About Karen

Named one of San Francisco Business Times’ “Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business,” Karen Hanrahan is an executive leader with more than 20 years of experience advancing human rights and building high-impact global initiatives around the world. She has worked in the public and private sectors to build movements, lead change and build high-impact organizations and initiatives on a global scale. She has served as a senior appointee in the Obama administration, a United Nations aid worker, a corporate and non-profit executive, and a thought leader in global development, human rights, and public-private innovation.

In her efforts to drive social change and spur social innovation, she has partnered with heads of state, global corporations, local communities, religious leaders, and military forces. She has brought creativity and innovation to intractable challenges in economic development, global health, and international human rights.

Karen began her career on the frontlines of advocacy in the Middle East, working with Palestinian youth groups to organize and advocate for non-violent change. She worked to free sex slaves in Afghanistan, to prevent child and exploitative labor in Bangladesh, to end torture in Iraq, to free political prisoners in Ethiopia, and to reform abusive security forces around the world. A lawyer by training, Karen has dedicated her career to changing abusive and discriminatory laws and systems, working across lines of politics, race, and geography.

Karen was an appointee in the Obama administration for seven years, including two years overseeing a major project for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. As Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Ms. Hanrahan advanced human rights and freedom in Africa and South and Central Asia; she worked closely with global corporations on issues of corporate social responsibility, community engagement, and human rights; and she shaped the US and global policies on gender, LGBTQI, labor rights, and security.

She also served in the Obama Administration as the U.S. Coordinator for International Assistance to Afghanistan and Pakistan, then went on to design and run the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (the QDDR) for Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, a major strategic planning and organizational change initiative that has strengthened how the United States conducts diplomacy and development. As the Chief Innovation Officer for the UK Department for International Development (DFID), on assignment in London, she built the organization’s innovation capabilities and catalyzed novel solutions to long-standing development challenges.

Karen has served in Iraq and Afghanistan as the State Department’s Senior Rule of Law Coordinator in Iraq and Senior Consultant to the Iraqi Minister of Human Rights. Prior to this, she served with USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives in Iraq as the Senior Advisor on Human Rights and Transitional Justice. She then became Vice President for International Peace and Stability in a Fortune 500 company, leading a large-scale organizational change effort and traveling around the world to integrate human rights, rule of law, and security assistance.

An alumna of Harvard Business School, University of Washington School of Law, and The American University School of International Service, Karen also graduated from the Master’s program in International Peace and Conflict Resolution. She has studied Arabic and French.