Growth & Expansion: A Year in Review & A Year Ahead!Ā 

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

I hope 2023 is treating you well and that it brings you a lot of health, wealth, and happiness! šŸ˜€

2022, just like its predecessors, has brought with it a plethora of challenges and hits on all of us. Challenges like changes in market needs, pricing schizophrenia, logistics limitations, fluctuating global situation, and last but not least, for me, a great loss on the personal level, have made this year a tough one to handle, to say the least. Nevertheless, at times pushing against the current, and other times riding it, alongside amazing, family, friends, partners and team members, has made it an outstanding year in terms of growth and expansion and the plans ahead are even more ambitious, so I would like to share with you some updates from my end on RPS MENA, JPC Ltd, RainMakers, and the Youssef Tabsh Foundation among other things Iā€™m currently part of.

I have a lot to say to be honest, but I will try to keep it brief, insightful, and hopefully inspire you to be optimistic and to think of growth despite everything going on in the local, regional, and global arena.

Growth and success from my perspective are not accidental but intentional. They are a deliberate effort being put day-in and day-out by all those involved. Everyone ought to be doing all they can to keep on learning, testing things, trying new ideas, being hopeful in times of despair, daring to dream of things that do not exist yet, planning for 5 and 10 years ahead when we sometimes feel we can not anticipate what is going to happen next month, and yet putting everything we have into action to make things work. Do they always work? Definitely not always from the first time! We do mistakes; we might feel weā€™re failing or that things are not going as planned, but building feedback loops, rapidly adapting, and pushing forward is definitely bound to make things work in the end in the given context and resources.

Here are some highlights from my end for 2022.

RPS MENA

As many of you already know, it has already been 5 years since RPS MENA, a research, consulting, and training firm headquartered in Beirut, was founded by my sister Ghina and myself and expanded to another office in Istanbul over a year ago. Over the past 5 years, we have been primarily focused on serving the development sector (NGOs, INGOs, UN, WorldBank, IFC, CSOs, Networks, Coalitions..), though we have had a fair share of private sector clients across industries and partnered/supported service providers and other organizations that work with them.

In 2022 we are glad to say that weā€™ve had yet another record-breaking year with more projects, more consultants engaged, more clients served, more consulting days put, more training days delivered, and more research projects implemented than any of the previous years. With that, weā€™ve expanded our team with 2 new team members and many more consultants and experts that we work with on a project basis, and we are now serving more countries than ever before, including Iraq, UAE, KSA, and Turkey.

Despite all the economic, social, and financial challenges impacting Lebanon, Turkey, and the region, we have invested in our steady growth, building internal infrastructure and proper systems, and most importantly in having on board the right team members and partners that we can build with and grow with for many years to come.

Feel free to check out our RPS MENA Corporate Overview for 2023

Websitewww.rpsmena.com

Just Peace Consulting Ltd (JPC Ltd)

JPC Ltd is a peace-building and conflict transformation firm established in late 2022 in Cyprus by Jean-Paul and me, to serve the EMEA region. Though it was established just a few months ago, we have already attracted a considerable amount of talent to join our Talent Roster, we have applied to several new projects, met with potential clients, recruited a new team member to help us in Coordinating Projects, and we believe 2023 is going to be an eventful and exciting year.

As part of our knowledge-sharing ethos, we are organizing a free webinar, on February February 7, at 6:30 pm Beirut time, titled ā€œTransforming Conflict: A Systemic Approachā€. We would love it if you join us and if you know others who might be interested in the field of Peace Building, Conflict Analysis, Conflict Transformation, and the like, then this is definitely for them. 

Webinar Registration LinkTransformative Conflict Webinar Registration

You can learn more about JPC Ltd via our JPC Ltd Corporate Overview for 2023

Websitewww.justpeaceconsulting.com

Rain Makers

Rain Makers supports organizations (NGOs and others) to improve their opportunity identification, donor mapping, proposal success rates, and developing fundraising strategies and partnership-building capabilities with a participatory approach. 

It is legally incorporated late 2022 in Istanbul, Turkey, serving all EMEA region, and is the brainchild of my friend Antoun Andrea and I, as a spin-off of services we used to offer separately through our different vehicles. Thus we decided to join forces, synergize and build something that can positively impact so many lives by helping organizations identify more grants, tenders, bids, and funding opportunities while we can also support them in developing those proposals to help them grow.

We did a soft launch in the last two months and are happy to say that we already got more than a handful of clients and partners that we are serving and the list is growing steadily.

If you are interested to know more, and see how we can help you fundraise, identify more opportunities, write better proposals, map donors and the likeā€¦then  I invite you to register for our official Launching Webinar, taking place on February 15 at 11:00 am Beirut Time.

Webinar Link: Rain Makers Launching Event Registration Form

Websitewww.rainmakersemea.com

Youssef Tabsh Foundation

Last but not least, it has been a year since my father, Dr. Youssef Tabsh, passed away, and thus a year since we established the Youssef Tabsh Foundation. The Foundation focuses mostly on the causes that he used to be a passionate advocate and supporter of including Social Justice, Medical & Health Services Accessibility to All, and Pan-Arab Collaboration in education, culture, business, and economy among other avenues.

Accordingly, throughout the first year of its establishment, we focused on building its internal policies, procedures, governance, volunteer manuals, developing a way forward, strategy, and some high-level initiatives. In parallel to that, we kept his legacy of philanthropic giving under the three pillars mentioned above to various individuals, families, and organizations in need.

This year, we launched the Youssef Tabsh Foundation Financial Sustainability & Fundraising Support program for Medical & Health NGOs targeting 20 NGOs in the Arab nation. We received a considerably bigger number of applications than we expected and thus ended up expanding our program to cater to 38 organizations, almost doubling our target from the kick-start.

The aim of the program is to empower those NGOs on the best practices in Fundraising, Proposal Writing, and Opportunity Identification and coach them to develop their fundraising strategies to become more financially sustainable. Our belief is that it is better to teach others how to fish, than to give them a fish, and thus helping those NGOs develop the needed capacities or enhance their existing capacities in one way or another, would make a substantially bigger impact than any monetary donation we can offer as a foundation.

The program kicked off in January and will continue till end of April 2023. 

To learn more about the foundation, you can check its website, and you can also connect to our social media pages where we will be posting more about the NGOs weā€™re supporting and announcing new programs and initiatives throughout the year.

Websitewww.yousseftabshfoundation.org

Other Random Stuff

Since my brain cannot rest and there is always something I want to learn, things I still want to do, Iā€™ll share a few thoughts about things Iā€™m working on, or others that are to be launched/announced in due time.

Publishing my first book: A friend of mine, and I are currently co-authoring a book which Iā€™m very excited about, and planning to base several educational, coaching, and support programs on it. The full announcement and details will follow in due time.

WAAAUB Turkey Chapter: As some might know, Iā€™ve relocated to Istanbul almost 1.5 years ago with my family, and since then I helped establish the AUBā€™s Alumni Chapter in Turkey that I currently serve as VP. Since then, Iā€™m happy to say that we have been quite active with events, both online and face-to-face, and now the community has grown to more than 60 members in just a year. Itā€™s always good to connect with Alumni from our Alma Mater and hoping 2023 will be even business, more active and more engaging to all involved.. 

Training, Job Opportunities & Scholarships: For those who have known me since my days in Aie Serve, Global Shapers and other youth-led NGos, I constantly try to share opportunities for free or paid training opportunities, new job opportunities, and scholarships whenever I find them. I see the offers and demand are increasing and happy to say that through Whatsap Communities, we are able to do that at a scale and ease we could never have thought of before. Communities are growing in the thousands and opportunities are plenty. Mostly Lebanon-specific, which is much needed. So for those interested in sharing opportunities, or to receive, drop me a message to add you to the appropriate Whatsapp Community or direct you to the different Social Media Pages/groups. Just be specific about what you have in mind.

Wrapping it Up

With all the above, I cannot be thankful enough for Godā€™s innumerable gifts and for everyone who has contributed to the success of any of the above, whether through direct or indirect involvement.

I feel blessed every day working and collaborating with individuals that are profoundly good-willed, ethical, and professional. All in all, it makes working enjoyable and smooth, and with a high level of trust that together, we can achieve great things.

As a way of giving back, if you have ideas about something you want to implement, a new project, new business, or new initiative and you do not know how to start or want to discuss it with someone, Iā€™d be happy to support you. Drop me a message and weā€™ll agree on a common time to do a quick Zoom call to help you out.

2023ā€¦ here we come! šŸ˜€

Afif 

Your Hyper-Active Optimistic Friend!

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Elected To Lead A Coalition of 30+ NGOs

wahdatouna-khalasouna-logo-squareFew days ago, I was elected to lead a coalition containing more than 30 NGOs and 10s of individuals working towards promoting and sustaining civil peace in Lebanon. The coalition is called “Wahdatouna Khalasouna” which means “Our Unity is Our Salvation”. As the name highlights, the focus of the coalition is bring together a plethora of non-profits, experts, activists and academicians to work on issues that might hinder or threaten civil peace in Lebanon.

Our work as a coalition is to tackleĀ the different themes that have an impact on civil peace including but not limited to: human equality, environment, armed conflicts, reconciliation and post-conflict peace building, youth employment and empower, womenĀ in leadership,Ā media biases among others.

The coalition is more than 7 years old and I’ve been a proud member since its inception. Back then, my own NGO, Aie Serve, was operating for almost 3 years and we believedĀ that as a youth organization we have a stake in this matter and wanted our voices to be heard. So from joining the coalition as an NGO representative all the way to becoming a member of the steering committee in the last round of elections to recently becoming the General Coordinator of the coalition. IT’s been an interesting journey and for sure I’ve learned a lot from the previous leadership of the coalition and will continue to ask for their guidance and support throughout the upcoming years.

So the journey starts this month in setting up the new strategy, framework and modus operandiĀ for the future of the coalition and its projected impact on our society.

For the time being, I invite you to check our Website and Facebook Page and bare with us while we update and relaunch them in the coming few months.

 

Unsung Hero – Youssef Aziz

It’s been quite a long time since I wrote any posts on my blog, but thereĀ are certain things that can’t be kept silent for too long. This is a message of gratitude to an unsung hero.

369751_529295847_1488966648_n_400x400I’d like you to meet Youssef Aziz,
a dear friend of mine, an activist, an a true unsung hero in several NGOs I’m engaged with.

This gentleman works behind the scenes, does double the effort than most,Ā has the kindest of hearts and a brilliance that is rare to find.

Topping all of that, he is down to earth and a true believer in the values of the organizations he joins/founds/advises.

What triggered my post is the fact that this week…one of the dear NGOs to his heart, and mine, has been officially shut down. It wasn’t shut down by force or by external factors but by an unanimousĀ Board decision, including Mr. Aziz. The choice was tough for all of us, but I know for a fact that it is by far the toughest onĀ him than any of us.

In spite of all that, he’s been orchestrating the process, handing all the necessary documents and coordination to ensure a smooth and successful transitioning for the status of the organization.

But his efforts, input and value is not just about this NGO, but rather for the past 9 years I’ve known him in, he’s been the most trustworthy, consistent and resourceful individual in my volunteeringĀ experience.

So to you Youssef I want to say, your work shows when the organizations you’re involved in succeeds in whatever decisions it takes. To you I say, and bluntly, if it wasn’t for you, at least 4 NGOs that you and I know of/volunteer with/advised, wouldn’t have succeeded or existed. So what you’ve done, is setup the infrastructure for those NGOs to be built on, serve others and grow.

On my behalf, and undoubtedly on the behalf of many others, I say thank you for who you are, what you’ve done and what you continue to do day in day out.

 

NGO Leadership & Management Competency Model

Hello my dear reader,

I’ve successfully finished myĀ Masters in Human Resources Management (MHRM) program at AUB. My focus wasĀ on Training and Development, thus I developed an NGO Leadership & Management Competency Model. It led to a tentative design of a training program that I will later develop to be offered to NGOs, possibly in partnership with some of the top universities in the region.

I didĀ in-depth literature review on the topic of core competencies for Leadership & Management in NGOs in Lebanon and globally. Following the research, I organized 2 focus groups, bringing in the insights of experienced professionals in NGOs, Training and Development.Ā Based on the findings, I published aĀ survey to further verify the findings and have a wider input from a diverse background of individuals.

This mixed-methods research project resulted in a detailed analysis of competencies and training and development preferences for the target group. Here is a brief report of the findings: NGO Management Leadership Competency Model

Moreover, the above videoĀ is a 30min video of the defense I did on the project in front of the jury and here is the link of the article published on the Lebanese Development Network Website: LDN Article.

If you have any suggestions, questions or need any clarifications, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Afif Tabsh

NGO Competency Model Process

NGO Management Competency Model

NGO Competency Model Process

With the proliferation of NGOs in Lebanon and around the world, there is a growing need to empower their staff and volunteers with the needed skills, knowledge and abilities (KSAs) or what is also known as competencies to do their role properly.

In parallel to that, there are hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent annually on training workshops and courses for NGOs. Yet most of them happen without a structured approach to assess the actual needs and gaps to design the appropriate training/coaching/mentoring programs that best fit their situation.

In this context, I’m proposing a full fledged study that incorporates literature review, focus groups, interviews and surveys to do an in-depth quantitative and qualitative analysis of the necessary competencies for individuals managing NGOs.

The aim is to do this study with a multi-stakeholder approach that involves not just the NGOs but also the donor agencies, training providers and academicians.

As a result of the study, an NGO Management Competency Model will be developed. Based on that competency model, potential capacity building programs (training courses, workshops, mentoring programs and coaching sessions) will be designed to cater to the different needs of organizations and their staff and volunteers.

The above concept is not uncommon in certain industries and professions like Human Resources and Project Management professions, so a similar approach will be adopted for the aforementioned initiative.

Let me know your thoughts on the above and if you feel you’re interested in playing a role in this study.

NGOs 101: Field of Work of NGOs

NGOs 101 Series

Many of those I meet think that NGOs are limited to charity work and philanthropy. Yet throughout my work with NGOs, I’ve realized that they cover almost every aspect of “industries” or “field of work” that many of the Private Sector cover, as well as those of Public Sector and UN agencies.

Here’s a quick overview of the list of “industries” or “fields of work” that NGOs cover:

  1. Advocacy & Awareness
  2. Agriculture
  3. Business & Economic Policy
  4. Child Education
  5. Youth Empowerment
  6. Citizenship
  7. Communication
  8. Conflict Resolution
  9. Peace Building
  10. ICT
  11. Culture & Society
  12. Democracy & Civic Rights
  13. Rural Development
  14. Disability & Handicap
  15. Displaced Population & Refugees
  16. Education
  17. Environment
  18. Family Care
  19. Women’s Rights
  20. Governance
  21. Health
  22. Human Rights
  23. Charity/Philanthropy
  24. Labor
  25. Law & Legal Affairs
  26. Migrant Workers
  27. Relief
  28. Reconstruction
  29. Rehabilitation
  30. Research & Studies
  31. Science
  32. Social Media
  33. Technology
  34. Transparency
  35. Training & Capacity Building

Thus, the next time you hear of someone working in NGO, I kindly ask you not to label them as “Charity Worker” as many NGOs are not limited to charity work.

NGOs 101: What are NGOs?

NGOs 101 Series

Many times I get asked: What are NGOs? The answer is usually a bit more complex than youā€™d expect.

But before going into my own definition, let me share with you some definitions by some renowned sources. So here they are:

  • ā€œA non-governmental organization (NGO) is a legally constituted organization created by natural or legal persons that operates independently from any government.ā€- www.UN.org
  • ā€œA non-governmental organization (NGO) is any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group which is organized on a local, national or international level.ā€ –Ā  www.NGO.org
  • ā€œA nongovernment organization is an association which is based on the common interests of its members, individuals, or institutions has no governmental status or function, and is not created by a government, nor is its agenda set or implemented by a government.ā€ – www.SIL.org
  • ā€œPrivate organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community developmentā€ – www.WorldBank.org

 

Now the problem is, none of the above is complete or accurate, here is why:

  • The UN definition misses out that such organizations should have a cause for the benefit of the community and that they should be not for profit. According to UN definition, most private sector companies would fall under the category of “NGOs”, which is obviously incorrect.
  • The NGO.org definition misses out that they should not be initiated, managed or has members of NGO bodies. Moreover, it limits the to “voluntary” work, while in reality there are thousands of NGOs that have paid staff.
  • The SIL.org definition also misses out on the not for profit part, thus once again being an inadequate definition.
  • The World Bank definition misses out on many factors. Their definition misses out on the fact that should not be initiated, managed or has members of NGOs, nor that they should be not for profit. Just to name a few that is.

 

In this context, after further research, discussions and meetings with stakeholders from NGOs, I’ve managed to identify the components that one can use as a checklist to check if the organization in study is an NGO or not. Here are the components or attributes if you’d like to call them so:

  • Is a legal entity founded by natural or legal persons.
  • Not initiated nor managed by any government.
  • Doesnā€™t accept membership of governmental bodies.
  • Works to fulfill community needs rather than profit, i.e. not for profit.
  • Can be based on voluntary work, paid staff or both.

 

Using the above, I can assure you that you’d be able to clearly identify what is an NGO and what is not. You can put them in a definition as follows:

“An NGO is a legal entity founded by natural or legal persons that is not initiated nor managed by any government nor does it accept membership of governmental bodies. An NGO works to fulfill community needs rather than profit, i.e. not profit, and it can be based on voluntary work, paid staff or both.”

Thus, the following organizations are not, and should not, be considered as NGOs or labeled as such: UNDP, ESCWA, UNESCO, ILO, OPEC, FAO, Arab League.

I hope that clarifies the issue for you and I look forward to hear your feedback on the definition.

NGOs 101 Series

NGOs 101 Series
Dear reader,

Considering the sheer number of questions and consultations I get regularly about NGOs, their types, fields of work, definitions, structures, proposal writing, fundraising and the like, I will be posting a series of articles about NGOs to cover such topics.

Here is a quick overview about some of the articles I’ll be posting:
ā€¢ Defining NGOs
ā€¢ Types of NGOs (by geographic scope)
ā€¢ Fields of Work of NGOs (by industry)
ā€¢ Functional Types of NGOs (internal structure)
ā€¢ Project Management in NGOs (how it differs from those in private and public sectors)
ā€¢ Fundraising in NGOs
ā€¢ Proposal Writing in NGOs (how it differs depending on the donor/funding agency)
ā€¢ Logical Framework Approach/Matrix (what it is, how it came into existence, when is it to be used)

If you’d like to know about other topics related to NGOs don’t hesitate to drop me a comment about it.

Stay tuned!

PMI’s International Development CoP Member Spotlight – Afif Tabsh, PMP, CBAP

Dear Friends,

I’m glad to share with you the below interview/article written about me and published in Project Management Institute (PMI’s) International Development Community of Practice. Link to the official article on PMI’s website for PMI Members is here.

Enjoy the below and let me know what you think,

Afif

———————————————————————————————————-

International Development CoP Member Spotlight

Afif Tabsh, PMP, CBAP
Consultant & Trainer at CMCS ā€“ Cofounder & President at Aie Serve
Lebanon

About Afif
As a management consultant and trainer at CMCS LebanonĀ I assist corporations and NGOs in Strategic Planning, Process Improvement, Human Capital Management, Project & Program Management and Leadership.Ā 

Iā€™m especially interested in the fields of Youth Empowerment, Diversity & Acceptance, Leadership, NGO & SME Management, Social Entrepreneurship, Coaching & Consultancy, and Training Techniques.

Iā€™ve participated, organized, trained and was a guest speaker in numerous conferences, camps, workshops, conventions and seminars under Aie Serve, PMI, UNDP, UNESCO, Rotary, Youth Economic Forum, AUB Alumni Council, Arab Economic Form, LAU Peace & Justice InstituteĀ amongĀ others.

What Does International Development Mean to You?
With ourĀ growingĀ interconnected world, global diversity is becoming a key topic on discussion panels as people from all walks of life are becoming interconnected with each other, do business together, volunteer for similar causes, even though they might be thousands of miles away.

Thus respecting differences and accepting the other has become a crucial factor of successful projects, programs and organizations at large, worldwide.

What Are You Most Passionate About?
Iā€™m very passionate about professional volunteering, this has been reflected through the NGOs and clubs I have founded and others that Iā€™m engaged in at the Board level.

Who Is Your Hero & Why?
My biggest hero so far has been my father who was able to balance a very busy life as a doctor with his passion for serving the community and promoting active citizenship along with taking care of his family and private life.

What Is One Strategy for Inclusion that You Can Share?
One of my best strategies is believing in the potential of individuals and focusing on respecting the differences, accepting the other and loving them for their humanity. Every person has a lot of potential to give, itā€™s just a matter of taking your time to understand them and see things from their perspective, know what they are good at and put it to work. When working in teams, it proves to be the best tool to really utilize the full potential of the team, as you donā€™t point fingers at them or have a prejudgment that they are incapable, but rather start from the preposition that they have the potential and youā€™re just there to uncover it.

What Exciting Projects, Programs or Portfolios Are Your Working On?Ā 
Iā€™m currently working on 4 very exciting programs in the volunteer youth NGO Iā€™m leading called Aie Serve (www.AieServe.orgĀ – http://www.Facebook.com/AieServe). The programs are:

  • Aie Power – Platform for Youth to Transfer Project Ideas into Reality
  • Aie Consult – Incubator & Consultancy Program for Youth Led NGOs
  • Aie Skills ā€“ Training Program to Empower Youth with Soft, Life and Managerial skills
  • Aie Clubs – Network of Youth Lead Clubs in Universities and Local Areas that do Community Development, Service and Awareness Activities

What Is Your Favorite Book & Author?
I have 3 favorite books:

  • Who Moved My Cheese
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  • Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates UsĀ 

What Have You Done to Change the World? What Will Your Legacy Be?
One of my proudest achievements is Aie Serve, I cannot say enough about it. IĀ co-foundedĀ the organization 6 years ago with a group of friends from all walks of life, different countries, different majors, differentĀ ethnicity and different interests but with a shared vision: Serving The Community. From there it grew from a group of friends, to a team and an organization.

The true value of Aie Serve is not just what it does, but the fact that it is run completely by volunteers and the way it is managed internally. The core values of the organization drive it, and drive its programs and way of work. Those core values are simple, yet powerful as they make the way to move forward simple and straight forward.

Our values are: Respect, Acceptance & Love.Ā 

Respecting othersā€™ point of views and beliefs no matter what, accepting differences and considering them the seeds of diversity and finally, loving others for who they are, and not for their background, ethnicity, beliefs, colour or economic status.

If YouĀ Weren’tĀ In Project Management, What Would You Be Doing?
If IĀ wasn’tĀ in project management I would be in the field of talent or human capital management. I believe working with, developing, empowering, and supporting people is absolutely crucial for everything we do in this world. Human potential is infinite, thus those who know how to tap into it, grow it and sustain it, will lead success.