Global leadership agenda highlights how Arab-Israeli collaboration is the new normal
(February 27, 2022 / JNS) An Israeli. An Emirati. A Bahraini. Moroccan. All participate in a global leadership program based in Dubai.
Less than two years ago, that would have seemed absurd. But, speaking with these four participants, it now seems so… normal.
As the world comes together at Expo 2020 Dubai to provide real-world solutions to real-world problems, the U.S. Pavilion run by the Department of State at Expo 2020 Dubai has launched a scholarship program that hones skills in participants’ leadership and problem solving skills. The program – which is focused on empowering and educating young global leaders who are tackling the world’s most pressing socio-economic issues – brings together 40 women and men from the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, representing academia, business, media, government, civil society and politics, for a unique seven-month virtual and in-person experience.
“I think a program like this is an amazing opportunity for people to connect,” Amanie Brik, Google Health senior program manager for Israel strategy and operations, told JNS. “Choosing an event like Expo Dubai is also smart because it is an opportunity to get a real update on what all countries are facing, what are the main priorities and how they are solving global challenges. So bringing talent together in one place can also have a big impact on how you can solve problems.”
While at the University of Michigan, Brik participated in a State Department program on economic empowerment through entrepreneurship. Since then, she has worked with the US Embassy in Israel on programs integrating minorities into the tech industry.
U.S. diplomatic missions in 20 countries nominated outstanding candidates in a selection process led by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) and ORF America, with the PepsiCo Foundation donating $500,000 for the program budget.
The exchange held virtual sessions in August and September as well as a week of in-person programming in Dubai in October, with another week in Dubai coming this month. There have been a series of virtual interactions in the intervening period.
“I remember when they gave us the booklet at the very beginning of the program and I read all the profiles and thought, ‘Wow.’ It’s a really impressive group of people. All different walks of life, different fields,” Fatima Al Qubaisi, legal adviser at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, told JNS.
“But when I met them, I felt an even deeper connection to the band,” she said. “What I didn’t expect was to find a lot of similarities between people. There were so many languages being spoken while we were at the American pavilion, and it really felt like the United Nations. And I remember the brochure said what everybody does. There were their entrepreneurial ventures and their jobs, their titles, their accomplishments, but when I met them and got to talk to them, I learned so much more about them. I learned who was raised by a single mother. I learned who struggled, who went through really tough hurdles. It humanized those people so much more, and I think a lot of times when you think of success, you don’t think of struggle and hardship and it was good to talk about that. And to remember that it takes a lot of effort to get to this place.
Mohamed Talal, Business Development Associate, Marketing Advisor and Ideation Facilitator from Bahrain, was named as a professional actively involved in entrepreneurship programs. His brainstorming business focused on ideation and helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) come up with new ideas and innovative solutions.
“My startup was helping startups get their start-up started,” Talal told JNS. “In our region, design thinking is not very popular, or we don’t have an organization specialized in design thinking sessions. These are usually consultants who do this for large companies. For SMEs, entrepreneurship is a very lonely thing most of the time. So you need someone to brainstorm with you. The idea came from me starting my start-up that I just needed someone to brainstorm with me. We are human beings. So sometimes we need validation, any kind of validation.
Talal uses method maps specializing in industries such as marketing, web design, and app development to help entrepreneurs come up with business models or develop internal marketing plans or processes. “It helped people put their ideas on the table and then redesign and modify them,” he said.
Jamila Hadri, design strategist and founder of DI GROWTH MAROC, tries to help Moroccan companies design new products, services and solutions using human-centered approaches like design thinking. She designed hackathons to raise awareness of the use of design thinking in an innovation context, which led her to work in innovation consulting.
“It was amazing. What makes this experience unique is that it takes place in Dubai and is the first exhibition in an Arab country. I had the chance to not only meet people from Arab countries, from the Middle East, but also from countries where I had never been before,” Hadri told JNS.
Fellows for the program also come from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Palestinian-governed territories. Brik said that in addition to teaming up with a Bahraini and a Moroccan, a participant from Bangladesh was part of his team, despite the fact that their two countries do not have diplomatic relations.
“It’s great to have people from different countries who haven’t had the opportunity to meet before to meet and work together,” Brik said. “I think when you give people a challenge that they’re all connected to, they can find the connection. I think coming from a business, I brought the ability to advise how we can scale a solution to cover more and more spaces or areas.At the same time, I met people from different countries and learned about their experience and the different approaches of how they approach a challenge, sometimes with very limited resources. »
Abraham Accords participants praised the openness of the program, not only from a business collaboration perspective, but also from a cultural and personal perspective.
“It’s part of the program, and the program allows us to talk freely and exchange cultures. And although we are all from the same region, we still have our differences and it is a beautiful thing to learn the differences between us,” said Talal.
Al Qubaisi agreed.
“I’m really lucky to have grown up in the United Arab Emirates. So to be in a diverse melting pot of different cultures, languages, people, different points of view, that’s the norm for me,” she said. “We discuss sensitive topics where we would have opposing points of view and people were actually able to relate to it very well, to respect each other even if they did not have the same opinion and to realize that it was not was nothing personal and it’s more of a point of view. I think part of it is just really good storytelling. Each one told a very particular story. And so when you listen to them, you just realize that “Okay, it’s their experience. It’s their life, their reality. So why is there a reason to fight?”