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Conference Speakers


Opening Speaker: Koffi DessouClosing Speaker: Caroline Nguyen Ticarro


Dr. Koffi Dessou is the interim Director of the Office of Equity and Human Rights for the City of Portland. He previously served as Equity and Business Operations Manager for the city, and in 2012 created Portland's Equity Training and Education program.

Dr. Dessou has 28 years of experience in public administration, business administration, nonprofit administration, and community-based leadership. Prior to moving to Portland in 2008 with his wife and their four children, Dr. Dessou lived in Togo, where he worked in a variety of roles for the US Department of State at the American Embassy in Togo over 16 years. He analyzed and reported on good governance, human rights practices, human trafficking, and international freedom of religions and beliefs. He promoted human rights through education, projects designing and allocating USAID and other US government funds to governmental and nonprofit organizations. Dr. Dessou also coordinated conflict resolution and civil-military relations programs to improve understanding and relationship between security forces and civilians. He served consecutively as human resources assistant, manager of community development and democracy-human rights funding programs, specialist of political, economic and commercial affairs, and coordinator of International Military Education and Training programs.

Dr. Dessou earned a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in 2018, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Global Management in 2012, and a Bachelor of Science in Management in 2010, with University of Phoenix. He holds a Superior Diploma in executive business and organizational administrative principles and applications from University of Lomé, Togo (1990). Koffi received training from the U.S. Foreign Service Institute in political and economic analysis, international trade, commercial tradecraft, and emotional intelligence. He received training from the U.S. Institute of Peace in conflict analysis, inter-faith conflict resolution, and negotiation and conflict management. He is a community leader in Portland and enjoys helping through education, leadership development, and organizational development for emerging community-based organizations.




Founder and Executive Director, Catalyst Foundation


Caroline Nguyen Ticarro is the founder of Catalyst Foundation, a Portland-based humanitarian organization that helps build communities in Viet Nam to fight human trafficking. Catalyst Foundation supports community programs in Viet Nam to provide basic needs, job opportunities, counseling, and education. In 2012, Ms. Ticarro’s work was highlighted on “CNN Freedom Project,” a 3-part series on CNN International.

Ms. Ticarro has been featured in National Public Radio (NPR), Washington Post, Voice of America, Huffington Post, and New York Times. Ms. Ticarro has spoken about human trafficking, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, gender equity, and living with a purpose. In 2017 she delivered a TEDx Talk at University of Minnesota describing her journey to action after returning to her home-country of Vietnam in 1998. She has spoken at many universities, the Asian Women’s Empowerment International Conference, and AAPI Student Leadership Summits. At the age of 4, Ms. Ticarro fled Viet Nam with her family during the Vietnam War. Ms. Ticarro graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in international business.