Category Archives: Jordan

Re-engineering Engineering (my TED Talk)

My humble #TED talk is online now


#Jordan #lovejo

Thank you to all those who touched my life in one way or the other

نستمر في العطاء لأسباب عديدة أهمها الناس الذين نعمل معهم ولأجلهم ، والأفاق التي نخترقها ونكبر بها

مع محبتي

Telling the Story of ‘Me’

Why do we love stories?

Books have always fascinated me, especially those that told stories. As a child, my mother read bed time stories that took me to other galaxies. I managed to start reading on my own when I was three, thanks to my parents’ love and big library, and I still read stories insatiably. I’m sure I’m not the only stories-addict… but, why? Why do people like to read stories: stories of others whom we neither met nor knew, stories of joy and misery, stories of love and death, stories that happened and those that still wander in the future?


Honestly, I never gave that much thought until lately… and specifically until after my TEDx talk (TEDxArarStreetWomen – the first women TEDx in Jordan). Being forced to write and then tell a story of ‘Me’ is beyond any other experience I ever lived. The combination of stress, joy, memories and emotions was overwhelming. It is as if my life was put on hold and every single moment would pass by as if it is re-happening all over. Suddenly, I felt re-discovered… it was scary and enjoyable at once. There were moments when I felt I had no story worth telling… and then in a few hours, I would feel that strong urge to unlock my soul and let it all out. Of course, at the end, it must be in between… I chose to talk for 9 minutes only!  Undoubtedly, the story of another human impacts us somehow, whether consciously or unconsciously. A story well-told is like a time watch… it could take you across ages – backwards or forwards – and puts you on the same road and in the same seat as any of the story’s main characters. There were stories that I didn’t want to finish, and there were others that I wish I forget forever.

Emotion-izing ‘Me’

To tell the story of another might require imagination, empathy, research and intellect. However, to tell the story of ‘Me’ requires an open mind and soul, and lots of emotion-ization.

While I strive to learn how to manage and control emotions especially those related to the most unforgettable moments and situations, within a week, I deployed a reverse process to emotion-ize all data and information. I learned how to weave the mind, heart and soul into a story worth telling.

The story of ‘You’, ‘We’

I thought that was it! I prepared the talk and rehearsed several times. I’m ready for the big day, I thought.
Sitting there in the theater hall watching and feeling every talk was another experience. The 17 other women (and man) sharing their stories of ‘Me’ left me awestruck for days. Obviously having the mind, heart and soul present helped me travel in every story’s time watch to live with every single speaker throughout her story. I smiled, laughed, cried and wow-ed for hours. The story of ‘You’ awakened a new dimension of ‘Me’ that was put to sleep.

I know now that ‘We’ shouldn’t listen when we are told to disconnect the mind, heart and soul… emotions are never too much.

I know now that every story is worth telling.

I want more than ever to make every day a visible thread in my colorful story.

Here is the link to my humble talk:

With love to TEDxArarStreetWomen and all the women around the globe weaving a story every moment.

الابتكار من أجل التنمية المستدامة.. مسؤولية الجميع

بقلم ربى الزعبي – ترجمة نرمين أبو شاويش

على مر عقود طويلة،  اقتصر تقدم و تطور العلوم والتكنولوجيا والابتكارعلى البلدان الأكثر تقدما، حيث لا يزال الاستثمار في مجال البحث والتطوير دون الطموح في البلدان النامية. حتى مع وجود أشخاص ذوي قدرات و مواهب بارزة،  لا يزال البحث والتطوير  محصورين  في نطاق المختبرات فقط، بعيدا  عن التفاعل مع حاجات السوق والمجتمع. ولكن ليس من الممكن بأن يستمرالحال كذلك كون الإجراءات والخطوات الجماعيه المتخذة على الصعيد المحلي هي الأدوات الأساسية نحو التغيير العالمي

 ولا تعمل الأهداف العالمية للتنمية المستدامة على تسليط الضوء على الابتكار كأحد الأهداف التنموية فحسب، بل تؤكد أيضا على الأهمية الكبيرة للابتكار من أجل تحقيق الأهداف الأخرى. سواء عملنا على التصدي لتحديات  التعليم، أوالطاقة، أوالصحة، أوالتغيير المناخي، أو الفقر؛ فلابد من تناول العلوم والتكنولوجيا والابتكار بأسلوب تشاركي شمولي لضمان المنفعة العامة

إن بناء  عناقيد اقتصادية مستدامة وشركات صغيرة/أعمال مجتمعية تتمحور حول التكنولوجيا الجديدة ليس ممكنا إلا من خلال  تحفيز عنصر الابتكار ضمن جميع شرائح المجتمع المحلي؛ بما في ذلك النساء والشباب والمجتمعات الأصيلة

 ويعتبر ربط الاحتياجات التكنولوجية المحلية بالفرص العالمية تحديا مشتركا في العديد من البلدان، وللتغلب على هذا التحدي يتوجب علينا جميعاً أن نكون أكثر وعياً  لديناميكية السوق وأهمية شمول المجتمع بجميع عناصره وشرائحه.  وتعد القدرة على تحديد ومعرفة الاحتياجات والقدرات المحلية المتعلقة بالتكنولوجيا هي الجوهر لتكوين تصور واضح عن القيمة المضافة للتطبيقات التي بدورها ستعمل على تعظيم الانتاجية وتعزيز التنافسية الاقتصادية

 قد يكون تعزيز و تحفيز الابتكار على المستوى المحلي هو الوصفة السحرية التي  تؤدي إلى التقدم في مجال تحقيق أهداف التنمية المستدامة إذا ما توفرت جميع المكونات اللازمة لذلك . إلا أن البلدان النامية تحتاج إلى المساعدة والدعم لتطوير وتصميم نماذج محلية ملائمة للابتكار ضمن إطار التنمية المستدامة

 ولعل  الدروس المستفادة في هذا المجال تشير إلى أن القطاع العام قد لا يكون هو المحرك الرئيسي للابتكار. حيث تلعب الشركات دورا هاما في تسريع  وتيرة الابتكار سواء كانت من فئة المستثمرين أو المستهلكين. إلا أن المحفزات الحقيقية للابتكار المستدام لم يتم تمكينها وتفعيلها بالشكل المطلوب بعد. إذ يقع على عاتق  الجامعات والمؤسسات البحثية ومراكز الدراسات والفكر والمنظمات غير الحكومية مسؤولية أخذ زمام المبادرة  في عملية تحديد الاحتياجات المحلية وتعزيز الروابط بين اللاعبين الرئيسيين. وللقيام بهذا الدور، لابد وأن نمكن هذه المؤسسات من  فهم تحديات التنمية المحلية وتحويلها إلى فرص للابتكار

من خلال الجمع بين المعرفة والتأثير المجتمعي الناتجين عن التعاون والتحالف بين العلماء ومؤسسات المجتمع المدني، نستطيع الوصول إلى بيئة ممكنة على مستوى السياسات والتشريعات تحفز الابتكار المحلي والإقليمي وتحتفي بالمبتكرين

Innovating for Sustainable Development – it’s everyone’s business!

For decades, science, technology, and innovation were exclusive elements for more developed countries. Investment in research and development is still as low as it could get in developing countries. Even with the most talented individuals, research and development are confined within labs with minimal market and public interaction. This cannot be the case anymore as collective local actions are instrumental for global change.

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs) not only highlight innovation as a goal but also emphasize the value of innovation to achieve other goals. Whether it be education, energy, health, climate change or poverty that we strive to address, science, technology, and innovation will need to be tackled in a participatory and inclusive manner to ensure benefit to the public. Building sustainable economic clusters and social businesses around new technologies are only possible though widely-enabled innovations from the full spectrum of community; including women, youth and indigenous communities. Connecting local technological needs with global opportunities is a common challenge in many countries that requires us all to be more conscious of market dynamics and social inclusiveness. The ability to recognize local technological needs and capabilities is core to create a value proposition that maximizes economic productivity and competitiveness.

Boosting local innovation might be the magical recipe for progressing on sustainable development goals if the ingredients are made available. Less developed countries need support to shape suitable models for innovation within the context of sustainable development. Lessons learned so far indicate that the public sector might not be the key driver for innovation. Businesses, on the other hand, play a substantial role in accelerating innovation as investors and consumers. However, the real catalysts for sustainable innovation are not yet fully empowered. Universities, research institutions, think tanks and NGOs are requested to step into the driver seat to define the needs and connect the dots. These players should be better equipped to understand local development challenges and convert them into innovation opportunities. Civil society organizations and scientists combining both knowledge and community power can advocate for an inclusive and enabling policy and regulatory environment that bolsters and celebrates local innovation.

Greener Built Environment in Middle East

The key drivers for greener built environment in the Middle East are economic in nature. Green and energy-efficient buildings are getting traction in the region due to increasing energy prices and the need for energy efficient and affordable energy solutions and practices within the construction sector. Large real estate developers find in this a new marketing and PR tool that contributes to their bottom line and to demonstrating their commitment to sustainable development goals and environmental responsibility. From the supply side, suppliers and service providers find new business opportunities in this market transformation and this has become a driver for new services and materials.

Key Drivers

Transformation in the built environment requires change on the demand side that triggers change on the supply side. Consumer behavior and preferences are the key driver in the market. Understanding what shapes the various consumers’ preferences in various communities and countries would help make the green change more sustainable. The data on buildings performance and the social, economic and environmental impact of such performance is hardly available.

Deploying ICT solutions to enable monitoring and verification is another market enabler and opportunity for local businesses and professionals. Finally, establishing a local green buildings industry is what would sustain the green movement. Leveraging local resources and guiding local innovation towards green building solutions should be the focus of the future.

Vital Ingredients

Awareness raising is usually the long-term investment in behavioral change. When it comes to greening the real estate sector, there are several target groups across the supply chain that require different forms of awareness raising. Starting from architects, designers and developers and passing by electro-mechanical and construction engineers, towards contractors, material suppliers and consultants.

Each of those has a different need and mindset and would require creative messages and tools to join the green movement. The financial implications on short and long terms are usually important to include in addition to other factors like health, comfort, and environmental stewardship. Communicators need to work with green professionals in order to design awareness campaigns that can lead to behavior change.

Situation in Jordan

Jordan is one of the non-oil-producing countries and is striving to achieve ambitious energy efficiency and renewable energy targets to overcome its energy challenges. In addition, it is one of the world’s most water-scarce countries. Green buildings are one of the key enablers for green jobs, energy savings and clean tech innovation. Today, Jordan is the home for 19 LEED registered buildings of which 7 are already LEED Certified Buildings (4 Gold, 1 Platinum and 2 Sliver). The sector is attracting many professionals to get certified and penetrate local and regional markets as LEED professionals. To date, 164 LEED Green Associates and 53 LEED APs exist along with a Jordanian USGBC Faculty member; many of which are working on projects in the region.

The government as well as private sector and NGOs have strong appetite to enable this sector through advocating for greener building codes and effective enforcement of codes and regulations as well as building capacity and raising awareness among various target groups. Donors and international agencies are supporting these efforts especially within the energy sector support programmes through technical assistance and pilot projects. While cities like Amman embarked into green buildings as part of their sustainability strategies and adopted some incentive schemes to promote green building practices; the country still needs to move towards greening other cities and anchoring such direction within various municipalities.

Ecotourism: Outlook for Jordan

My latest article on CleanTechLoops:

Ecotourism in Jordan is witnessing a multi-dimensional evolution from pure economic opportunities to a wider industry that embraces environmental and community-based development as core elements. Responding to the local, regional and international traveler’s preference, ecotourism provides a perfect platform for responsible sustainable businesses to utilize green investment and community empowerment in creating niche services and products.

Competitive Advantage

The scarcity and uniqueness of natural resources in the MENA countries, including Jordan, are becoming a competitive advantage that opens new doors for eco and adventure tourism. Social and green innovation is another dimension that triggers new ideas for micro and small businesses supporting job creation and income generation for locals especially youth and women. While investors usually look outside for market trends, the ecotourism sector provides valuable opportunities at home.

Jordan – A Role Model

Jordan was one of first Middle East countries to realize the socio-economic value of its diverse and unique environment. Since the 1960s, Jordan took serious steps to protect its natural environment through the establishment of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) which is mandated to establish and manage protected areas. In 1993, and through the establishment of Dana Biosphere, Jordan positioned ecotourism as a key cluster that mainstreams economic and social development within environmental protection.

Today, Jordan has 10 natural reserves that provide the tourist with exceptional experience in enjoying nature and helping communities. Jordan’s experience in ecotourism has gained global recognition and became a model for partnerships between the government, NGOs and local communities.

RSCN figures indicate that its ecotourism projects generated JD1.5 million (around USD 2.1 million) in 2015, when 175,000 people visited the nature reserves, 65 per cent of whom were foreigners.

Future Perspectives

For ecotourism to flourish and achieve its development vision, several enablers need to be in place including soft and hard infrastructure. Governments, private sector and international agencies would need to work together to provide a conducive legal and regulatory framework, access to land, financing instruments, local human and institutional capacity development, attractive investment climate as well as convenient and affordable transportation. In addition, enabling more local innovation and social entrepreneurship would really be the added value to sustain the future of ecotourism in MENA region.

People are at the heart of action for a more sustainable world

My top 4 inspiring messages from the International Government Communication Forum 2017:1. You are good enough… you are powerful!

Inspired by my interview with Prof. Muhammad Yunus

Young people are powerful and with technology at the tip of their fingers, they are extra powerful. If you don’t realize that you have the power, you won’t be able to use it. If each of the leaders in this world looked in the eyes of a young person and said that statement, miracles will happen! Despite the global slogans on youth empowerment, that action could be very simple and effective. Think big and then test your idea on a small scale. But always believe you are capable of achieving your dream.

2. From vision to reality… Youth are the core of sustainability!

Inspired by my interview with HE Dr Thani AlZeyoudi

Proper planning is key to transforming vision into reality. My part of world has not been keen to have long-term plans due to several factors on top of which is the regional instability and scarce natural resources. The UAE Cabinet just announced its Centennial 2071 project to make the UAE the best country in the world by 2071. Zooming into the environment and climate change sectors, the UAE is already making steps towards a happy and sustainable society.

While investing in renewable energy generation, the efficiency of buildings and manufacturing, HSE standards for the Oil & GAS industry, modernizing transportation infrastructure and fleet, using renewable energy for water desalination, and many other green growth strategies; the UAE is also investing in its youth. The upcoming challenge they seek to tackle is the transformation towards the knowledge economy. Youth are part of climate change meetings and conferences (including COP). Dr. Thani discussed a youth council was established at the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to ensure the voice of the future is heard in all their strategic meetings. The UAE has also started an initiative to create a network of climate negotiators with focus on youth engagement because youth are at the heart of sustainability!

3. Conventional businesses, FYI — CSR is out of date!

Inspired by my interview with Prof. Muhammad Yunus

Almost 1% of world’s population owns 99% of world’s wealth. Yunus warns that with time, things will get worse. He advocates for a new sector: the citizens sector. This sector would work on solving problems in a business-oriented way, what is called a social business. A social business is a non-dividend company created to solve your problems. While conventional businesses are profit-oriented and potentially use corporate social responsibility concept to show they care about social issues; Yunus calls for partnerships and joint ventures between the conventional businesses and social businesses to move from CSR towards creating sustainable social impact. Conventional businesses have a lot of experience in running businesses and social innovators have a lot of passion to solve the world’s problems. Let’s start today and find a good match to make an impact!

4. You and I should change the machine!

Inspired by my interview with Prof. Muhammad Yunus

I’ve learned that there is a ‘right’ microcredit and a ‘wrong’ microcredit. If microcredit is helping the poor improve their lives, then it is the ‘right’ one. But if it helps rich people make money then it the ‘wrong’ one. Using Yunus’s words, microcredit is financial oxygen and once supplied to poor people, they are brought back to life and productivity. Looking at how this is done today in many parts of the world, a change is indeed needed.

A re-design of the financial system to ensure that the wealth distribution gap is reduced and that innovative financing models are tailored to suit the needs of the poor. Who would lead this re-design process? You and I, as per Prof. Yunus. People made the financial machine and if it is harmful to us, we should not continue using it. You and I can change the machine and we shouldn’t wait for someone else to do that. Boosting local green and social solutions require a new way of doing things and a new financing machine. In Bangladesh, over 1.5 million homes use solar energy because of an innovative financing machine that has been operational for 18 years. Just think of the huge potential for massive climate solutions that better people’s lives.

Contributed to the +SocialGood platform:
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