Building Trauma-Informed Ecosystems

Dr. Cecilia M. Cardesa-Lusardi

Dr. Cecilia M. Cardesa

Dr. Cecilia M. Cardesa is the Founder and CEO of TraumaVenture. She also serves as Senior Advisor, Special Projects for Women’s Campaign International where she builds trauma-informed programing to empower women and girls around the world. From June 2017 to July 2019, Ceci served as Executive Director of Military Assistance Project, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization providing free, trauma-informed legal services to active duty, reserve personnel, veterans, and their spouses in the form of pro bono consumer and veterans administrative law services. In this role, Dr. Cardesa led a national conversation on trauma-informed lawyering.

Whether working with Catholic nuns and women religious in sub-Saharan Africa or social impact organizations here at home, Ceci uniquely bridges her international experience into the strategic alignment and direction of local organizations through her profound commitment to public interest law and the social impact sector.

In 2011, Dress for Success Worldwide hired her to create and execute the strategic turn-around management of its local Philadelphia affiliate along with creating a sustainable growth strategy, sound financial forecasting and organizational positioning. Prior to serving as CEO of Dress for Success Philadelphia, Ceci spearheaded the change management and holistic turn-around of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America as a senior member of leadership team at its U.S. Headquarters. Before that, Dr. Cardesa served as the Executive Director of Voices without Borders, Inc.  Ceci began her career working for an affiliate of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS).

Dr. Cardesa has served as Delegate to the UN Commission on the Status of Women and Hong Kong’s Social Enterprise Summit.   Ceci has received numerous awards and recognition for her commitment to community development, and has served on numerous local, regional and national boards. Most recently, Ceci received the 2016 VERA MOMENTUM Award based on her work with start-ups in El Salvador through Business Council for Peace (BPeace).  Dr. Cardesa serves as Guest Lecturer and Start-Up Judge at the St. Joseph’s University Haub School of Business Veterans Jumpstart Program.

Education & Research

Dr. Cardesa studied Political Science at Villanova University. Her undergraduate thesis focused on the impact of globalization in international non-governmental organizations: role of the Internet in human rights. As a graduate student on Holocaust and Genocide Studies at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, Ceci was moved by the architectural use of space memorializing memory after a visit to the Garden of Exile at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. The thesis for her master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania was on the Role of Storytelling in Social Value Creation.

Ceci’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania looked into Situating Traumatic Memory in Social Value Creation: The Trauma-Entrepreneurship Convergence. While in graduate school, Cecilia served as planning committee member for the 2013 Wharton Social Impact Conference.

Ceci was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in 1999 and is Reiki Master Practitioner.

Erin Davison joined the TraumaVenture team in May 2019. Previously, Erin has worked  with the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, the European Parliament, and the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services. Most recently, she served as Executive Assistant at Women’s Campaign International. 

She brings to TraumaVenture a unique combination of academic coursework and professional experiences inspired her undergraduate thesis: “The Most Persecuted Minority on Earth: Memories of Rohingya Nationhood” in which she researched how memories of trauma and state-sponsored violence impact the Rohingya community’s identity as a nation. 

In addition to her work with TraumaVenture, Erin is an AmeriCorps VISTA participating in the Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development (PHENND) Non-Profit fellowship program. As a PHENND Fellow, Erin is working at Philadelphia Legal Assistance where she coordinates the organization’s Medical-Legal-Community Partnership. 


Since graduating from Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and minors in Health Care Ethics and Economics in 2019, Erin has focused on exploring community storytelling and the ways in which a Trauma-Informed framework can be applied to the women’s empowerment continuum.