Valena McEwen was a Mastercard Foundation Scholar, graduating magna cum laude from Ashesi University in Ghana with a BSc in business administration. Most recently, she managed projects for the Mayor’s Delivery Unit of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. She helped plan and implement the sustainable urban development project Transform Freetown Agenda, provided strategic communications support to the Transform Freetown interventions (funded by partners including World Bank, Catholic Relief Services, and Bloomberg Philanthropies), managed the city’s social media, and developed the annual Transform Freetown Reports.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Valena co-led the municipal government’s community engagement efforts. She was also part of a team that designed an investment concept for the city’s tree planting initiative, which was a winner of the 2021 Bloomberg Global Mayors Challenge. In December 2021, she served as co-lead organizer of TEDxMayorOfFreetown, which highlighted the climate action of Freetown residents. Valena is interested in city-level innovation that works towards inclusive and sustainable urbanization. She is also investigating how cities can expand participatory and sustainable human settlement planning and environmental management, particularly in settings of high informality or limited urban planning. As a master of global affairs student, she is the recipient of a Keough Family Fellowship.