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Our team

Staff and consultants

Chris Abbott is the founder and executive director of Open Briefing. Chris was previously the deputy director of the Oxford Research Group. He has been an honorary visiting research fellow in the Centre for Governance and International Affairs at the University of Bristol and in the School of Social and International Studies at the University of Bradford, where he also taught on Ministry of Defence security courses. Chris is the author of two popular books and numerous influential reports and articles on international security.

Matthew Clarke is a researcher at Open Briefing. Following a master’s degree from the University of Birmingham, with a dissertation on the development of counter-insurgency strategies in Iraq, Matthew has worked in business, politics and the European NGO community. In particular, he has specialised in human rights in the South Caucasus, sustainable economic development in Southeast Europe, and the link between statistics and political economy. Matthew is now a freelance campaigner, analyst and data scientist.

Chris Cushing is a security risk management consultant at Open Briefing. Chris has 25 years’ experience in leading humanitarian action, human security strategies and high-level diplomatic initiatives for international aid organisations, the Red Cross, the United Nations, governments, academia and the private sector in over 60 countries. He has directed emergency humanitarian operations in 17 wars and two disasters. Chris is a former officer in the Canadian Armed Forces and has experience with foreign intelligence agencies.

Matthew Gordon is a medical support consultant at Open Briefing. Matt served in the British Army as a Medical Support Officer until 2016. During that time, he planned and coordinated medical support to military operations, and trained and equipped teams to provide remote support in Europe and the Middle East. Since leaving the army, Matt has worked for a healthcare charity, where he has focused on stakeholder engagement, operations management and understanding and managing risk.

Nick Hanson-James is a security risk management consultant at Open Briefing. Nick was an archaeologist before he joined the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in 2002. Over the next decade he worked in Pakistan, China, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the United States. Since leaving the foreign office, he has worked as a project manager and security consultant in the development and humanitarian sectors. Nick also served as the coordinator of the European Interagency Security Forum (EISF) during 2016.

Steve Hathorn is a senior analyst at Open Briefing. He is an intelligence consultant with over 20 years’ experience in intelligence, the military and law enforcement, including the British Army, GCHQ, Defence Intelligence Staff, National Crime Agency, United Nations and the International Criminal Court. He has worked on projects covering terrorism, war crimes, human rights abuses and transnational organised crime. Steve has a master’s degree in international politics and security from University College London.

Scott Hickie is a senior analyst at Open Briefing. He is a lawyer, urban planner and former political adviser with a background in environmental law, natural resource governance and climate change. He has also worked in the Australian NGO sector on international trade and corporate social responsibility and in the government sector on energy security and climate change adaptation. His research focus is on urban conflict and natural resource management.

Peter ‘Rocky’ Hitchcock is a security risk management consultant at Open Briefing. Rocky retired as a Major from the British Army in 1994 after 26 years’ service. He has subsequently worked extensively in security, health and safety and mediation, principally in East and Central Africa. He has provided security advice to a large number of NGOs, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Danish Refugee Council and the Norwegian Refugee Council, as well as to the UN and the EU across Africa.

Kevjn Lim is a senior analyst at Open Briefing. He is also a doctoral researcher in the Department of Political Science at Tel Aviv University. From 2007 to 2011, he served as delegate for the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Palestinian territories, Sudan, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, specialising in civilian protection and political and security needs analysis. A former officer in the Singapore Armed Forces, Kevjn is fluent in a number of languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, Mandarin and Persian.

Andy Marshall is a security risk management consultant at Open Briefing. Andy has over 23 year’s experience in the humanitarian sector, including 13 years with Médecins Sans Frontières in South Sudan, Kosovo, Pakistan, Chechnya, Iraq, Ethiopia and Afghanistan. Among many other senior roles, Andy was the Mines Advisory Group’s first global security adviser. He is a member of the UN World Food Programme’s Security Assessment Mission (SAM) cadre and has served as a WFP security officer in South Sudan and Iraq.

Cavan Murtagh is a security risk management consultant at Open Briefing. Cavan left the Royal Marines in 2013 after 23 years’ service. During 2007-08, he was responsible for civil-military cooperation at remote hostile locations in Afghanistan, and latterly in his military career he specialised as a human intelligence operator. He has considerable experience working with NGOs and corporates in fragile and conflict-affected states, including Yemen and Somalia. Cavan is also an experienced instructor, coach and mentor.

Marc van Oudheusden is an analyst at Open Briefing. He is a programme manager for crisis management and a senior adviser to the Dutch government. He is also a senior adviser to NATO, advising on civil-military cooperation, civil emergency planning and multilateral crisis management. Marc’s special interest is political and security threat analysis for the Middle East. He has a master’s degree in Arabic language and Islamic culture and is a PhD candidate at Leiden University. He also serves as strategic adviser to several NGOs in Egypt.

Paul Owens is a security risk management consultant at Open Briefing. He retired from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) in 2013 after a 30-year career in the police as a senior investigating officer and international liaison officer, which included three years working in Afghanistan and Central Asia. He has extensive experience in intelligence collection, covert investigation, kidnap/extortion and establishing, deploying and managing assets in hostile environments.

Neil Smith is an open source intelligence consultant at Open Briefing. Neil served as a police officer for 13 years, during which time he was attached to the on-call firearms unit, the vehicle crime squad, the burglary squad and the drug squad. Since leaving the police in 1996, he has worked as an investigative researcher for a range of clients, including government departments, law enforcement agencies and journalists. Neil also trains investigators and journalists in the art of using the internet as an investigative tool.

Paul Weall is a digital forensics consultant at Open Briefing. Paul worked in digital forensics investigations for West Midlands Police for a decade until 2011, and then for over a year for the Bermuda Police Service. Since returning from Bermuda, he has run a company supplying software, training and investigations for the forensic examination of GPS devices. He has eight commendations for his digital forensics work. Prior to this, Paul spent over 20 years in research and development in the gas industry.

Kirsten Winterman is a researcher at Open Briefing. She is also the project manager for development cooperation at MEDRC Water Research. Previously, Kirsten was a projects manager at Beyond Borders Scotland, where she worked extensively on the management and facilitation of training programmes in the MENA region. Kirsten holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from the University of Bradford and a bachelor’s degree in politics from the University of Liverpool.

Dr Raphaël Zaffran is an affiliated researcher at Open Briefing. He is currently the head of customised programmes in the executive education department of the Graduate Institute, Geneva, where he is in charge of the development and implementation of training projects for public and private sector organisations and foreign governments. Raphaël holds a PhD in political science and international relations from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

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Rory Byrne is the co-founder and CEO of Security First, which develops technological solutions to human rights problems. Open Briefing partners with Rory and Security First to provide cyber security audits for our NGO clients. Rory is a Certified Ethical Hacker and the former Head of Security & Research at Videre. He is also a NCO in the Irish Defence Forces Army Reserve. In 2015, Security First launched Umbrella, an open-source Android app that provides advice on digital and physical security for people at risk.

Roger Marshall is the managing partner at Bradburys Global Risk, a risk management company founded in 1951. Roger and Bradburys has worked closely with Open Briefing since 2013 on risk assessments, security teams and cyber security training for our NGO clients. Roger coordinates security and intelligence field operations at Bradburys. He has worked in the private security sector since leaving government service in 2004. Bradburys was named the Best Crisis Management Company UK at the Small Business Awards in 2016.

Tim Puffer is a founder and director of In Safe Hands Training, a leading provider of first aid, health and safety and and fire safety training. Open Briefing partners with Tim and ISH to develop and deliver innovative first aid training courses for our NGO clients. Tim served as a sniper team member and team medic in the RAF Regiment before providing emergency medical care in the southwest of England. In Safe Hands delivers courses around the country and at its purpose-built, state-of-the-art simulation centre in Cornwall.

Richard Pyshorn is the co-founder and managing director of Survival Wisdom. Open Briefing partners with Richard and Survival Wisdom to develop and deliver hostile environment awareness training for NGOs. Richard was a force protection specialist in the UK armed forces for 30 years. During his military career, he completed 10 operational tours and was the first training manager of the UK Defence Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Extraction (SERE) Training Organisation (DSTO). Survival Wisdom is a NCFE Investing in Quality provider.

Read more about our partnerships.

Advisory board

Chris Cushing is an adviser to Open Briefing. Chris has 25 years’ experience in leading humanitarian action, human security strategies and high-level diplomatic initiatives for international aid organisations, the Red Cross, the United Nations, governments, academia and the private sector in over 60 countries. He has directed emergency humanitarian operations in 17 wars and two disasters. Chris is a former officer in the Canadian Armed Forces and has experience with foreign intelligence agencies.

Neil Elliot is an adviser to Open Briefing. Neil has worked in the humanitarian aid sector for over 25 years. He was the global security adviser at GOAL Ireland and head of global safety and security at Save the Children UK. Between 2012 and 2016, he was a security adviser for the Conflict, Humanitarian and Security Operations Team (CHASE OT) in the British government’s Department for International Development (DfID), where he coordinated emergency response and managed high-risk deployments.

Dr Nick Mabey is an adviser to Open Briefing. Nick is the chief executive and a founder director of E3G, an international non-profit organisation dedicated to accelerating the transition to sustainable development. In addition to his management role, Nick leads E3G’s work on climate security and European climate change policy. Nick was previously a senior adviser in the UK Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit and, before joining government, head of economics and development at WWF-UK.

Professor Paul Rogers is an adviser to Open Briefing. Paul is professor of peace studies at the University of Bradford and global security consultant to Oxford Research Group. He has worked in the field of international security, arms control and political violence for over 30 years. He is the international security editor of openDemocracy, and has written or edited 26 books. Paul is also a regular commentator on global security issues in the national and international media.

Dr John Sloboda is an adviser to Open Briefing. John is the co-director of Every Casualty and a co-founder of Iraq Body Count. From 2004 to 2009, he was the executive director of the Oxford Research Group, and from 2009 to 2014 he was co-director of their Every Casualty programme. He is also a research professor at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Keele. In July 2004, John was elected to the Fellowship of the British Academy.