Category Archives: youth

A Semester of My Life


While never mindfully planned, my decision to enter the teaching domain was an easy one to make. Tempted by the flexibility to design my own course to teach at my preferred time, I embarked into an experiment that turned out to be a transformational one.

It has been over 15 years since I decided that teaching is not what I was meant to do. Whether one may call this ignorance or reason, I still believe I’m more of a practitioner than an academic. Nevertheless, the issue of education has and will always be at the heart of my passion which is ‘development’. Interacting with public and private sectors as well as with youth and community organizations proves day after day that education is where it all starts and ends. The disconnect between what we teach/learn at school and what graduates are required to know as active players in their communities is undoubtedly alarming.

The recent trends in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in various sectors especially energy, water and environment dictates a new way of educating. The Arab region and Jordan in particular face humongous development challenges that could only be overcome through bottom local solutions coupled with customized technology; things most of our youth still struggle to associate with.  The “Social and Green Innovation in the Arab Word” course was a dream coming true. To be able to design and teach a course I wish I had the chance to take brought me a sense of obligation and amusement that I’ve never experienced before. Here are some of my takeaways after completing the semester with  a few amazing students and professional academic staff:

  1. A trainer and practitioner has a lot to offer from the hands on experience that may actually be more valuable to students than ever thought.
  2. People to people interaction is an essential part of development studies. listening to stories and sharing lessons learned are the best educator.
  3. There are very few references on sustainable development and green innovation in the Arab World. Even those that exist are outdated and/or produced through foreign aid.
  4. The references on social and green development in the Arab world are mostly focused on problems rather than solutions. There is little documentation of success stories and/or attempts to change things on the ground.
  5. Written exams might not be the best measure of learning. Creative tools that trigger thinking and debate around critical issues add more value to the learning process.
  6. A classroom may suppress learning abilities – nature and people are the best inspiration.
  7. Challenge your students and unlock their potential, then, you need to catch up!

I’m so proud of my students who I believe know more than most Jordanians about green economy and environmental governance. Their final essays say a lot about how one course can make a difference. This whole semester changed my perception of education and teaching ever after.

Thank you – to all those who made this unique experience possible.

 

 

 

 

Jordan is discussing the new Sustainable Development Goals الأردن يناقش الأهداف العالمية للتنمية المستدامة


It is exciting for me to witness the growing interest from Jordanians around the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially from civil society organizations.

In the past weeks, I was honored to meet dozens of community leaders and professionals from various sectors and governorates in Jordan through three sessions organized by GEF/Small Grants Program (SGP) and another by Jordan Green Building Council (Jordan GBC). The interest and deep discussion showed in all of those sessions reflect genuine commitment by Jordanians to sustainable development principles and concepts. While the level of awareness and knowledge varies from one location/entity/sector to the other, we all share the worries and concerns as well as the hopes of development locally and globally.

I hope that those who participate in the awareness sessions would carry on the mission and spread the word to many others in their communities and circles and hopefully we will take this to another level of action very soon.

I’m proudly volunteering to provide such support as a Plus Social Good Connector and a global citizen. Contact me if you are interested in hosting a session.

Here is a special presentation SDGs Arabic Session for GBC linking SDGs to Jordan’s sustainable development path and triggering some questions on how we can be part of the movement.

تشرفت خلال الاسابيع الماضية بلقاء مجموعة رائعة من مؤسسات المجتمع المدني وقادة العمل المجتمعي والبيئي من خلال اريعة جلسات توعوية حول الأهداف الجديدة للتنمية المستدامة. عقدت ثلاثة من هذه الجلسات بالتعاون مع برنامج المنح الصغيرة والرابعة مع المجلس الأردني للأبنية الخضراء. ‘لى الرغم من تفاوت الوعي والمعرفة بتفاصيل الأهداف الا اننا في الأردن نعكس اهتماما اصيلا بمبادئ التنمية المستدامة وأتمنى أن ننتقل الى مرحلة العمل على الأهداف من خلال مؤسساتنا وفي القطاعات والمحافظات المختلفة.

يشرفني ان اقدم مثل هذه الجلسات التوعوية لمن يرغب من الجهات المهتمة بالتنمية المستدامة بدون مقابل كجزء من عضويتي في شبكة العطاء الاجتماعي وكمواطنة عالمية.

SDGs Arabic Session for GBC

Photos credit goes to SGP and Jordan GBC

gbc sdgs3gbc sdgs2GlobalGoalsRZaqaba sdgs2

Getting to know a place through the hearts of its people: a morning at King’s Academy


I should admit I’m getting more used to women gatherings. I said this before but I was never a gender advocate until I recently started to enjoy women-to-women empowerment and mentorship. This time it wasn’t only the women or the place – as great as they are, to be honest, it was my curiosity that got me on the road to Madaba on a rainy day.

kings12 kings13 kings14

Whether through friends and contacts, media or news; I knew very little about King’s Academy. It was the case until King’s Academy entered the international community as the host for the Global Forum for Youth, Peace and Security in August 2015 under the Patronage of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II. With the special coverage by Roya TV, Jordanians got to know and see more of this great school. Listening to the student who joined King’s Academy from and UNRWA school made the case for a new perception.

Yesterday, I couldn’t resist the temptation to go and here we are: a group of the Business and Professional Women Association – Amman (BPWa) welcomed at Beit Al Mudeer by a group of women who turned out to be a source of light and inspiration.

Upon arrival, warm welcome remarks by our host fellow member Reem Masri and then short but to the point remarks by her colleagues were enough to trigger dozens of questions in our heads. The spontaneous and genuine staff members spoke with unbeatable passion about what King’s Academy is all about.  They were kind enough to take our many questions and provide answers on various aspects including students’ selection and admission, management, discipline, staff development programs, etc. We knew that King’s Academy is targeting outstanding students from all over Jordan and from various schools to invite them and their parents to see the school and learn more about the application process. King’s Academy is doing a lot of fundraising to be able to support those who can’t afford the fees but deserve to be in such a life-changing experience. We also learned that students are treated equally and that they are requested to implement programs with the surrounding community in Madaba. And I couldn’t hide my wide smile and great admiration when I found out that the whole campus is strictly smoke-free.

kings2kings1

kings15kings16

After the good talk – which by the way showed that the staff and students do speak Arabic, we wanted to see and experience things on campus. The tour in the campus was quite refreshing. The natural green space and well designed buildings and facilities put you in a different mood. Intruding into a classroom during a Physics class enabled us to meet a teacher and some students trying to solve a problem through practical use of instruments. Since this was a course that all students should take, the class had students from different ages which we thought might add value to the learning process.

kings4kings5

kings6kings7

Moving on to the dining hall, each of us was seated on a table to join a normal daily lunch. Before anyone is allowed to sit down, a prayer was said by a teacher quoting a Hadith Sharif  ” الحمدلله الذي أطعمني هذا الطعام ورزقنيه من غير حول لي ولا قوة ” and then translating it to English. Everyone was listening and then we took our seats. Two of the students on each table were bringing the food to the table and helping the assigned teacher serve food for everyone. We all waited till everyone got their share and then started eating. I really hoped to have more time to speak to the students but it was clear they were tired and just wanted a break J

After we finished eating, the same students who brought the food collected the empty plates and cleaned remaining food. There was enough food but not too much, something I highly appreciate from an ethical and sustainable behavior perspective. The meal was very modest and consisted from salad, chicken, fried potatoes and water.

kings8kings10

kings9kings11

The next stop was the Spiritual Center. King Abdullah II Spiritual Center, a multi-faith house of prayer and meditation is located on campus to accommodate the spiritual needs of a diverse religious community. King’s Academy also arranges weekly visits for those students wishing to attend prayers and services at local mosques or churches. I only saw this before during my travel to the US and the UK in places like Georgetown University where there is a prayers room in the basement. Knowing that King’s Academy has the majority of its students from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, USA and Korea makes me so proud to see such respect for diversity, a real Islamic value.

kings3kings33

His Majesty King Abdullah II vision for King’s Academy to be a school of peace and transformation is guiding everyone’s effort and belief in young people as our greatest resource – and hope – for the future. If you are a student at King’s, be sure that Jordan is counting a lot on leaders like you to be role models, transformers and real humans.

Thanks to BPWa for making this possible. Thank you Reem, Monica and all the great King’s Academy team for giving the visit such a special flavor.

To be continued……

kings17

قصص ملهمة في المنطقة العربية في كافة قطاعات التنمية المستدامة


سعيدة باطلاق سلسلة InspireMENA# قصص النجاح الملهمة في التنمية المستدامة في منطقة الشرق الأوسط وشمال افريقيا والتي تأتي بالشراكة بين EcoMENA و SocialGood+
ارجو المشاركة بالكتابة أو بلفت نظرنا الى قصة ناجحة أو بالتطوع للترجمة… نسعى لتغطية كل قطاعات واهداف التنمية المستدامة.
http://www.ecomena.org/inspire-mena-ar/

يقطن في منطقة الشرق الأوسط وشمال افريقيا اكثر من 350 مليون نسمة تجمعهم اللغة العربية كعامل مشترك. لا نزال نعاني حتى اليوم من قلة المحتوى العربي المتعلق بالتنمية المستدامة على الشبكة العنكبوتية خاصة ذلك المتمحور حول الأهداف العالمية للتنمية المستدامة والمبادرات والجهات المعنية بها.

على الرغم من التحولات السياسية والاقتصادية والاجتماعية التي يمر بها سكان المنطقة وخاصة الشباب تحت سن الخامسة والعشرين والذين يشكلون أكثر من نصف عدد السكان، الا أنهم يعملون على الابتكار وادخال التغيير الايجابي الى مجتمعاتهم. أنه من الاهمية بمكان أن نعمل جميعا لدعم هذا التاثير الايجابي سواء بمعلومات ذات مصداقية أو بالترويج لقصص النجاح أو حتى بوسائل الاتصال والتكنولوجيا المتعددة.

نحن سعداء اليوم بهذه الشراكة ما بين EcoMENA والتي هي مؤسسة تطوعية تعمل على رفع الوعي حول القضايا البيئية والتنمية المستدامة في منطقة الشرف الاوسط وشمال افريقيا، وبين +SocialGood التي تشكل مجتمعا عالميا من المبدعين في حقول التكنولوجيا وقادة الفكر والرواد الاجتماعيين وصناع التغيير والمواطنين العالميين يتشاركون من خلاله بالافكار من اجل صنع التغيير على ارض الواقع.

تهدف مبادرة #InspireMENA التي تنطلق اليوم الى رفع الوعي حول قضايا التنمية المستدامة وآثار المشاريع الناجحة في دول المنطقة. فكل قصة من القصص التي ستتناولها السلسلة سيتم عرضها باللغتين العربية والانجليزية (أو الفرنسية في بعض الأحيان) وستنشر على الموقعين الخاصين ب EcoMENA و +SocialGood .

يسرنا دعوة الخبراء والمختصين والمتطوعين والكتاب الى مشاركتنا في ايجاد قصص النجاح الحقيقية في المنطقة والمساهمة في الكتابة والترجمة.

العناصر التي نبحث عنها في قصص #InspireMENA:

وصف للمخرجات / النتائج (كما ونوعا).

مالذي يجعلها قصة نجاح ملهمة؟ مالتغيير الذي ساهمت بصنعه؟

بأي من أهداف التنمية المستدامة العالمية يرتبط اثر هذه القصة؟

ما الموارد التي خدمت القصة وكيف تم الوصول اليها؟

من هم شركاؤك في التنفيذ ومن هو بطل القصة؟

ماذا ستغير اذا ما عدت بالزمن الى الوراء (الدروس المستفادة)؟

هل تحفز قصتك قصصا مشابهة في مجتمعك أو بلدك أو في العالم؟

العدالة والشمولية من الركائز الاساسية للتنمية المستدامة. كيف تحكي قصتك على ضوء ذلك؟

كبف تقيس أثر مبادرتك الان وفي المستقبل؟

ماذا تقول للقارئ؟ هل تدعونا الى صنع تغيير معين بناء على قصتك؟

كيف بدأت هذه المبادرة #InspireMENA :

حيث أن EcoMENA و +SocialGood تتشاركان في دعمهما للتنمية المستدامة وتمكين الشباب ونشر المعرفة والترويج لقصص النجاح فقد تم الاتفاق على التعاون لنشر قصص واقعية من منطقة الشرق الاوسط وشمال افريقيا والتي تمثل قصص نجاح في مجالات التنمية المستدامة المختلفة. وقد جاءت الفكرة من المهندسة ربى الزعبي ممثلة الاردن في مجموعة (+ScoailGood Connectors) حيث عملت على بلورة المبادرة عقب حضورها لاجتماع المجموعة في واشنطن في شهر تموز 2015. حيث عملت ربى مع سلمان ظفار المؤسس المشارك في EcoMENA لاطلاق حملة في الاردن والمنطقة للبحث عن المشاريع والمبادرات المبتكرة ذات الاثر الملهم في التنمية المستدامة وتشجيعها.

للمشاركة معنا، أرجو التواصل من خلال:

ربى الزعبي rubaalzoubi@gmail.com

سلمان ظفار salman@ecomena.org

Global Resolutions – moving from ‘Me’ to ‘We’


Honored and proud to be Jordan’s Ambassador in this great global effort started by an inspiring lady Malena Gamboa.

http://www.globalresolutions.org/

Stay tuned for more details!

ruba global resolutions

#InspireMENA – A story telling series to support on the ground successful project in MENA


Glad to announce on behalf of +SocialGood and EcoMENA the launch of #InspireMENA a Story Telling Series to support Successful on the ground projects in #Sustainable #Development in #MENA #Arabic #English #French – share your story or help us share others’ stories!
http://www.ecomena.org/inspire-mena/

Over 350 million people live in MENA and share Arabic as a common language. To date, there is very little literature in Arabic about sustainable development in general and specifically on the United Nation’s new global goals and the associated agencies and initiatives. More than half of that population is below 25 and is currently going through a lot in terms of political, economic, and social change. Despite all of this, those young people are innovating and making positive change in their communities. It is of utmost importance to support such impact with credible information, more visibility for success stories, and better communication tools.

Today we are excited to announce a special partnership between EcoMENA, a volunteer-driven organization working to raise environmental awareness and foster sustainable development in MENA, and +SocialGood, an international community where digital innovators, thought leaders, social entrepreneurs, change makers, and global citizens come together to share world-changing ideas and catalyze action.

The #InspireMENA Initiative will work to raise awareness and magnify impact on sustainable development issues and projects throughout the MENA region. Each #InspireMENA story will be shared in both English and Arabic on both platforms. Professionals, volunteers and writers are invited through both networks to contribute to identifying stories, writing and translating articles.

What we’re looking for in an #InspireMENA Story

Describe the outputs/outcomes from your story (qualitative and quantitative).
What makes this a real success story? What change have you contributed to?
To which Global Goal(s) would you link the impact(s) of this story?
What resources did you use and where did they come from?
Who were your partners in implementation? Who was the Champion?
What would you do differently if you can go back in time (lessons learned)?
Does your story trigger similar stories within your community/country/globe?
Sustainable Development is about justice and inclusiveness. How do you tell your story in light of this?
How do you measure your impact now and in the future?
Give us a ‘Call for Action’ statement to show how relevant this is to the reader.
How #Inspire MENA started

As two entities committed to supporting sustainable development, empowering youth, sharing knowledge and promoting success stories and role models; EcoMENA and +SocialGood are coming together to collaborate on ‘Story Telling for Sustainable Development’. This was initiated by the +SocialGood Connector in Jordan, Ruba Al-Zu’bi, after her participation in the +SocialGood Connectors and Advisors gathering in Washington D.C. – July 2015. Through this partnership, Ruba and Salman Zafar, Founder of EcoMENA, hope to mobilize a story telling campaign in Jordan and the MENA region around impactful and innovative projects and initiatives that advance sustainable development.

To get engaged and share a story, please contact:

Salman Zafar: salman@ecomena.org /salman@cleantechloops.com or

Ruba Al-Zu’bi: rubaalzoubi@gmail.com

Environmental NGOs as a Trigger for Social Good – a Jordanian Perspective


My new Article published on EcoMENA http://www.ecomena.org/environmental-ngos-jordanian-perspective/

While growing in number and scope with each passing year, environmental NGOs in Jordan are striving to become a model in civil society participation, collaborative governance and social impact. They are demonstrating how green advocates can lead by example and become a role model for other development leaders. Those non-for-profits are challenged to not only be the watchdogs and outreach arms but also act as community organizers and change agents that our country and region aspire for.

In harmony with the overall awakening of social entrepreneurship and youth movement within MENA region, green startups and community-based initiatives are climbing to the top as platforms for youth to express their views and take action. Jordan might be an exception in that it specifically enjoys the presence of a large educated young population coupled with a huge pressure on infrastructure and resources magnified by the influx of refugees from neighboring countries.  Such circumstances while being a tremendous challenge also form an opportunity to advance innovation and entrepreneurship especially for urban water, energy and environmental solutions.

Recent statistics show that an average of 48 Jordanian NGOs is established each month mounting up to around 3800 in 2014. Out of those, ninety-two are already registered as environmental societies with over half of them located outside the capital Amman. Eight NGOs sharing common environmental goals formed together the first Federation for Environmental NGOs and hope to be more impactful when united. Whether all of this is enabled by the supportive legal and regulatory framework or powered by increased awareness among the population of the role of civil society in sustainable development; it is an evolution that calls for some reflection! Does this figure reflect a real grass-roots movement towards a sustainable way of living? Are these green NGOs a representation of a stronger public-private-community dialogue on environmental issues? And can we – as Jordanians and environmentalists – sense/measure the impact of real change on the ground?

While no one might have the evidence-based answer to all of those questions, there is no doubt that the green civil society experience in Jordan forms a unique model across the country and the MENA region. It is led mostly by Jordanian professionals and activists with shared inclination to making a difference. Younger generations are more conscious and action oriented when it comes to sustainable development. In and outside Amman, volunteerism and community-based activities are becoming more innovative and inclusive providing hope for a better future. Nevertheless, NGOs still struggle with their institutional and financial sustainability and mostly fall behind in finding innovative ways to survive the increased competition.

The Beginning and The Evolution

Back in the 60s, the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) was established as the first entity focusing on wildlife protection and nature management in Jordan, prior to the existence of any environmental authority. RSCN continues to perform its functions via a legal mandate and delegation from the Government of Jordan in the areas of hunting regulation and protected areas management forming an excellent partnership model with the public sector. Today, RSCN deploys sustainable development principles in the protected areas demonstrating job creation and community development in their good standards. Dana natural reserve is an international eco-tourism destination because of those successful partnerships. Nature protection is no longer a hurdle to development but rather a pillar to ensure its sustainability. Aiming to bridge the skill and knowledge gap in nature protection and eco-tourism, RSCN established the international-standard “Royal Academy for Nature Conservation”.

With the first environmental protection law that was issued in 1995 and the further institutional development through the establishment of the Ministry of Environment in 2003; it became inevitable for civil society organizations to be part of the evolution. Introducing environmental management tools such as environmental impact assessment (EIA) required public participation and consultation. Several NGOs were established and trained to take part in those consultations and ensure new projects take both the environment and society into consideration from as early as the planning stage.

Triggered by its scarce natural resources and commitment to international environmental treaties, Jordan went as far as integrating environment into its trade agreements. The US-Jordan Free Trade Agreement was the first to include an environmental chapter. Further bilateral and multilateral agreements such as the EU-Jordan Association Agreement included sustainability and environment as a pillar and as a cross-cutting issue that should safeguard cooperation in various development sectors. NGOs needed to cope with all of that and raise the bar for more synergy between environment, community and economic development.

The New Language

For a long time, the core focus of the environmental community has been on protection and conservation. Jordanians still recall the advocacy breakthrough of 2006 when the environmental NGOs exerted exceptional pressure on the legislative and executive bodies to prevent the approval of the Agriculture Law amendments that was foreseen to jeopardize the important forest areas by opening them for purchase by investors.

Today, Jordan is aggressively pursuing green economy targets as the first country in the Region to conduct a scoping study and prepare a strategy for green growth. The ninety-two environmental NGOs would need to be well prepared for a completely different argument. Away from green, the socio-economic dimension will be the winner with more demand for jobs, local economic development and innovation. Environmental mainstreaming into development sectors would be the new strategic planning tool to ensure sustainability. Concepts of smart cities and green infrastructure should start to show on pilot and large scales how quality investment is attracted and high paying jobs are created.

For the first time, green businesses are coming together to establish business associations that advocate for better enabling environment and fuel green economy. Such private sector led organizations work to provide needed platforms and tools to equip green labor force and organize dialogue with the public sector and international community. The progress made by the private sector to become more organized through business association should be leveraged and further expanded to incorporate more companies especially startups and SMEs.

The Leap

In May 2014 and as a marked step towards a stronger impact, eight environmental NGOs decided to formalize their partnership through establishing the “Jordanian Federation for Environmental NGOs”, commencing a new era of green social impact, policy advocacy and good governance. The eight founding NGOs are: Jordan Environment Society (JES), Royal Society for Conservation of Nature (RSCN), Jordan Royal Marine conservation Society (JREDS), Energy Conservation and Environmental Sustainability Society, Arab Group for the Protection of Nature, Jordan Society for Combating Desertification, Organic Farming Society, and the Jordan Green Building Council. They bring a mix of the old and new united by their shared concerns, passion and vision.

The federation’s internal bylaw stipulates the goals of the “Jordanian Federation for Environmental NGOs” to cover the following areas: policy and legal advocacy, awareness raising and capacity building, coordination and collaboration among members and across the sector, data and information dissemination, and members support. While many are unaware of the existence of the federation, it is only by action that it will prove vital for Jordan and sustainable development as a whole.

A Meaningful Impact

Throughout the years, the relationship between the green sector players had its ups and downs especially in how the public sector managed the engagement with the private sector and civil society. It is evident that this relationship has grown in the past few years triggered mainly by the need for stronger positions towards the huge challenges facing environment in Jordan and the realization of the important role that each party can play in achieving sustainable development goals. NGOs were the main advocate to stop a government decision to merge the Ministries of Environment and Municipal Affairs in 2012.

As mature as it would prove to be, the Federation for Environmental NGOs bears the responsibility of the whole sector’s maturity especially when it comes to improved dialogue and coordination. The visionary leaders who realized the value of uniting for a cause are those who need to cascade such vision to the other sectors. Shifting from reactive to proactive, NGOs are obliged to change mindset of their boards and staff to be able to change communities. The world is more convinced that the private sector holds the promise for green economy, green jobs and better future. However, very little synergy is found with the educational, research and innovation institutions which are crucial to develop the brains and change the mindset. Innovation in green is not kicking off as it should be in MENA. Research, science and technology continue to be disconnected from market needs. The NGOs and business associations need to step up as drivers for a well integrated change process that assures people as well as the green enterprises of their safe and flourishing future.

Let’s not wait and see but let’s join the movement and make it happen!

job fair

Photo credit goes to Jordan Green Building Council (www.jordangbc.org)