IFAL Executive Committee Members

Member Profiles

Antony Aitken (Exec member since 2004)

Antony followed many years in line management – as MD and Divisional Chairman in engineering and business services – with a commitment to helping senior people address the big issues in their business lives. He was an Associate Fellow of the Said Business School at Oxford 2008-12 and worked with them on the Delta Programme for BAe and a Development Programme for senior civil servants in Abu Dhabi.

Antony worked in a variety of line roles in mechanical engineering and business services, before helping to start Transition Partnerships in 1992. He followed his M Sc at MIT in ‘72 with three years with the

Chairman of a major retail group who had diverse City interests – and he has an interest in micro and macro economics.

He is committed to the processes of Action Learning – where groups build trust and learn from each other by active listening and open questioning, an extension of the coaching process.

Antony has supported IFAL for many years as a member – and he joined the Exec in 2004. He has served as Treasurer since 2010.

Jafar Akhavan-Moossavi (Exec member since June 2016)


Stefan Bergstrand (Exec member since May 2015)


Sean Cunningham (Exec member since 2002)

Sean is a civil servant based in Dublin and has a background in training managers and other staff in the Department of Social Protection. In the course of his work he has designed and delivered training programmes on such diverse subjects as Presentation Skills, Management Development, Communication Skills, Leadership/Teambuilding and Action Learning facilitation.

Sean has also been a facilitator and the co-ordinator of an Action Learning programme in his Department for a number of years. This involves selection of set members, arranging for training of set facilitators, facilitating selected sets and also spreading the word on the successes of Action Learning both to managers in his Department and also to other training managers in the Irish Civil Service. Sean is convinced that participation in Action Learning has greatly improved the skills of those managers who have taken part and has also solved a huge number of ‘wicked problems’.

The Department of Social Protection have been corporate members of IFAL for more than a decade and, following his attendance at an IFAL event some years ago, Sean has been on the executive and subsequently became the chair a number of years ago. Sean resigned the chair position at the IFAL AGM in January 2013, but will continue to serve on the Executive.

Dr Alaa Garad, PhD (Exec Member since February 2014)

Alaa is an AuthoDr_Garad_Photo rev1r, Advisor and Speaker in Organisational Learning. He holds Bachelor of Commerce, Master Degree in Quality Management and PhD in Organizational Learning and Excellence from Salford University, England. He is a Certified EFQM Assessor, licensed IIP Specialist, Chief Examiner and Juror
at several national and regional quality and excellence awards in MENA Region.

Alaa is an active member in several professional bodies such as the Academy of Management, the Society for Organizational Learning, and the American Society for Quality. His areas of expertise include Service Level Agreements (SLA), Balanced Scorecard, EFQM Excellence Model, Investors in People, Learning Organizations, Action Learning, Experiential Learning, Benchmarking, Suggestions Systems, Cross-Training, After-Action Reviews, Customer Service, Mystery Shopping, ISO Standards, and Feedback Systems.

Currently, Alaa is the Director at Emirates Center for Organizational Learning and the Managing Director, Investors in People, UAE. He is a Co-founder of the Organisational Learning Conference – MENA and he is Columnist at Emarat Al Youm Newspaper (No. 1 Arabic Newspaper in the UAE- Forbes) his weekly column receives high appreciation from a wide-range of readership in the Arab world.  Beside his engagement as Adjunct Faculty at Middlesex University Dubai, Alaa supervises several PhD and Masters projects on Learning and Excellence.

Jane Garnham (Exec member since June 2016)



John Heywood (Exec member sinceJanuary 2008)

John has eight years action learning experience and is an ILM accredited Action Learning set facilitator. He organises and takes part in an Action Learning forum for experienced AL set facilitators as well as being an executive board member. He became chair of IFAL in January 2013. John has completed the Ashridge training in Virtual AL Facilitation. He is a member of two sets, one virtual and one face to face.

John is currently using Action Learning with Heineken and is delivering Action Learning facilitator training in both English and French. Previous AL clients have included the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, DEFRA, Ernst and Young and the London Housing Foundation. As well as being an AL facilitator, John is a qualified and experienced Project Manager, Group Facilitator and Executive Coach. He is a passionate supporter of Action Learning to facilitate personal development and change and to improve performance, enjoyment and fulfilment at work and in life. He believes IFAL has a central role to play in extending and expanding the use of action learning across cultural, functional and national boundaries.

Linda Keenan (Exec member since January 2011)

Linda Keenan has worked in the voluntary sector for more than last 20 years. Up to October 2003, Linda was Head of Human Resources at NCVO and since then has worked in the sector as a freelance consultant. Linda is a chartered member of the CIPD, a CEDR (Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution) accredited mediator and a BACP accredited counsellor.  Linda was a member of the national facilitator team for action learning matters (ALM) the three year action research project run by NAVCA. Linda both facilitates sets and advises organisations on the use of and setting up of organisational action learning sets, usually linked to in house management development programmes. Linda is currently facilitating two sets, one for voluntary sector managers and one for HR specialists in national charities. Linda is a member of two sets, one which meets virtually and one which meets face to face, both of which have a focus on personal and professional development for independent consultants.

Linda joined the IFAL executive committee in January this year and believes IFAL has a key role to play in promoting the use and value of action learning in a variety of organisational settings both here and abroad. Linda also believes IFAL has a vital role as a focal point for practising AL facilitators, providing a thinking and development space to debate issues and challenge and develop our practice.

Moira McLaughlin (Exec member since 2002)

Moira has been an IFAL Executive member since 2002 – the longest standing (but not necessarily the oldest!) member of the current committee.

She is an independent consultant with 19 years experience in developing in-house and inter-agency AL programmes, mainly in the public and not-for-profit sectors.  In her previous life, she was a manager in local authorities for 13 years, where she first participated in, and became passionate about the role of Action Learning in developing and supporting authentic leadership.

Moira trained as an AL facilitator with the GLES in 1987.  She has a particular interest in virtual AL, and completed the Ashridge programme in Virtual AL Facilitation in 2010.  As part of her recent Masters in Coaching and Mentoring (OxfordBrookesUniversity, 2012), she has conducted a study on telephone coaching. Keeping her feet on the ground, she also continues to belong to a self-facilitated face-to-face set and a virtual set for her own development.

Moira has been instrumental in revitalizing IFAL as an organization in the last six years and has collaborated on many projects, including the organization and design of international conferences.  She feels privileged to be working with a group of highly experienced members who are committed to sustaining and growing IFAL as a source of learning and support for others.

Mark Russell (Exec member since 2008)

Mark is a Director of AVN Picktree, an award-winning business dedicated to helping organisations

Mark is a Director of AVN Picktree, an award-winning coaching business dedicated to helping organisations and senior executives be more successful, more profitable and to have more fun.  He has worked extensively with the Sector Skills Council and Business Link delivering action learning programmes aimed at developing business leadership and management capabilities. Mark recently delivered presentations to The Open University and Chartered Institute for Personal Development on The Curse of Cleverness and the implications this has for our society, economy and the environment.

Mark played rugby for London Harlequins and has travelled the world touring and playing at the highest level with representative honours in England and South Africa. He believes that these experiences taught him the importance of proper planning and preparation and the extraordinary results that can be achieved through leadership, strategy, teamwork and learning by doing.

Outside of work his time is taken up by being an All Pro Husband and Dad, keeping an aquarium of tropical fish and playing golf (often very erratically!).

Mark has been a member of the IFAL Executive for three years.  He is passionate about the power of action learning to help people address priorities, solve problems and learn something in the process.  And he has a strong belief that IFAL has a central role in spreading the word about action learning and the difference it can make.


Heidi Schaefer (Exec member since January 2012)

Heidi has been involved with Action Learning since the mid 1990s when she did her MSc in Management using Action Learning. She has worked with sets across a range of sectors and occupations. In the U.K. She was a member of the national facilitator team for Action Learning Matters (ALM), run by NAVCA and more recently with LEAD at Lancaster University, a leadership programme for small businesses. In 2014 Heidi moved to Canada where she is working to develop Action Learning there and start a network of Action Learning facilitators. Heidi is a passionate believer in the power of Action Learning to transform individual thinking, action and thereby organisations. She joined the IFAL Executive to get involved in ‘spreading the word’ about Action Learning as well as participate in the work we do to support facilitators. She has become co-Chair of IFAL to help lead IFAL to develop stronger international networks. Heidi is also a practising visual artist.

Arthur Turner (Exec member since May 2015)

Arthur is an academic working part-time at the University of the West of England in the Faculty of Business and Law and is a Visiting Fellow of the University of South Wales. Arthur has been on the executive board for IFAL since 2015. Arthur has been involved in Action Learning for the past 15 years from a set facilitator to a course designer and has been identifying ways in which action learning can make an impact in organisations. Arthur has also been involved with a long running Action Learning set for coaching supervision purposes and has several articles written with Pam Heneberry in the Action Learning Journal section for Accounts of Practice. Arthur is interested in alternative approaches to Action Learning especially using artefacts and random ideas to construct vibrant questions.


Janie Wilson (Exec member since October 2009)

Janie is a professional coach, mentor and facilitator. With over 20 years consultancy experience she has worked at all levels in the UK and internationally, specialising in change and transition, talent, team and professional development, career and life work planning. Janie is an experienced facilitator of complex processes and action learning, and use a rich mix of tools to encourage insight, create focus, develop clarity, resilience and motivation. She is a trained Open Space facilitator, Action Learning Facilitator and trainer of facilitators, Professional Coach with ICF, Member of CIPD and Fellow of CMI. Janie has also trained with Ashridge in Virtual facilitation and to use constellations in systemic coaching.

Janie runs AL sets for social entrepreneurs, CEOS, small business owners, start ups, for leadership development, cross sector working, career changers. Her clients range from Quaker Social Action, NHS Leadership, to RoehamptonUniversity, Bradford City Council. I am part of the action learning team at the School for Social Entrepreneurs and train facilitators across the 8 franchise schools. She is very committed to action learning and 7 years ago co-founded and co-convene Action Learning Facilitators (ALF) – a peer CIPD forum for facilitators. Her passions are for creating experiential and participative learning environments and helping people realise their potential and embed change. Janie thinks AL has a particular currency today, developing people’s inner resources, perspectives and insights, and creating courageous and meaningful peer relationships. She joined the IFAL Executive to contribute to the promotion of AL and make it accessible to a wider audience.

Janie also runs retreats from her self catering/chambre d’hote farm in the South of France, and is developing her skills in artisan jam making and book binding.