTI) in developing district-level communication strategies as part of the District Stability Framework (DSF), in addition to other USAID-funded projects in Lebanon and Pakistan. Scott also served as a communications advisor to Zain Telecommunications in Iraq.
Scott has a B.A. from the University of California Los Angeles and a M.Sc. in International Relations from The London School of Economics and Political Science
George Abi Habib is the Chief Operating Officer of Sayara. He is a media and innovation specialist with over eight years of experience building entrepreneurial activity across emerging markets throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
George’s private sector background has focused on developing innovative media products tailored toward youth. Having worked with Viacom's broadcasting arm, OSN Network (previously Showtime Networks), George helped develop the first pan-Arab comedy tour (The Axis of Evil Comedy Tour) and an Interactive English Premier League show allowing Middle Eastern audiences to interact with commentators, celebrity guests and former Premier League players via SMS and television chat.
As part of his passion for promoting entrepreneurship in emerging markets, he has taught marketing and entrepreneurship at EMDI in Dubai, IE Business School in Madrid and is currently a lecturer at Lebanese American University in Beirut.
George has a B.A. in Marketing and Entrepreneurship from Northeastern University and an MBA from the IE Business School in Madrid.
Fareed has designed and managed over $365 million in stabilization program for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Afghanistan. His career combines political analysis, cross-ministerial advising, donor strategy, strategic communication, private sector management and programming for the U.S. embassy in Kabul. Fareed started as Public Information Officer with International Organization for Migration (IOM), before becoming a Political Advisor with the U.N. Development Programme’s Disarmament & Reintegration Commission in Afghanistan.
Fareed first joined Sayara in 2005 as a Program Manager. In 2007, he then became a Program Manager at USAID in Afghanistan, where he helped manage several stabilization programs, such as Local Governance and Community Development Program (LGCD), Afghanistan Civilian Assistance Program (ACAP) and the Community Based Stabilization Grants (CBSG). Most importantly, he designed and managed USAID’s Community Development Program (CDP) – formerly known as FIRUP.
In December 2010, Fareed returned to Sayara as Country Director. Fareed holds a M.A in Political Science and a B.A in Political Science, Sociology and Pashto Language from Balochistan University in Quetta, Pakistan
Phelps Feeley is an international development professional, with over seven years of field and program management experience, specializing in stability, governance, education and gender issues. Ms. Feeley joined Sayara after finishing her work as Deputy Chief of Party for the OTI/DAI Afghanistan Stabilization Initiative - East, where she directed programming in Paktika, Ghazni and Khost. Prior to her work with OTI/DAI, Ms. Feeley managed Kabul University’s Masters in Public Policy an Administration (MPPA) Program for USAID. Before coming to Afghanistan, Ms. Feeley managed higher education programs in both the US and India and consulted as a gender specialist in Thailand.
Katherine is a senior advisor for Sayara. She is also a Ph.D. Candidate in Communications at Columbia University's School of Journalism and an Instructor at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). Her research examines the interplay of U.S. foreign policy and global media. Her doctoral dissertation specifically looks at the diplomatic quality U.S. news acquires when it is read by non-American audiences, and the impact of wartime media in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Katherine's U.S. government service includes: Professional Staff Member, Committee on Foreign Affairs at the U.S. House of Representatives; Communications Adviser at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan; and assistant to the National Security Adviser and Deputy National Security Adviser at the National Security Council. She spent four years as a Communications Manager for The Asia Foundation, working on media-related issues throughout South Asia, and began her career as the Asia Development Associate for the international medical charity, Operation Smile, Inc. In 2011, she joined the original staff of Bloomberg View, the opinion platform for Bloomberg News.
Katherine received a B.A. in International Affairs from The George Washington University and an M.A. and M.Phil. in Communications from Columbia University. She is a recipient of the State Department Superior Honor Award and several academic scholarships, including the Cordier Teaching Fellowship and Lynton Book-Writing Fellowship at Columbia. Katherine is also a fellow at the Truman National Security Project and a Term Member at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Aziz is an Afghan national who brings creativity, local sensibility and more than 10 years experience in radio, video and theater. An award-winner playwright and radio producer, Aziz worked for over 6 years in the BBC New Home New Life program. He joined Sayara to conduct large-scale mobile theater campaigns in 2004. He later became the radio and video manager to overview the complete production process of all projects. A graduated from Journalism at Kabul University, he participated in international theatre courses. Aziz was awarded first prize for his play on the history of Afghanistan in the Kabul Theatre Festival in September 2005.
Kawsar has managed and supervised over $50 million in development and stabilization projects for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Khost province. He brings a dynamic mix of experience, having worked in journalism, strategic communication, information operations, human terrain analysis, community stabilization and civilian-military initiatives.
Kawsar started as Regional Director with the non-governmental organization, AINA in Khost, before joining Altai Consulting and Communication as a national consultant. In 2006, he joined PADCO ALP North as a Communication Manager. He later became USAID-Afghanistan’s Deputy Field Program Officer in Khost, where he was involved in the management, execution and supervision of several development and stabilization programs -- including the Local Governance and Community Development Program (LGCD), Afghanistan Civilian Assistance Program (ACAP), KG Road and -- most importantly -- the Commander Emergency Response Program (CERP).
In January 2011, Kawsar joined Sayara as a Senior Program Manager. Kawsar holds a BA in Journalism from Afghan University in Peshawar, Pakistan. He has participated in the International Visitor Leadership Program to the United States, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.
Prior to joining Sayara, Hamed worked as Administrative and Finance Manager for Afghan Investment Support Agency (AISA) and a Program Instructor at Bearing Point.
Hamed has grown tremendously in Sayara, starting as Data Base Officer, and then working his way to Program Manager. In that role, he has developed communication strategies with clients, coordinated the production of campaigns and managed their implementation. Hamed has been leading a nationwide counter-narcotics public information team for the last 4 years, deployed in the main poppy affected areas of the country.
Erin Blankenship is a conflict and security dynamics specialist who has worked across several countries and sectors over the past seven years. Ms. Blankenship joined Sayara as the Senior Programs Manager, with an emphasis on research, monitoring, and stabilization initiatives, including all work on natural resources, energy security and the extractives sector. Prior to joining Sayara Erin spent two years working for the Afghan NGO Peace Training and Research Organization (PTRO), where she specialized in local conflict dynamics, strategic security, informal-formal justice linkages, and rule of law (RoL), as well as M&E of development and humanitarian interventions. This work focused on community-level and subnational engagement in 27 provinces, and was carried out for government, diplomatic, military and civil society actors.
Erin has completed two MAs with honors from King’s College London’s War Studies Department and from the School of Law. Erin is proficient in Spanish and Mandarin, has basic written and oral capacity in Russian and French, and is learning Dari.
Shilpi Batra is a Graduate of Jamia Milia Islamia MCRC. She is extremely passionate about filmmaking and had earlier worked with the lifestyle and education section of DNA Newspaper in Jaipur, India. She has been writing for The Times of India and several other monthly magazines like, Horn, Ok, Please, High On Passion, NSG and Life 365. She speaks Hindu & Pashtun and is dedicated to preserve Pashto Language in India, recently worked on a documentary project for BBC Pashto in London. Besides filmmaking, she also runs the Jaipur Pashtun Cultural Society namely Kakarai Guldaan. She was the Associate Director of Pennywise Films, a production house, which has produced several award winning films, documentaries, fiction, ad films and corporate movies.
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