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 ‚Äď 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 Рhttp://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 ‚Äď 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/caf√© 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‚Ķ don’t just focus on your academic element of university, it wont be enough for this ever changing and challenging world!

Other interesting posts:

NGO: From Charity to Social Enterprise

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With the dwindling funds and grants that are available, many NGOs are struggling to survive. They are either shutting down their operations or moving into new fields that have nothing to do with their mission but rather are chasing the money.

Majority of the people I meet, when I tell them “NGO” the first thing that comes to their mind is “Charity”. Now the fact that most NGOs depend on donations, grants and fundraising activities to sustain make it reasonable enough to have people link the word NGO to charity. Nevertheless, new innovative ways in income generation have been making their way to the NGO world.

In this context, and for the past few years, I’ve been advising and consulting NGOs on how to adopt a business model into their operations and projects, to create a shift in how they think about their work in an NGO not only as a way to generate enough income to sustain and grow but also a whole new mindset in what an NGO.

The point I focus on is to transform the NGO from a charity to a social enterprise. This happens when the NGO integrates into its work an income generation model that allows it to make money while leaving the positive impact it hopes for. It’s not just a matter of selling something, but rather a mind shift in how the NGO perceives itself in the community.

So here are few tips I usually share with the NGO leaders on how to go through this transformation:

  • Consider diversifying your income sources; not only donations and grants, but rather start considering fundraising activities,¬†sponsorship,¬† membership fees, services, products and income generating activities that are aligned with your mission.
  • Income generating activities can be the same exact service you give to your beneficiaries, but include in it a small fee that goes as a donation to your organization. This is step one into becoming a social enterprise. Definitely more complex models can be considered on what services or products are offered for free and which are billable.
  • Invest in R&D to better understand what are the other players is in community, what services do they offer, where can you add value, what does the community really need and what is the best way to package your services/products. Utilize Design Thinking throughout the process, consider empathy and your community, really try to understand what their needs are and how can you package your work in a way that they would be willing to pa for the value they are getting.
  • Invest in Marketing to have a better outreach to your users/beneficiaries, potential partners, donors, sponsors and supporters.
  • Consider that your users/beneficiaries will be willing to pay for a service that fulfills their need, as long as it’s conceived value outweighs its costs. At its core, this is a social business transaction where you are trying to merge social value with the business value. Moreover, it’s important to clarify that the fees they pay will be considered as a donation for the NGO to ensure its sustainability, so that you can serve more people for a longer period of time. This transforms the relationship with your beneficiaries to become service users and partners in the community, a win-win situation for both of you.
  • Develop a Volunteer System into your organization to make it an integral part of its daily work and projects, this in turn gets you more community support, helps you get a better understanding of what the community really needs as the volunteers are most probably going to be from the community itself and it can held reduce running costs on human capital.

The above are just a starting point, but usually are enough to start building on them to transform the NGO from a “Charity” to a “Social Enterprise”. With good analyses, research and hard work, usually NGOs start seeing the impact within a year and will reap its benefits both on the short and long term.

So my advice to all NGO leaders, activists and good-doers, change starts with us. It’s about time we start utilizing some of the lessons learned and best practices in the business world and use them to better serve our communities. So start thinking of how are you going to help your organizations sustain, grow and become more self-dependent on securing its finances rather than having to constantly chase funds, grants and following donor agendas, not for your sake or your staff’s sake, but for the community itself to keep on benefiting.

Other interesting posts:

3 Key Roles of NGO Board Members

NGO Board Pillars

For years now I’ve been involved in NGOs and I’m constantly being surprised with how people perceive Board Members and how Board Members themselves perceive their role. To some, a Board is a group of people who endlessly do meetings after meetings with no avail and to others, it’s some mythical, grandiose, elitist group who got special powers to lead the organization. So let me help you demystify all that…

My involvement ranges from small local clubs to a national organizations to branches of international organizations.  Irrespective of shape, size or topic of those NGOs, I can easily draw a line of similarity among them.

To start with, the Board is sometimes called Board of Directors, Steering Committee, Executive Board or Executive Committee, so in spite of the naming diversity, the roles and responsibilities stay the same.

So let’s talk about the core of the issue. Board members have 3 key roles that form the pillars of any NGO and are as follows:

Decision Making: Board member are usually the founding members or are elected members that lead the organization. In this context, all major decision making in the organization goes through them. Now it has been noticed over and over again that many Board Members become passive and rather apathetic to decisions being taken, which makes the whole organization go biased towards the opinions of the remaining Board Members. So if you’re on a Board of an NGO and you see this happening around you, don’t freak out, you’re not alone…its a trend!

Yet it’s important to deal with this issue as it is crucial to have all Board Members involved in all decisions or else you’ll start seeing resistance and conflicts arising here and there every once in a while, especially from those same inactive Board Members.

What makes decision making in NGOs different from Private Sector or Governmental Institutions, is the fact that everyone’s opinion matters and most decisions are done either democratically or through consensus, so it should never be a one man show. If it seems to be or become a one man show, then you know it’s about time to change some things‚Ķ

Organizational/Executive/Functional: In addition to having decision making role, all Board have a distribution of roles and responsibilities where the most common structure is “President, Vice President, General Secretary, Treasurer & Accountant” thus each of those individuals not only has his decision making role, but also a functional role to play, whether it’s taking care of financials, or internal communication or following up on tasks or heading committees..etc. Thus if those tasks and responsibilities are implemented properly, you would’ve successfully built the second pillar of the NGO to ensure that it stands tall and becomes sustainable. When this role is done properly, the internal dynamics of the organization start functioning properly.

Jack-of-All-Traders: Yes you read it right, as soon as you become a Board Member of an NGO you suddenly get to become a jack of all trades as your responsibilities will expand beyond what you expect. So you roll up your sleeves and you start doing tasks related to strategic planning, outreach, public relations, proposal writing, volunteer management, project management, reporting,¬† web development, graphic design, fundraising, training, consulting, event organizing and so on and so forth. So when you’re joining the Board of an NGO, its not just about doing your decision making or your functional role, but you’re expected to be involved at all levels, in all your projects and operations and to become well knowledgeable about them to assist, support and improve what your organization does.

So in a nutshell, I can say those 3 pillars are what makes a healthy Board and thus a healthy organization if they were implemented properly and professionally. If you’re a Board Member, and you feel you’re missing out on any of those…then double check with your team as you are probably holding your organization back because are doing them. Whereas if you’re doing all three and you feel other Board Members aren’t, then its about time you share the workload with them.

On a last note, properly leading an NGO can be as consuming and demanding, if not more demanding, then leading your own company due to the social factor of it and having several decision makers with you on equal levels of authority, ownership and responsibility…

So if you’re a Board Member on an NGO… God bless you! and if you know someone who is…now you know why they do so many meetings! hehehe

Other interesting posts:

Project Management for NGOs Workshop

Dear Readers,

I’d like to invite you to a workshop that I’m organizing and delivering as part of my work with CMCS Lebanon. Details below.

Workshop Topic: Project Management for NGOs
Date:  September 16 & 17, 2013
Time: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Venue: CMCS Lebanon Office – Hamra
Facilitator: Afif Tabsh, PMP¬ģ

Target Group:

  • NGO‚Äôs Board Members & Founders
  • NGO Consultants
  • Program & Project Managers/ Coordinator/ Assistants
  • General/ Grant Coordinators
  • Team/ Committee/ Task-force Leaders
  • Company Managers with interest in CSR Projects/Programs
  • UN & International Organizations’ Staff

Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand the difference between NGO projects and private sector projects.
  • Understand and identify how to use standard tools and techniques of project management in NGOs.
  • Understand the relationship between the Knowledge Areas in the PMBOK (PMI) in relation to NGO‚Äôs terminology and way of work.
  • Understand how to develop a project idea into a full project management plan.

Description:

  • A practical hands-on workshop designed in alignment with the international standard of project management along with the best practices in Project Management in NGOs.
  • Covers key topics and issues that everyone can build on to enhance the way they transform project ideas into fully functioning plans.
  • Includes numerous discussions, reflection sections and exercises.
  • Is approved by AUB and certified by PMI thus PMP/CAPM holder can claim PDUs for it.

Fees:
$ 550 US (including CMCS Customized Course Manual, a Process Chart, Certificate of Attendance, 15 PDUs, and Snacks & Refreshments). VAT included.

For Registration: PM for NGOs Registration Form

For More Information:
OFC: (+961) 1 345111
Mobile: (+961) 71 69000
FAX: (+961) 1 346111
Email: lebanon@cmcs-mena.com

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