Benjamin Orbach is a talented leader, writer, public speaker, and social entrepreneur with expertise in developing and managing innovative and impactful partnerships that address pressing public policy challenges. Orbach is the founder The Ascendant Athlete, Inc. as well as America’s Unofficial Ambassadors. He has expertise in strategic planning and communications and a specialized background in developing and managing programs that build youth leadership, empower women, prevent violent extremism, mobilize volunteers, and build cross-cultural partnerships. Orbach is the author of Live from Jordan (Amacom Books, 2007), a post-9/11 travelogue read by thousands of Americans seeking to better understand the Arab World, and he was a participant in the 2015 White House Summit for Countering Violent Extremism.
Orbach has worked as a State Department official, an international development practitioner, a leader in the not-for-profit sector, and an educator. In January of 2018, he founded The Ascendant Athlete, LLC, an Advisory Group that is supporting athletes to lead movements for social change on the issues that impact our communities and country. Prior to that, Orbach worked as a Senior Associate at Creative Associates International, where he directed the Fostering Peaceful Communities Project in Morocco which is training civil society and faith leaders to prevent the growth of extremism. He hosted the Creative Peace Podcast, a series of discussions on civic engagement and countering extremism. Orbach also worked with Creative Associates from 2007 to 2009, as the company’s first Country Director in the West Bank. He set up and managed a small grant program that supported community leadership and civic participation in Palestinian villages and refugee camps. This program became a State Department model for a rapid response small grant program operating at the grassroots level in areas of moderate risk. More than 50 percent of the partners who Orbach cultivated as part of this program had never before received US foreign assistance.
From 2009 to 2016, Orbach founded and directed America’s Unofficial Ambassadors, a soft power, citizen diplomacy initiative that is increasing the number of Americans who volunteer in areas of human development in the Muslim World. Orbach developed partnerships with schools and NGOs in nine different countries that enabled volunteers to complete impactful, short-term service while enhancing their professional skillsets and building mutual understanding between America and the Muslim World. Orbach forged partnerships with universities and colleges that enabled students to earn academic credit for their service, and he designed and taught an accredited course on citizen diplomacy and international development. In 2016, America’s Unofficial Ambassadors raised the awareness of more than 1M Americans to the possibilities of building people-to-people partnerships between America and the Muslim World.
From 2004 to 2007, Orbach was the U.S. State Department’s Deputy Regional Coordinator for the Middle East Partnership Initiative, where he earned Superior Achievement and Meritorious Achievement awards for designing democratic reform programs in the Middle East and North Africa. In particular, the Superior Achievement award was earned for designing the Leaders for Democracy Fellowships which annually provides promising, young MENA leaders with academic training, mentoring, and experiential learning opportunities.
Orbach has a Masters degree in Middle East Studies and International Economics from the Johns Hopkins University (SAIS) and a BA in History from the University of Michigan. A speaker of Arabic and Hebrew, he has lived in Jerusalem, Amman, and Cairo, and traveled extensively throughout the Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the United States. He was a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations from 2011-2016. He previously taught special education social studies in Washington D.C. and served with AmeriCorps in Colorado and Texas. Orbach lives in the Bay Area with his wife and two children. He can be reached at Benjamino at ascendantathlete dot com.