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 tackle 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, women in leadership, 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 believed 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 operandi 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 there 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, 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 unanimous 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 on 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 volunteering 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 my Masters in Human Resources Management (MHRM) program at AUB. My focus was 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 did 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. Based on the findings, I published a 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 video 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 you’d expect.

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

  • “A non-governmental organization (NGO) is a legally constituted organization created by natural or legal persons that operates independently from any government.”- www.UN.org
  • “A non-governmental organization (NGO) is any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group which is organized on a local, national or international level.” –  www.NGO.org
  • “A 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.” – www.SIL.org
  • “Private organizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community development” – 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.
  • Doesn’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:
• Defining NGOs
• Types of NGOs (by geographic scope)
• Fields of Work of NGOs (by industry)
• Functional Types of NGOs (internal structure)
• Project Management in NGOs (how it differs from those in private and public sectors)
• Fundraising in NGOs
• Proposal Writing in NGOs (how it differs depending on the donor/funding agency)
• 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

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International Development CoP Member Spotlight

Afif Tabsh, PMP, CBAP
Consultant & Trainer at CMCS – Cofounder & President at Aie Serve
Lebanon

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

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

I’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 Institute among others.

What Does International Development Mean to You?
With our growing 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?
I’m very passionate about professional volunteering, this has been reflected through the NGOs and clubs I have founded and others that I’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, it’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 don’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 you’re just there to uncover it.

What Exciting Projects, Programs or Portfolios Are Your Working On? 
I’m currently working on 4 very exciting programs in the volunteer youth NGO I’m leading called Aie Serve (www.AieServe.org – 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 – 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 Us 

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. I co-founded the organization 6 years ago with a group of friends from all walks of life, different countries, different majors, different 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. 

Respecting others’ 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 You Weren’t In Project Management, What Would You Be Doing?
If I wasn’t 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.

Is University Life Only About Academics?

To make a long story short, the answer is: No! Absolutely not!

Here’s a more elaborate answer on why its not only about academics. This topic has recently surfaced to my attention as many have asked me about my university life and what are the keys to success at university.

Now as a matter of fact, and to make things simple, I can break down university life into 4 elements:

University Life

  • Academics: This includes the major you choose, the courses you take, the papers and projects you do, the grades you take…etc. Trust me, this is coming from someone who scored a 99/100 in his first university course and graduated with a GPA of 76/100 after 3 years of study, not because I’m dumb, but rather because I knew that there are other valuable things to focus on.
  • Work Experience: Not everyone has the luxury of having work opportunities in the university like work-study programs or what not. Yet opportunities don’t stop there, a university student can virtually work a gazillion different things from being a waiter/waitress in a nearby restaurant/café to private tutoring for younger students or schools students, to ushering in some events, to joining some company as an intern having any kind of part time job, whether related to their field of study or not. Obviously having the opportunity to work on campus and/or in the field of study is an excellent choice, yet if that is not present, then you don’t have to limit yourself to that…just get into the working mindset and learn how to earn your own money, as early as possible. Again, trust me on the immense impact of earning your own cash, this is coming from someone who worked a multitude of things in university from ushering for events to working in the IT department at university to private tutoring to having an internship, and some were even in parallel!
  • Community Involvement/Extra-curricular Activities: This includes clubs, societies, NGOs, political parties, movements, sports teams, music band or any kind of engagement with the community that gets you to invest in your own hobbies, skills, knowledge and self in general. Again and again, this is coming from someone who started his own NGO with some friends from 1st year of university and was involved in all sorts of clubs, societies, committees and groups all throughout university and beyond.
  • Networking & Connections: Yes this is a crucial element as much as any of the above 3 points. The truth about life is that the more people you know on the personal level, the more connections you have, the higher are probabilities of getting to new career opportunities, academic opportunities and social opportunities. You might even end up meeting the love of your life through one of your connections.  In every step along the way, I made sure I connect with people, truly connect with them and not just have them as acquaintances or someone I once met, but rather making friends, building trust, sharing worries and good times.

Each one of those 4 elements gives you an added value to your knowledge, to your life, to who you are, to the career options you’ll have, and to the people you know. To truly benefit from university life, you got to make use of all what the university life can offer you, whether on or off campus. Again I stress on the fact that perhaps not all universities have extra curricular activities or at least not the ones you want, not all of them will give you work/career choices, but then again the university is not an island, it exists within an ecosystem which you can reach out to and benefit from what it can offer.

For me, this has been one of the key success factors in my life, knowing that there is more university life than just academics. So to all those entering universities, to all the university students out there… don’t just focus on your academic element of university, it wont be enough for this ever changing and challenging world!

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