Elena is an experienced designer and facilitator of processes through which civil society, government and business leaders become aware of their shared challenges and opportunities, and agree on ways to move forward. She has worked for private and development organizations in Latin America, Europe and the United States in an array of strategic planning, capacity building and social transformation initiatives, and on the design and evaluation of public programs and policies.
In 2008-2009 Elena directed Guatemala´s Soros Foundation. During the previous seven years, she led UNDP´s Democratic Dialogue Project for Latin America and the Caribbean. From 1997 to 2000, Elena headed Vision Guatemala, a multi-stakeholder dialogue process which brought together diverse society leaders--media, academics, former guerrillas, military, human rights activists, government and business-- to build a shared vision of Guatemala´s future and underpin the implementation of the recently-signed Peace Accords. Subsequently, she led many other multi-stakeholder policy dialogues in Latin America on health, education, economic and agrarian development, environment, indigenous rights and on strengthening political parties. During the 1990s Elena worked for Guatemala´s Secretariat of Planning and Programming and for the Government´s Social Cabinet, and served as UNDP Guatemala Program Officer for Peace, Reconciliation and Poverty Alleviation.
She has written essays, evaluations and case studies on democratic dialogue, conflict prevention and peace building, as well as articles for Latin American and US newspapers and magazines. Elena coordinated the knowledge- creation component through which the Handbook on Democratic Dialogue was produced and published by UNDP, International IDEA and the OAS in 2008.
Since 2005, Elena has been a visiting professor for the Cooperation, Peace and Development Masters of the University of the Basque Country (Leijoa Campus) and a guest lecturer at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM ), the Colegio de México, the NUR and Mayor de San Andres universities in Bolivia, Columbia University in New York, and the San Carlos, Rafael Landivar, and del Valle universities in Guatemala.
Elena has a Ph.D. (abd) in Economic Development Planning from MIT; Regional Planning masters studies from Cornell University, a specialization in public policy from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and an industrial engineer degree from San Carlos University of Guatemala. For her master studies Elena received a Fulbright scholarship and for her doctorate studies she received the MIT Voorhees and the OAS scholarships.
She is a member of the Central American Chapter of the Inter-American Dialogue (Washington), an Advisory Board member of the Riecken Foundation of Guatemala and a Presidential Commissioner of the National System on Permanent Dialogue of Guatemala.
Elena is an associate member of Reos Partners (Cambridge, MA), an international organization with seven offices all over the world dedicated to support and build capacity for collective action in complex social systems. She lives in Guatemala with her son Sebastián.