World Learning welcomed 42 young leaders into the third cohort of its Leaders for Democracy Fellows (LDF) Program in July 2018. Over the course of 12 weeks, these fellows will develop and hone skills that are critical to making a difference in their communities.
LDF, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), is a leadership development program that seeks to enable early- and mid-career professionals from across North Africa and the Middle East (MENA) to solve local challenges. The program is comprised of two identical tracks, a U.S.-based program for English speaking participants and a program based in Lebanon for Arabic speaking participants.
Abdelaziz Noujoum, a 2018 fellow in the U.S.-based program, says he applied to LDF to learn new skills and glean knowledge from specialists and experts as he pursues his professional and civic goals, such as working to empower local farmers in his region.
“I am passionate about helping, learning, and sharing with others to have equal chances and opportunities and ultimately make the world a better place,” he said. “This program will be a life-changing opportunity.”
This year, World Learning has partnered with the American University of Beirut (AUB) and Duke Center for International Development (DCID) to provide academic instruction and hands-on training. During the first four weeks of the program, faculty and staff from AUB and DCID — as well as local experts, government officials, and activists — facilitated lectures, workshops, field visits, and roundtable discussions on topics such as participatory governance, conflict resolution, coalition building, negotiations, and effective communications. Fellows learned the qualities and practices of successful leaders, explored the root causes of local political and social challenges, and discussed the power of storytelling in civic campaigns.
“I believe in the power of youth,” said Ghada Thimech, a 2018 participant in the U.S.-based program. “I am hopeful that the program would help me enable my peers to enjoy a better future.”
Now that their academic coursework is complete, the fellows are participating in full-time internships in Beirut, Lebanon, or Washington, D.C., where they cultivate professional networks, study best practices, and apply their academic learning by working on issues they’re passionate about. World Learning also organizes bi-weekly enrichment seminars for the Fellows to refine their project ideas and connect them with experts and practitioners.
“[My supervisors] gave me a different perspective which I never thought about,” said Moien Odeh, a 2016 fellow in the U.S.-based program, who interned at the Woodrow Wilson Center International Center for Scholars as part of the LDF program. “This changed my view on U.S. policy itself, and might also change the way we work back home.”
Over the course of the program, fellows will also use project design and management tools to develop a Civic Action Plan (CAP), which aim to either improve upon the fellows’ existing work or help them develop a new project in their communities. Past fellows have developed and implemented a variety of successful projects, including an advocacy campaign that promoted volunteerism in Gaza and a program that delivers educational resources to underserviced areas in Morocco.
Awsam Ghanim, a 2017 fellow in the Lebanon-based program, believes that LDF was a turning point in his professional career. He credits the program for helping him write and publish his first book on media and public service broadcasting in Iraq. During his CAP project, Awsam focused on how to encourage Iraqi media to release information that is objective and in the public interest.
We look forward to seeing how this year’s class of fellows will work to make a difference, too, as they return to their home countries with new experiences, connections, skills and tools that can help them make meaningful impact in their communities.
To learn more about the LDF program, please visit: https://mepi.state.gov/education/ldf
— Written by Besher Al Makhlouf, Program Officer, Leaders for Democracy Fellowship (LDF) Program, and LDF intern, Kelsey Cochran