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Marjan H. Ehsassi

Marjan H. Ehsassi

Marjan H. Ehsassi

Senior Fellow


Areas of Expertise

  • Government Affairs
  • International Relations
  • Deliberative Democracy
  • Strategic Policy


  • University of Toronto
  • McGill University
  • Johns Hopkins, School of Advanced International Studies

Marjan H. Ehsassi is IDEA’s Senior Innovation Fellow, focusing on the development and adoption of democratic innovations in the U.S. as well as overseas. She is also a Future of Democracy Fellow (non-resident) at the Berggruen Institute and the Founder of the Fifth Freedom. She is a strategic policy advisor, practitioner, and a movement builder and has worked extensively on citizens assemblies worldwide. She is a fierce believer in the integrity of citizens’ voice: the potential of citizen engagement, inclusiveness, and impactful government-led deliberative innovations to promote democratic renewal. A lawyer, Marjan has worked to enhance space for civil society in some of the most complex environments including Cuba, Iran, and North Korea and completed a Doctorate in International Affairs (DIA) at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) with a concentration in democratic innovations and works on the design and implementation of deliberative platforms. She recently served as one of four guarantors of the French Citizens’ Convention on the End of Life and is on the Oversight Committee of the G1000 We Need to Talk Citizens’ Panels. She sits on several boards including Healthy Democracy, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), IPEC (AFSC’s International Programs Executive Council), The Meridian Council and is an active member of Democracy R&D and the OECD’s Innovative Citizen Participation Network. Marjan is also working on her first book on citizens’ assemblies (to be published summer 2024) and is leading the efforts of the Federation for Innovation in Democracy in North America (fide.eu).

A former COO and Executive Director, Marjan has led large governance teams and significant portfolios of over $50 million in development funds at the National Democratic Institute, Global Communities, and the American Bar Association. She also worked with the Gender Equality Group at the World Bank where she contributed to the publication of The Environment for Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa. Marjan began her legal career at Blake Cassels & Graydon in Toronto, Canada and was a corporate litigator with the New York offices of Shearman & Sterling. She earned her bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Toronto and received an LL.B. from McGill University’s Faculty of Law in Montreal. Originally from Iran, Marjan was born in Geneva and speaks English, French and Farsi with native fluency.