Five months ago my dear friend Faten (TRACCS Jordan MD) and I were chatting about everything and nothing as we embarked on the topic of CSR and her interest in holding a program in Jordan on the subject which I later programmed. Over four months into the prep and 70+ meetings later, the CSR Forum held by the Greater Amman Municipality and TRACCS kicked off today at the Hussein Cultural Center in Amman. I've enjoyed curating it and have had my share of fun as well. I worked thru drafts of the program as I met with each and every shortlisted speaker towards locking in the final group and chairpersons. I wanted to design the program in an unconventional way, pushing comfort zones, challenging mind sets, and meshing people who don't normally debate in one room into a public dialog on issues that touch our lives. Suffice to say, these two days will witness a few small sociological experiments with a twist.
Forty eight interesting Jordanian speakers and some Saudi guests are meeting on dialogs and debates around social responsibility practices, focusing on the role of corporates. In an emotional part of the world, where charity and social giving is nothing new, the challenge is to channel efforts towards impact, growth and sustainability - aligned with priorities - so that real results are enjoyed by people.
The opening this morning gripped everyone's attention thru a segment presented by a young passionate Jordanian artist and designer, Nadia Eliewat, who shared her graduation project with the Forum. Nadia screened two experimental shorts of her experience working with kids and college students who were born blind, exploring color and memory. She blew everyone away! (well, almost everyone, Farah didn't quite like the artist nor her art, but I sense there are certain motives that contribute to her apathetic reaction...). On the opening, Jerry commented, "...it was great! That's the difference between a female curator and male!". I'm not usually sexist, but in this case I do agree and am a bit chuffed.
Nadia caught the attention of the Jordan Museum head, an amazing project under development towards an 08 opening which will be a beautiful home of our art, culture and heritage in the heart of town - finally! She's also been awarded a scholarship to do a masters in documentary filmmaking in the UK, and is currently looking at schools.
The first session, The World & CSR: Building Capacity to Change the World, was chaired by Fadi Ghandour, CEO of Aramex, and Jordan's true social entrepreneur. Fadi flew in that morning and drove straight to the Forum to moderate a dialog that energized us all, with the partcipation of inspiring, passionate people like HE Khaled Irani, Minister of Environment who shared his activist worldly take on environmental issues close to us, drawing on the importance of public-private alliances and the crucial role that the private sector can play in making a difference. I've known Fadi for over 20 years now and he is truly one of the most wonderful people I will ever know. He keeps coming thru, raising the bar, offering more.
Media, the ultimate communicator - that matters even more than advertising. The next session was chaired by HE Dr. Sima Bahous, president of the Higher Media Council and discussed the role of media & CSR, under the theme Responsible Power to the People. Predictably, participants in this session who represented legacy media were defensive. On the other hand, community radio guru Daoud Kuttab, the inspiring blogger Lina Ejeilat and the ever positive community godfather Omar Kudsi from jeeran.com injected the passion and challenge into the talks as they shared the importance and power of citizen journalism and independent voices. Legacy media seemed to be suspicious of business and were skeptical about CSR - for the wrong reasons.
Julian Noursi from Romero Events fed us, and kept our pallets and tummies satisfied and beyond with the right mix of drinks and food throughout the day, and a killer desert table with a chocolate fountain during the afternoon coffee break to energize us with a sugar rush! Julian is that ever smiling beautiful person who runs a tight ship to bring entertainment and great food to events.
HRH Dina Mired chaired the session on Wellbeing, cleverly weaving a harmonious dialog among her session members, and sharing her own advantages and challenges of obtaining support for the outstanding King Hussein Cancer Foundation she heads. The Saudi company Savola, repped by Mrs. Faten AlYafi shared their practices and achievements to date.
At the beginning of the final session of the day, Fadi Haddad (who introduced me to Nadia), screened his graduation interactive film project which is a journey thru his relationship with his city Amman - a visual journey thru the Amman we love. Dr. Sari Naser, a fascinating sociologist ended the day as he lead this free fall session, Neighborhood Talk: My Home, My Neighbors, Our Backyard.
Today started with a big bang and ended with Dr. Sari's even bigger bang as he provoked the group into candid talks on simple personal ethics, goodness and the challenges we face cleaning up our backyards, together. The group was about 70 people, sitting in a living room style casual setting, all participated drawing on personal experiences and beliefs. I must say that I'm thrilled to have met Dr. Sari as I was working the program. He pushed me to look at a few things in new ways, as he asked me skeptical questions, which I later realised was his way of forcing me to think differently. I was able to work out a more interesting, effective program thru his indirect proding. Not the easiest person to understand, but simply exceptional and fascinating! In all, we're heading in the right direction it seems, and inspite of some glitches, road bumps and a few ego issues, generally a good first day.
Full videos of all seven sessions here.