Friday, May 15, 2015

5 Ways YOU can raise awareness and support for LGBT youth on IDAHOT

Today we are featuring an article by Mary T. Guerrant, on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. Read below to learn more about this event and how to participate, specifically, 5 way YOU can raise awareness and support for LGBT youth on IDAHOT.

The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT) is May 17th!

By: Mary T. Guerrant, MS, a doctoral student at North Carolina State University and a member of APAGS-CSOGD.





On May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, and since 2005 the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT) has commemorated that day. It is a global occasion for individuals, groups, and organizations to take action on topics related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and to advocate for more accepting public policies. Each year a global focus for IDAHOT is chosen and this year’s is LGBT youth.

How can you get involved to raise awareness and support for LGBT youth? Here are five quick ways:

1. Inform yourself. Check out the official website for IDAHOT, where you can learn about what different groups worldwide are doing to raise support and awareness for LGBT youth and you can also follow IDAHOT onTwitter (@May17IDAHOT) and Facebook.

2. Take social media by storm. Join the IDAHOT Thunderclap campaign. Thunderclap is a service that you give permission to post a preset message on your social media pages on May 17 in honor of IDAHOT. When multiple people post on Facebook and Twitter at the same time, it creates a bigger buzz.

3. Be an advocate for LGBT youth. You can do this on your campus and in your community. Work with LGBT groups on your campus and in your community to help generate interest in IDAHOT and raise awareness of the unique challenges and experiences faced by LGBT students. Although there are plenty of resources out there, here are a few to get you started…


4. Support fellow LGBT graduate students. Tell your peers what is out there and specifically for them. The APAGS Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity has long been advocating on behalf of this community. It currently offers a set of free training webisodes on special topics (e.g., coming out to your clients), a climate guide (PDF) and a survival/resource guide, an academic-year mentoring program, two grants (one for training and the other for dissertation research), the APAGSLGBT listserv, and much more.

5. Support other youth around the world. Consider donating to the IDAHOT movement and help fund one of several activities worldwide planned, including public marches and demonstrations, publications in national newspapers, festivals, education and public awareness raising, flash mobs, and the support of LGBT rights organizations internationally.


Picture caption: Last year’s IDAHOT at CQ University in Sydney, Australia brings the message, “Being straight is no excuse for homophobia.” (Source: Acon Online for Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

APA wants every day to be an IDAHOT day. For more information about how we support LGBT communities and a list of resources for becoming engaged in action, check this page out.  Remember, every action counts in the fight for LGBT youth around the world!

Friday, May 1, 2015

At the Intersection of Community Psychology and Undergraduate Business Education

THEory into ACTion

A Bulletin of New Developments in Community Psychology Practice
April, 2015

by
Hermann J. Schneider, MBA, National Louis University
Agnieszka A. Hanni, MA, National Louis University
Suzette Fromm Reed, PhD, National Louis University

        Liberal arts colleges and universities tend to lead in encouraging intergroup relations and building diverse social opportunities for students – both values that are embraced in community psychology. These principles, however, are challenged in traditional business courses in which the application of theory is exemplified with entrepreneurial success of such celebrated figures as Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates. 

        The problem with this approach is that the triumphs of those iconic “gold standards” are much less common in reality than what is portrayed in those courses. And since in the U.S. the majority of small business owners are members of diverse cultural groups, including first- generation college students, these examples are even less relevant (Stephens, Fryberg, Markus, Johnson, & Covarrubias, 2012). The current report highlights the impact of this shortcoming while offering a pedagogical solution to improving outcomes of students from diverse backgrounds.  

        Most entrepreneurial education programs fail to take into consideration cultural challenges encountered by students of diverse backgrounds (Kauffman Foundation, 2008). The future business owners of hair salons, fitness centers, and fast food restaurants have very little in common with the role models presented to them in class. The American spotlight on independence, encouragement of taking risks, and reliance on equal opportunity are all values that are much less salient to students of diverse backgrounds (Stephens et al., 2012). In their case, more value is placed on lengthier decision-making processes grounded in security of lower-risk decisions.  They also tend to lack social capital and financial foundations that can offset perceived risks in their future business ventures. 

Method

        One way to overcome the cultural discrepancy in business courses in the U.S. is to employ an innovative two-fold teaching approach. The method relies on two steps: 1) personal SWOT analyses to determine individual students’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (Bartol & Martin, 1991), with the goal of increasing their self-efficacy and sense of empowerment, followed by 2) built-in opportunities to identify and associate with untraditional and unexpected role models, with the goal of increasing relevance to students of diverse cultural backgrounds and expanding the idea of entrepreneurial success. This two-fold method is unique as it utilizes theory and application in a single approach – a goal valued in community psychology. It was first pilot tested in Entrepreneurship 275 at Dominican University, Brennan School of Business, in River Forest, IL. 

Step 1.
        In the first step of the method, the students examine the traits of average successful entrepreneurs (cf. Scarborough, 2013). In the same step, they conduct a personal SWOT analysis to determine which of their own traits help them excel and which need to be improved. The results of the personal SWOT analysis are then used to develop a unique value proposition for each student, complete with ideas for tackling existing weaknesses, before the students attempt to engage in their own business ventures.

        The SWOT analysis is a framework of evaluating strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (Bartol & Martin, 1991). In community psychology, it is often utilized in social marketing initiatives to promote specific community-wide behavioral responses to local challenges. In the world of business, it is common to use SWOT to analyze the value proposition of current business ventures. But applying SWOT principles to analyze one’s own traits as they relate to likelihood of future business success is an innovative way to promote self-efficacy and sense of empowerment. In business education, the insights that all students, but especially students of diverse backgrounds, can gather from their personal SWOT analyses can highlight their unique strengths and reveal any obstacles that may stifle their success. 

Step 2.
        The second step of the two-fold teaching method of business education requires creating structured opportunities for incorporating untraditional role models that students of diverse backgrounds have more in common with. The goal of this step is to present individuals who exemplify entrepreneurial success despite their less-than-favorable circumstances similar to those of students of diverse cultural backgrounds. In order to access these individuals, educators can rely on publicly available resources. One of those resources is the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website, which provides access to 348 chapters of small businesses in urban, suburban, and rural communities. Another resource to educators is the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) and the World Presidents’ Organization (WPO), featuring business owners who use their entrepreneurial success to make a difference in society. 

        The key in this step of the two-fold method of teaching business education is to handpick speakers who lacked formal education; had limited English language proficiency; experienced minimal professional guidance; and did not have a buffer of social networks. Introducing students in a classroom to these untraditional role models who have succeeded despite their unique obstacles offers a crucial element of reinforcement for students navigating the opportunities and limitations of their own circumstances. Moreover, this step of the two-fold method also promotes positive feelings associated with diversity and membership in a non-dominant group – principles valued in community psychology.


Results 

        Students who took part in the pilot test of this innovative two-fold teaching method of undergraduate business have reported increased self-awareness and sense of empowerment despite challenges specific to their diverse background. In the course evaluations, one student wrote: “My personal SWOT analysis helped me expand my perspective and outlook of life that facilitated my developmental growth in different aspects.” Another student wrote:  “I am a strong believer that dimensions of culture such as language barriers and ethnicity influence or limit me from pursuing my personal goals. Developing my personal SWOT analysis gave me the confidence and motivation to believe in my dreams and most importantly in myself.” Finally, another account read: “This semester I heard the testimonials of individuals, some who did not even attend college, and I was inspired…. Too many times we look at individuals like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and think we could never be them.” 

Implications

        These examples of positive feedback on the two-fold teaching method of business courses described in this report suggest innovative ways to bridge American cultural values with the unique challenges faced by students of diverse backgrounds. They also provide support for increased theoretical applicability of the two-fold approach beyond college years, and into students’ future entrepreneurial ventures. Finally, the merits of the two-fold approach can be replicated to increase self-efficacy and sense of empowerment of specific cultural groups studied in community psychology, as well as training of professionals in other fields.



This is one of a series of bulletins highlighting the use of community psychology in practice. Comments, suggestions, and questions are welcome. Please direct them to Bill Berkowitz at Bill_Berkowitz@uml.edu 

References

Bartol, K. M. & Martin, D. C. (1991). Management. New York: McGraw Hill, Inc.

Charney A., Libecap, G. D. & the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation (2000). Insights: A Kauffman Research Series. http://entrepreneurship.eller.arizona.edu/Docs/Evaluation/Impactevaluation_Entrepreneurshipprogram_UA.Pdf 

Scarbourough, N. M. (2013). Essentials of Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management. Pearson, 7th ed. 

Stephens, N. M., Fryberg, S. A., Markus, H. R., Johnson, C. S., & Covarrubias, R. (2012). Unseen disadvantage: How American universities' focus on independence undermines the academic performance of first-generation college students. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 6, 1178-97. 



Saturday, April 11, 2015

5 Ways Black Churches are Engaging in HIV Prevention

In her blog, Terrinieka Williams Powell, Ph.D., talks about 5 ways Black Churches are engaging in HIV prevention. According to the author, despite accounting for less than 15% of the U.S. population, African Americans account for nearly half of all new HIV infections. Dr. Williams Powell points out that because the Black Church has been, and continues to be a place of support, comfort, and inspiration for many people, it has a potential to successfully address the HIV epidemic in the Black community. She reports on studies that show the growing HIV prevention and treatment efforts of Black churches in the United States.  Here is the full blog from the APA's Psychology Benefits Society.

Friday, February 27, 2015

An Introduction to Creative Placemaking

THEory into ACTion

A Bulletin of New Developments in Community Psychology Practice
February, 2015

by
Elizabeth R. Stone, Pacifica Graduate Institute

        Creative Placemaking can most succinctly be described as an evolving set of practices that involve community members in revitalizing and developing their communities in a way that includes arts and cultural workers and their products to enhance everyone’s quality of life.  It could be argued that projects similar to creative placemaking have been undertaken for decades; however it is only recently that the term has been developed and has been gaining traction as a focus of community development funding and projects. Such projects offer many opportunities to which community psychologists might contribute.

        There is a great diversity in the types of projects that have been funded to date.  Low income or supported housing or live/work sites for artists, mural projects that involve youth in a training component, development of a community arts center, mobile apps that link local artists to potential customers, and a series of art-centric events in an abandoned site exemplify the range of possibilities. This suggests that funding can be available for imaginative larger scale projects where a strong sense of place is integrated with arts and culture to inform project development and final products in a way that brings vitality to a languishing area or community.



        One of the benefits of creative placemaking is that it supports cross- sector partnerships.  Public, non-profit, and private ventures are called upon to work together.  It also invites cross-discipline work, as transportation or housing agency entities may become involved with community or arts and cultural individuals and institutions.  It is seen by many as a way to better leverage an investment because of the many players involved. Some examples follow.


  • Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s (LISC) Institute for Comprehensive Community Development is one of several organizations that have conducted several major creative placemaking projects throughout the US.  One of these was Resilient Communities, Resilient Families, launched in 2011 in Boston.  To engage residents, community organizations, and other stakeholders in the planning process they asked, “What’s next for the neighborhood?”  Artists emerged as key players.  They both articulated the importance of culture in community revitalization and brought creativity to the planning process.  They helped bring to life who lived in the community, what mattered most in terms of quality of life, and why the community was loved through means such as storytelling or creative depictions that went beyond traditional data gathered.  Working to facilitate the success of artists as entrepreneurs, services devised included business plan training, increased access to capital, and expanded venues for arts performance and display.  

        A project highlight was Bartlett Events, a summer-long series of events held at a vacant bus yard slated for redevelopment.  Murals adorned the site as residents came together in new ways.  Another innovation was the development of a social enterprise initiative called New Art Love that created a mobile art application to link local artists to potential buyers for their work.  Descriptions of other projects can be found in their Thinking Out Loud blog about creative placemaking (http://www.instituteccd.org/resources/5010).

  • In Lawrence, Kansas, the Lawrence Arts Center received $500,000 last year from Artplace to implement the “Free State Boulevard: From the Studio to the Streets” project, designed to revitalize and re-engage a six-block stretch that links downtown Lawrence with a warehouse arts area.  Multi-modal paths, upgraded amenities, and new models of urban infrastructure are planned to help integrate and cross-pollinate the two communities.  
  • Fargo, North Dakota received $450,000 from Artplace last year to further develop and implement plans for a World Gardens Commons that would transform an 18-acre storm water detention basin that has historically isolated the Native American and immigrant populations living next to it.  An environmental artist is leading teams of artists in partnership with social service organizations to involve residents in programming and activation.  This builds on the $260,000 awarded in 2013 to the Plains Art Museum for plans for Defiant Gardens in the Fargo-Moorhead communities.
  • The Rebuild Foundation was awarded $125,000 in 2011 by Artplace to convert an abandoned building in the Dorchester neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side into the Black Cinema House Live/Work Space where films, videos, and media works arising from the community will be made, shared, and discussed.  The scope of this project was expanded and additional funding was secured.  The Washington Park Arts Incubator is a joint project of The University of Chicago Arts and Public Life Initiative, the Office of Civic Engagement, and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, which built on the initial impetus of the Rebuild Foundation.  It received $400,000 in 2012 to continue work on this vision.  The three artists-in-residence announced for 2013-2014 were a musician and composer, a poet and visual artist, and an artist, designer, and educator.
        As can be gleaned from the above, a major funder of creative placemaking projects is Artplace (http://www.artplaceamerica.org).  It is a consortium of twelve foundations and two anonymous donors, with six major financial institutions as  partners, and several federal agencies providing  advice and counsel as well.  Artplace has invested a total of $56.8 million in 189 projects in 122 communities across 42 states and the District of Columbia since 2012 in amounts ranging from $50,000-$500,000.

        Many of the foundations that are part of the Artplace consortium also fund projects on their own. One of these is The Kresge Foundation (http://kresge.org).  It also partners with other foundation members of the Artplace consortium such as the Surdna Foundation.  The two recently announced a plan to award $1.3 million to seven community development financial institutions in a two-year effort to integrate arts, culture, and creativity into community revitalization efforts.
     
        The document that set the theoretical foundation for the burgeoning field is Creative Placemaking, a 2010 white paper for The Mayors’ Institute on City Design, itself a leadership initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the United States Conference of Mayors and the American Architectural Foundation.  In it, the following definition of creative placemaking was offered:

  • In creative placemaking, partners from public, private, non-profit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities. Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire, and be inspired.

        Such a broad definition can be good news for folks involved in community psychology and community work, because it means there is room for creatively developing projects that can get some of the generous funding that is starting to be earmarked for creative placemaking.

        One of authors of the 2010 white paper was Ann Markusen, based at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, where she is Director of the Arts Economy Initiative and the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics.  Her co-author was Anne Gadwa Nicodemus, a choreographer and arts administrator before becoming involved with urban planning.  She is the principal at Metris Arts Consulting and is considered one of the leading experts in the field.  Her website (http://metrisarts.com/creative-placemaking/) has links to most of her pioneering work, including the 2010 report.   (See also a special 2014 issue on creative placemaking sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Francisco, at http://www.frbsf.org/community-development/files/cdir-10-02-creative-placemaking.pdf.)

        Nicodemus has noted some challenges within the new field.  Its metrics are still being developed: How are things like return on investments measured and evaluated and by whom?  Key values like agency, equity, and vibrancy can be elusive. One major criticism is that revitalizing blighted or neglected neighborhoods by making them attractive to arts and culture-minded entrepreneurs and their consumers might displace place the current residents.  Is Creative Placemaking another form of gentrification?  Many of the actors in this field seem to be conscious of this possibility and are looking for projects that actively involve and support residents, who would have  a central role in project design and development.

        Local art and culture can be an essential element of community work;  and local artists and cultural workers, as well as community psychologists, can be key participants in it.   The arts can open people to new possibilities and help build bridges across differences. Including them intentionally in one’s projects can have many benefits, including access to increased funding sources and inclusion in the discussion of an evolving new field.  Best of all, working this way can be a lot of fun for all involved.




This is one of a series of bulletins highlighting the use of community psychology in practice. Comments, suggestions, and questions are welcome. Please direct them to Bill Berkowitz at Bill_Berkowitz@uml.edu 




Thursday, February 12, 2015

10 healthy strategies youth can use to cope with racial discrimination

While working on an evidence-based intervention curriculum GirlPOWER!, for adolescent, African American and Latina female mentees and their adult female mentors at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago, Dr. Bernadette Sánchez and Dr. Noni Gaylord-Harden developed a handout for mentees and mentors on how youth can cope with racial discrimination in healthy ways. 

To read the full list of suggested strategies, click here

Bernadette Sánchez is an Associate Professor of Psychology at DePaul University. She is currently a member of and directs the Community Psychology Ph.D. Program.

To learn more about Dr. Sánchez's other work, visit her page

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The 2015 Community Practice Revolution

By JJ Ramirez


The revolution has begun!

        No we aren’t going to overthrow the government or riot, but 2015 will be very crucial year of change, advancement and growth for social workers across the nation and globe. To begin, lets rewind; the first social work class was offered in 1898 at Columbia University.  By 1917, Mary Ellen Richmond, known as the founding mother of social casework, created the first scientific methodology for case work. Her work played a major role in helping make social work an actual profession and by 1929 ten universities were offering a degree in social work.


        Now try and imagine what the first group of people that participated in social work had to endure. Landline phones were slowly being integrated and accessibility of phones to the poor or underprivileged was meniscal to zilch. No Internet. No Social Media. Much like Richmond, the only way social workers knew where or who to help was by networking through word of mouth and hitting the streets.

        Fast forward 117 years and you arrive in 2015. The social work profession has grown into a massive cognitive machine working on all levels. By levels I’m referring to micro (individual and families), mezzo (neighborhoods and institutions), and macro (states and countries). Each is equally important, although true positive community change begins at the mezzo level. So if the system seems to be working, why a revolution?

Improvement

        Much like Richmond improved and revolutionized the social work profession through scientific research, so too will technology have the same effect this year. For those professionals already in social work, you may have already noticed the change. The amount of resources and way’s to connect are abundant to say the least and with technology improving at a rate faster than ever before, it is easy to speculate that the amount of resources will only grow. A few resources at their disposal now are social networking, searching the internet for information on any topic, conducting in-depth research or reviewing the research of colleagues, emailing and calling colleagues and clients, and mobile apps. Apps like iGrade for Social Worker help professionals access client evaluations, notes, statistics, and progress status and many more features.


        This is huge improvement from word of mouth and hitting the streets right? I’d say so! Not only has technology helped improve social work professionals, it has also helped make a social work degree more accessible to students across the globe. How you ask? Online classes! Schools like the University of New England, Case Western Reserve University and Wake Forest University are just a few of the schools taking advantage of this medium.  By providing online classes, students can mold their online classes to fit around their schedules which in turn will help the social work field grow.

Connectivity

        The internet is making the world a smaller place, especially through social media.  It serves as a great tool for quick communication, sharing of information, and research studies among colleagues. By collaborating and sharing of information, social workers are able to keep up with relevant news and information. The collaboration through social media assists community practice campaigns by providing information to the general public of ongoing events or locations of help centers, all for free.
        Since most these resources are free, social workers at universities are taking advantage of social media by running campaigns to alert students about campus counseling centers, extended hours, hotlines and afterhours resources.

Community

        The revolution has begun and with the fast pace of technology, who knows if it will ever truly stop. What is known is that social workers that participate in community practice can utilize any and all tools to help their cause within their community. Whether it provides better resources for the poor, helping the disabled community, creating better programs for children or finding shelter for the homeless, they can save money by using free tools to reach their target audience, raise awareness, gain a gathering and ultimately change the community for the better.



J.J. Ramirez is an avid amateur cook and adventure seeker. He ran a marketing campaign for home automation systems across the U.S. tailored for middle to low income families. Through his travels he grew a passion for helping the community and coincidentally is now working towards obtaining a masters in social work. To contact him you can either email him at nevuram@gmail.com or follow his journey at https://twitter.com/nevuram.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Emerging Non Profit World in Saudi Arabia: A Promising Glimpse

By Tom Wolff


        The email arrived out of the blue in June of this year. The email was titled, “Invitation to speak at top Saudi NPO Conference!” They were inviting me to give a keynote address in early November at the annual non-profit conference at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Khobar in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I was baffled – how did they find me? Why did they want me? What were they asking of me?
     
        The last question was made clear in their email: “Knowing you are an expert, academic and consultant in the field of community development, we would like to invite you to speak at our conference and give a keynote presentation about community development and the role of the non-profit sector in light of the roles of the other two sectors (public, business).”

        So, over the next few weeks and months we talked, emailed and negotiated the topic and content of my talk. Ultimately it was titled: Enhancing Collaboration Across Government, Business and Non Profits: Building Healthy Communities in Saudi Arabia.  Throughout that time I wondered what they really wanted from me, what was awaiting me, and what was happening in Saudi Arabia. I let them know that all my community development work and healthy communities work is based on core principles of democracy and was that going to be okay to discuss in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)? They reassured me that it would be fine. So, I proceeded with their support to acquire a visa and booking flights etc.

        I read a few books on visiting Saudi Arabia and started to learn about the country as best I could from here in the US. I learned about the ‘religious police’ who enforce the wearing on burkas for women. I watched a wonderful Saudi movie, Wajdja, (from a female director) about a girl wanting to ride a bike (not acceptable). I checked out the websites on “women driving in Saudi Arabia” – which states that this is the only country in the world where women can’t drive. I learned that a large percent of the Saudi work force (especially lower level jobs) were performed by foreigners (ie 1.5 million from the Philippines). I read on the visa application that violations of Saudi drug laws were punishable by death. I was fascinated and remained baffled.

        I was told that there are 1400 non-profits in Saudi Arabia, 700 of them being Islamic teaching organizations. That leaves 700 doing the work that non-religious non-profits do here in the US. That’s not many non-profits, I imagine we have 700 non-profits just here in western Massachusetts.

        They later informed me that on top of the keynote they also wanted me to offer a 6 hour workshop on the actual ‘how to’s’ of community development and to consult on some of their projects while I was there --- it was going to be a busy visit.

        Just before leaving,  I learned of the amazing roster of presenters that they had lined up for this two day event:  Bunker Roy and Meagan Carnahan of the Barefoot College in India; Iqbal Quadir from MIT focused on inclusive ventures in low income countries ie. Grameenphone in Bangaladesh; Aaron Hurst on the Purpose Economy and  Pro Bono as a Powerful Solution; Rodrigo Baggio of Brazil Center for Schools on Digital Inclusion in Rio’s favelas; Tony Meloto who  builds sustainable communities in slum areas in the Philippines, Farm Village Universities; Robert Ashcroft from Arizona State University on  Creating and Sustaining Non -profit Workforce; Michael Grogan from Calgary, Canada on Workforce development in non-profit sector;, and Stephen Brien from England on Social Impact Bonds. This was a much more fascinating line up of speakers than I have heard at a US non-profit conference in decades.

        Most of them were much more prominent on the global scene than I was ie. Bunker Roy one of “the 100 most influential people in the world” and Rodrigio “top leader in South American to watch” both by Time Magazine. But as my visit evolved it became clear that my host, Salem Aldini (a professor of mechanical engineering), was planning to  develop a Non Profit Institute at King Fahd University and to launch community development projects across the country starting with a few pilots. This was my area of expertise.

        So I began to understand that I was chosen as someone who could convey specific processes and tools for their hand- picked audience of 150 non- profit and family foundation leaders. I could also expose them to tools in the Community Tool Box (ctb.ku.edu) which is translated into Arabic.



        During my four days I began on day one by working with a small group consultation with the faculty who would be the facilitators in my upcoming six hour workshop, gave the kick off keynote address, followed by an afternoon discussion session.  Then, two days later, a consultation to the teams planning the community development pilot and another team working on youth interventions who were looking for innovative ways of assessing youth needs. Finally I delivered a six hour workshop to a small hand chosen group of 35 non- profit and foundation leaders. It was a workout for them and me.

        The Saudi faculty, foundation and non- profit leaders whom I met with in the small group consultations were very serious about trying to bring community development innovations to the Saudi non- profit and foundation world. They asked lots of questions, took lots of notes. Clearly, they were most curious about this work. This is startling in light of the repression and limited practice of democracy in Saudi Arabia. We often got to the point in a discussion, especially when talking about evaluation and documentation, where they said that although the government collects data it is generally unavailable to those in the university, foundation and the non-profit world.

        In one small group I did learn of people working at the community level bringing the three sectors (business, government, non- profit) together to address crises over the last few years such as: the flooding in Jeddah, the influx of Kuwaiti refugees after the Gulf War, and helping female teachers get transportation to work.

        The second class citizenship of women was always present in our discussion. The keynote audience was all male in the auditorium, while the talk and slides were also shown in a separate conference room to the women. At the buffet breakfast one morning a woman in full burka addresses me; she was a participant in the other room – liked my talk but complained about Bunker’s Barefoot College because it took the Grandmas away from villages to become solar engineers. Why not take the men? She is Secretary General of the International Islamic Women’s Association. I asked if it was alright for me to sit with her for breakfast (I was fascinated). Although, she said ‘yes’, when I sat down she spent all her time of the cell phone – so I assumed it was not really acceptable and I moved.

        A few people attending the conference explained to me that Mohammed both worked and prayed side by side with his wife – so that the precedent for the separation of the women was not really clear.

        Of course, in most cultures, to my knowledge women do the core community building work, often below the radar. That has been true in almost all my community development and coalition building work in the US. But in KSA, it is tricky to build coalitions because men and women have to be separate – we were deep into a conversation about a planned model community development project in a limited geographic area (a city neighborhood) when I asked whether we would be able to mobilize the men and the women together – I was told “no”, that it would be two separate but coordinated efforts – mind boggling to an American community builder.

        But interestingly enough, at 9 PM in my workshop all of a sudden a number of the men left – I was later told that they had promised their wives that they would be home by 9 PM!



        Religious questions often surfaced during my visit. In almost all the question and answer sessions there would be statements about what the Koran said. Often these questions were not really questions but some statement of Islamic teachings that might or might not relate directly to what had just been said. Many of the Saudis were eager for us to leave with a better understanding of Islam. To that end, we were presented with copies of the Koran and a six set DVD set on understanding Islam.

        My workshop was entitled “Enhancing Collaboration with Government Business and Non Profits – A workshop on Tools and Processes for Success.”  It included an overview of collaboration, and the five key principles of collaborative solutions from my book (The Power of Collaborative Solutions). I helped them take a view of non-profit functions beyond individual, remedial work done by professionals and to expand to working with families, tribes, the whole society and going beyond remediation to include prevention, development and empowerment as legitimate non-profit functions. This seemed to be an important expansion of scope for them. We covered planning tools such as: coalition start up and planning, SWOT Analysis, visioning, force field analysis, developing a road map, barriers, tools for engaging the community and finally collaborative leadership. The Community Tool Box was demonstrated. The participants were eager to engage with all the material but it was hard to tell exactly how much they would actually take back with them and use. Doing an English/Arabic bilingual workshop for 35 participants over six hours with two breaks for prayer was a new experience for me. Having all the worksheets translated into Arabic was wonderful but it made it impossible for me to indicate which the appropriate page was. They all seemed to humor me as we proceeded, and I will be anxious to see the evaluations. The informal feedback after the workshop was very positive.

Some startling other learnings: 

  • English is the official language at King Fahd University (and also in the Saudi business world), KSA was described jokingly as the 51st US state.
  • The average size of a Saudi Family Foundations was said to be $10 Billion!
  • The warmth and hospitality of the Saudis was remarkable. People were always offering to help and sincerely interested in our well- being during the stay. One afternoon my very accommodating host, Ahmad, was going to take me to a store where we could buy dates to take back to my family. We went to the nearby mall but it was closed for prayer, so as we were leaving we saw two men having a cup of coffee (or Arabic tea). Ahmad asked them for a recommendation of a store and directions and they had a lengthy chat. We then went to find Ahmad’s car, but just like in the US who can find their car in a Mall’s parking lots? About five minutes later one of the men we had just talked to came running up. He had thought of a better date store for us to go to. Amazing hospitality! 


So what did I bring home?


        I loved the adventure and foreignness of the whole experience in a totally different culture.

        I was excited by the opportunities that Salem Aldini has opened up for a developing non-profit world in KSA.

        I am eager to help in the next phases of their progress. Many participants indicated that they were eager to have me come back – but in all honesty I am not sure that that wasn’t just Arabian hospitality and warmth. On the other hand, Salem informed me that he arranged for my visa to be good for five years (the visa is in Arabic so I have no idea what it says) – so maybe I will return. I would enjoy that.

        Also, I was able to reflect on how my enthusiasm for the future of non-profits in KSA did not match my experience of the non- profit world in the US in 2014. Here, I see the non- profit world becoming increasing conservative, become averse to risk, and to sticking their neck out and naming the issues that stare us in the face (racism, economic inequality, etc.). Maybe we in the US can re-capture that sense of adventure that comes from an emerging non-profit sector – but I am not sure what will make that happen.


Tom Wolff