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

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

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

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 I‚Äôm 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 we‚Äôre 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 we’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, we’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 ‚ÄúTransforming Conflict: A Systemic Approach‚ÄĚ. 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 like‚Ķthen  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 we’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, I’ll share a few thoughts about things I’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 I‚Äôm 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, I‚Äôve relocated to Istanbul almost 1.5 years ago with my family, and since then I helped establish the AUB‚Äôs Alumni Chapter in Turkey that I currently serve as VP. Since then, I‚Äôm 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. It‚Äôs 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 God’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, I’d be happy to support you. Drop me a message and we’ll agree on a common time to do a quick Zoom call to help you out.

2023‚Ķ here we come! ūüėÄ

Afif 

Your Hyper-Active Optimistic Friend!

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NGOs 101: Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning“Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail”Alan Lakein

In this context, its crucial for NGO leaders to do Strategic Planning to gear their organization, their efforts and the funding they are receiving towards the best course forward.

So the first question is: What is Strategic Planning?

Strategic planning in a nutshell is envisioning what the future of the organization should look like and drafting the course of action towards it.

Below is a list of simple Q&A that can help you better understand Strategic Planning.

When should an organization do Strategic Planning?

  • When starting up
  • When a new program or initiative is to be launched
  • When the organizational structure is to be changed
  • When there are major changes in the community, thus changing the context of the organization
  • When there are major changes in the Board or Team members
  • Annually

What are the benefits of Strategic Planning?

  • Understand Why the Organization Was Created
  • Set the Vision, Mission and Goals
  • Set Action Plan
  • Ensure Team Buy-In
  • Develop a Sense of Ownership
  • Utilize Organization‚Äôs Resources Efficiently & Effectively
  • Develop Metrics to Measure Progress
  • Resolve Key Issues¬† & Fill Gaps

What are the 2 types of Strategic Planning?

Goals Based

  • Start with future in mind
  • Develop the plan to achieve it
  • Extrovert¬† Approach

Issue Based

  • Start with current status in mind
  • Identify gaps and issues
  • Develop the plan to overcome them

What is the Strategic Planning Life Cycle?

Goal Based Strategic Planning:

  • Understand the purpose of your organization – Why was it created?
  • Assess the organization’s history – How was it created and what has it achieved so far?
  • Develop/Assess its Vision – How does the future look like?
  • Develop/Asses its Mission – How will it achieve the future?
  • Develop/Asses its Values – How will it achieve the future?
  • Develop/Assess its Goals – Narrowing down the Mission into clear elements
  • Understand the internal factors – Strengths & Weaknesses
  • Understand the external factors – Opportunities & Threats
  • Extract Lessons Learned – What to repeat and what to avoid
  • Develop/Assess the Program/Projects/Tasks/Operations to achieve its Goals – The Action Plan & Tactics

Issue Based Strategic Planning:

  • Understand the internal factors – Strengths & Weaknesses
  • Understand the external factors – Opportunities & Threats
  • Extract Lessons Learned – What to repeat and what to avoid
  • Understand the key issues facing the organization – What is wrong with the organization today?
  • Develop/Assess ways to tackle the above mentioned issues – How are we going to resolve the issues using the SWOT results and Lessons Learned?
  • Develop indicators to check if what you planned to do is being implemented and is getting you where you expect to be – Monitoring & Evaluation of Key Performance Indicators

In my upcoming articles I’ll share with you my recipe of how to assist your organization in drafting it’s Vision, Mission, Goals, Values and then how to use the SWOT Analysis, PESTLE Analysis, Enhance SWOT Analysis, how to set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and finally how to Extract Lessons Learned.

Stay tuned for more!

Compilation: Management & Personal Development

Personal Development
Personal Development

I was asked by some of my friends to compile related articles together in an accessible way. Thus, I’m posting this as a simple compilation of relevant articles under the theme of “Management & Personal Development”.

Check the links below of the aforementioned articles:

 

I hope you enjoy the articles and feel free to subscribe to my Blog for regular updates.

 

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

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