APB is a Global Speaker, Celebrity & Entertainment Agency
Donna  Hicks

Donna Hicks

Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Award-Winning Author & Internationally Renowned Authority on Dignity

Donna Hicks

Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Award-Winning Author & Internationally Renowned Authority on Dignity


“It was so amazingly well-received, folks were raving about her after! It was super engaging and we were sharing up to the very last minute! She’s so relatable and personable and nothing about her talk seems scripted, it’s all so natural, it was wonderful!!!” -U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center

“As you probably know, Donna is an excellent speaker, who is passionate about her work, and makes her message very relatable to everyone in the room. The feedback from the attendees has been incredible” -US Department of Agriculture

“I really can’t thank you enough for sharing your ideas with us.  The response since then has already been incredible.  I can already see that something has sparked in many people and that discussions have started.  People have told me that this was the best presentation that they have ever seen here….I think that something very special happened yesterday, and that it will lead to some cultural or organizational shift in the future.  This is all simply amazing, and people seem to be activated” -US Department of Agriculture

Wellbeing has emerged as one of the most important priorities today. It’s usually discussed in terms of health in various forms: physical, mental, financial and social, to name a few. Those are critical areas, but Harvard’s Donna Hicks, Ph.D, the pioneering mind behind the Dignity Model—a signature approach she applied to the most divisive and deep-seated conflicts around the world—goes even deeper to the root of each of these.

Dr. Hicks is an associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. She is an expert in human dignity and a specialist in conflict resolution. Through her work, she identified a major obstacle in our human relationships: “Our failure to recognize how vulnerable humans are to being treated as if they didn’t matter.”

Her award-winning book Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict, broke new ground and established dignity as a universal, powerful and motivating force behind all human interaction. Now with her landmark book, Leading with Dignity: How to Create a Culture That Brings Out the Best in People, Dr. Hicks is empowering leaders in business, healthcare, education, government and other fields to create cultures of dignity as the key to fostering wellness, innovation, productive relationships and successful outcomes. She says, "Our dignity is given to us in a sacred trust, it's not just about taking care of our own dignity, but also taking care of others' dignity as well."

A dynamic and thought-provoking speaker, Dr. Hicks draws upon her extensive background in international conflict resolution and experience utilizing the Dignity Model to transform work cultures in a range of businesses and organizations. Her presentations provide a thorough understanding of the role of dignity in human relationships. She also provides a playbook for creating a culture in which everyone—employees, customers, patients, clients and others—thrives. She focuses on the three C's - connection, competence, and contribution - as being essential for finding meaning and purpose in our work.

During more than two decades at Harvard, Dr. Hicks has focused on the world’s most extreme conflicts with extensive work on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, a 10-year project on Sri Lanka, conflicts in Colombia and Northern Ireland (with Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu) and several US/Cuba dialogues. In addition, Dr. Hicks was the Deputy Director of the Program on International Conflict Analysis and Resolution (PICAR) at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and is now an Associate at the Center. Her clients include the World Bank, United Nations, U.S. Navy and governments worldwide. Dr. Hicks is currently involved in a dignity restoration project in Syria and Libya as Vice President of Ara Pacis, an Italian organization sponsored by the Italian Foreign Ministry.

She was a consultant to the BBC, co-facilitating encounters between victims and perpetrators of the Northern Irish conflict with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The encounters were made into three television programs entitled Facing the Truth. Dr. Hicks has taught courses in conflict resolution at Harvard, Clark and Columbia Universities and conducts dignity leadership training and educational seminars around the world.

Dr. Hicks’ experiences resolving world conflict are now being implemented to transform workplace cultures. She connects the essential human need for dignity to the challenges facing organizations and also fosters civil dialog on college campuses. Sharing real-word case stories, her insightful, highly human and frequently brilliant presentations provide an eye-opening and instantly actionable approach that is redefining effective leadership. Backed by research and case studies, Dr. Hicks shows how a culture of dignity goes beyond making people feel valued. It also optimizes performance and organizational wellness and unlocks potential while fostering innovation.

Speaker Videos

The Meaning of Dignity

Building Trust Through Meaningful Work

Speech Topics

Leading with Dignity in Times of Crisis

If there were ever a time when leaders needed to understand the role dignity plays in the workplace, that time is now. The pandemic forced us to work from home, disrupting our traditional notion of what work looks like: where to work, how to work, and when to work. Now that employers are deciding to return to in-office work, the dignity issues surrounding this decision are coming to the fore. What are those dignity issues and how can leaders navigate our new workplace culture?

Drawing from more than 20 years in crisis situations that range from war zones to international conflict negotiations, Donna Hicks walks audiences through an approach to leadership that will do more than empower you during extraordinary times. Learn how to lead through actions and not just words, deescalate organization-wide anxiety and lead with empathy. The Dignity Model will strengthen you as a leader and continue to enrich your organizational culture long after a crisis has passed.

Dignity & Mental Health: An Essential Partnership

The consequences to the health and wellbeing of those who have had their dignity violated cannot be understated. The imprints of indignity can last for a lifetime, manifesting as crippling anxiety, depression, and feelings of low self-esteem and unworthiness and can create mental health challenges. The neuroscience has shown that when our dignity is violated, it shows up in the same area of the brain as a physical injury. When individuals do not have an intact sense of value and worth to challenge pervasive self-doubt, achieving psychological health is hard to imagine. Most people unaware of the role that dignity plays in our lives and relationships and Donna Hicks examines taking a dignity-centered approach to improve mental health practices and the wellbeing of individuals, employees and in our communities.

Dignity: The Role it Plays in Our Lives and Relationships

What is the motivating force behind all human interaction – in families, in communities, schools, in the business world, and in relationships from the personal level to the international level? DIGNITY. It is the desire to be treated well. It is an unspoken human yearning that is at the heart of all conflicts. When dignity is violated, the response is likely to involve aggression, even violence, hatred, and vengeance; the human connection is the first thing to go. On the other hand, when people treat each other with dignity, they feel their worth is recognized, creating lasting and meaningful relationships. Surprisingly, most people have little understanding of dignity, yet it is our highest common denominator. While a desire for dignity is universal, knowing how to honor it in ourselves and others is not—it needs to be learned. The talk will present a definition of dignity—what it is and what it is not; the basic elements of dignity; and how to put it into practice in everyday life.

Dignity Puts the Care in Healthcare

Harm to one’s dignity hurts, just like a physical wound. In fact, research shows that when people experience a violation of dignity, it follows the same neural pathway as a physical injury. Both types of injuries can be viewed in the same area of the brain. According to dignity expert Donna Hicks, caring for and attending to people’s dignity must become a healthcare imperative. This commitment must go beyond how patients and their families are treated. It requires system-wide change to ensure that all members of the healthcare community feel confident that they are valued. Drawing upon many years of experience conducting dignity workshops with healthcare organizations, Hicks addresses dignity at both the systemic and individual levels, advocating that the oath, “first, do no harm,” must apply to violations of dignity.

Bringing Dignity to Divided Times

The tone of discussion in our country is more polarized than ever before. How can we overcome barriers to foster productive dialog? A veteran of conflict resolutions involving Israelis & Palestinians, Turks and Armenians, and Catholics and Protestants reconciling after “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, Harvard’s Dr. Donna Hicks has found the key. Her internationally-acclaimed Dignity Model creates a new paradigm for constructive conversation—one that recognizes that every human being has the same basic need to be valued, appreciated, and have their own self-worth validated. In this game-changing presentation, Dr. Hicks shares the essential elements of dignity, how to honor it in others and maintain your own—even in contentious situations. By understanding the Dignity Model you will not only be able to influence more civil and productive conversations—you will learn essential skills for improving and enhancing relationships everywhere in your life.

BDJ: The New Framework for Belonging In the Workplace & In The Classroom

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) has become the mainstream approach to creating more inclusive environments. But there’s a newer approach, BDJ (Belonging Dignity and Justice) that asserts that dignity, rather than diversity, should be the foundation for building cultures and environments that acknowledge and value the humanity of each person. In this illuminating talk, Harvard University’s Donna Hicks, the pioneering mind behind the Dignity Model, explores why dignity is the foundation for creating thriving, inclusive equitable workplaces where everyone belongs. She also details how assaults on dignity, which she calls “dignity violations” causes serious harm, especially to those in minority groups. Inspiring us to re-examine our approaches, Hicks provides an actionable framework for transforming our workplaces and classrooms by affirming the dignity of all.