Monday, December 19, 2011

MOSAIC: Where Dreams Are Shaped - Guest Blog by Hadeel Alabbasi, KSA

Hadeel Alabbasi is a counsellor, writer and educator dedicated to the advancement of Muslim Society. Her area of focus remains family health, individual empowerment, life planning, relationships and positive parenting. She is a co-founder of Mama and Me program and author of many children books. Hadeel graduated from King Abdul Aziz University with her majors in economics and did her post graduate in Leadership and Development from Walden University. 

Everyone is telling me I’m a leader, so the next obvious step is to take action and be one. I will talk to you through my blogs about my leadership journey. As for that, I would be delighted to hear your comments and suggestions along my challenging yet exciting journey. 

I live in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and although I come from a Saudi family, I have always felt a connection with foreigners. I enjoyed their company and I loved listening to their stories. They always wanted to learn, develop, and get the best out of their time here in Saudi Arabia. The sad part is that a lot of them came and left without achieving their dreams. Many came to study Qur’an, but were faced with a rigid system in Qur’an schools. Many wanted to learn Arabic, but only found elementary school like classes or nothing at all. A lot wanted to raise their kids to become good Muslims but could not get their children in the Saudi school system to learn Islam and proper Arabic. 

A while back, someone surprisingly pointed out the number of centers teaching English here in Jeddah while on the other hand, no centers that taught Arabic. That’s when an idea sprouted its roots in me. After attending the MOSAIC summit, the real energy to realize my dream came. I realized that a lot of my fellow delegates don’t know Arabic. Truly, this was partly from my ignorance as I expected every Muslim to know at least a little Arabic. Moreover, I have always felt that Muslims should be able to communicate in the original language of the Holy Qur’an as well i.e. Arabic. As a result, I felt an enormous obligation towards humanity, responsibility with respect to my beloved Arabic language, and commitment towards my new dream. 

My new dream is to open a center that teaches Arabic to non Arabic speakers. I would name it “ICTA” which is “I Can Talk Arabic”, cool right? But how can I tell if this is the right dream? And if this dream is truly my window of opportunity? Let’s go together through the 10 leadership check list…

1. Am I proud of my dream and do I believe in it? YES 

2. Am I showing commitment and am I living it? I believe so, I ‘m not waiting on it and I’m not forgetting about it 

3. Did I carefully think about it? YES 

4. I have the plan ready but am I starting to take actions? YES, I have formed a focus group to discuss needs, experiences, and obstacles. 

5. Am I ready to make mistakes and face challenges? I hope so 

6. Am I ready to show my weaknesses and vulnerability as a leader? Same as above 

7. Am I ready to put everything I have in what I believe? YES 

8. Do I have the dignity to believe that I’m a leader? YES 

9. Am I ready to go all the way? YES 

10. Is my dream actually going to benefit people? YES, I know that it matters… 

I think that my dream is truly a window of opportunity, do you?

I'm excited to hear your experiences with learning Arabic and grateful to hear your thoughts about the perfect ICTA center : ) 

M.D. Hadeel

Saturday, December 10, 2011

You Never Lose/Fail, Until You Give Up!

There are number of times you hear about somebody failing or losing and sometimes that somebody is YOU. But have you ever thought, whether you really really failed. Just mull over it for sometimes when you have that feeling next time. And when you do, just ask a simple question, why you gave up? 

You may have not heard about Derek Redmond before; I never did. But when I knew about him for the first time few years back, I could not forget him. He is a retired British athlete with numerous medals and records to his credit of which I know a little about. But his 1992 Olympic performance in Barcelona will be remembered by generations. He was the last to finish the race, but I guess hardly anyone remembers the athlete who actually won. Derek won the hearts of 65000 spectators. Click to watch what happened.

For sure, somebody who doesn’t give up, can never fail and it’s hard to beat the one who is not willing to give up. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

MOSAIC 101 – How To Get The Best Out Of The Summit

I can imagine the excitement amongst the delegates gearing up for the Summit just 2 weeks away in Qatar. A lot of you must be having goose bumps imagining about the summit and the rest would be chilled while waiting to see what happens. Well I must say whatever happens, will be one of the most exhilarating time you would have ever spent. But, having said that, there is a way you can even proliferate the fun. And the core rule for that is, “Be Proactive”. 

I just finished the entire round of introduction with my group, what a pleasure to know so many enthusiasts with such diversity. While having this first level introduction I came across quite a few questions and thought to write this post to share some experiences from 2010 and help you all get the best out of the time you will spend during the summit. 

1. Be Proactive – As I said, you can get the best out of the summit if you are proactive. You need something, ask it. You have a question, ask it. You want to connect to someone, ask it. You want some information, ask it. You want some help, ask it. You are not feeling good or facing any challenges, tell your group lead. Being proactive will help you being most effective during the summit. This is the golden rule and rest is all a derivation. 

2. Know Your Group Members Early – Earliest the better. You will be closely working with your group during the 10 days spent together. It’s always better to know them as early as possible. By now, your group leads would have gotten in touch with you and you have a fair chance to introduce yourself. Use this opportunity as an ice breaker. Introduce yourself fairly and share as much as you can so that rest of the group members is able to connect to you. Extracurricular details like, interests, hobbies, and past experiences help identify synergy easily. 

3. Be Receptive – You will be meeting with almost 100 different people in 10 days. On average knowing 10 persons a day. This can be overwhelming but it’s a great chance to network. You may not be able to spend much time with everyone, but try to talk to most of them. Get to know about them a little, share contacts and don’t forget to follow up. There is a great probability that you have a home and a host in 17 different countries by the end of a summit :)

4. Be Punctual – The sheer pace of the summit can put you on the back foot. Be very cautious about time keeping and being punctual. Your slight delays can make you miss out some wonderful opportunities to listen and connect to some wonderful people. I am sure you don’t want to be in that situation. Best thing is to be on time during all the sessions given in the agenda. And least to say, being punctual is the first step towards leadership. 

5. Cram the Agenda – You will be given the program time table and a pack of file when you arrive and register at the summit. Make sure you get some time to look at all the details and mark your game plan. All the sessions are very important, do not miss them. Mark those that are of your interest and if possible explore and think about them a bit before time. This will help you connect a lot of dots. 

6. Participate and DO NOT SHY away – You will be listening to a lot of different speakers and will be going through some workshops and activities. You MUST participate and interact. Remember, we all are here to learn and do not shy away asking any tempting questions or sharing your views. It’s a collaborative place and everybody who participates is respected. And this is one good chance to overcome your fears and shyness. 

7. Make Notes – You will be receiving bits and pieces of very unique learning’s that is worth noting. There is so much going on that its always good to write notes and probably jot down the pointers that you can later reflect upon and connect with. I am sure you will have a list of lessons and learning’s that you would like to keep as your guiding principles in future. So don’t miss out, keep your pen and paper handy. 

8. Leadership – The main theme is leadership and you must all be excited to learn some leadership lessons. But honestly, half of your learning’s will be your actions and experiences during the summit; how you respond to various situations, how you deal with your peers, how you react to various scenarios. So be self critical, and reflect on your daily actions and outcomes. Where you did well, where you did not and how you can improve. Don’t forget, you are all a part of a bigger Mosaic, so play your role well. 

9. Don’t Panic - There is so much happening in a day that most of you may not be used to. Don’t panic, rather take it as a challenge and try to participate as much as you can. In case you miss out anything unfortunately, just move on. Being IN is the name of the game. 

10. ………………………………………………. 

Well I have left that empty for my peers to fill in :) Come on Mosaicers 2010, I am sure you would like to contribute some Suggestions from your wonderful experiences during the summit last year. Delegates from 2011 are waiting to hear some real time experiences; I just collected some of my thoughts, please add yours. Its a good time to reminisce as well :)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ineffective Leaders - 7 Common Traits

The article is written by Paul Morin and copied from Company Founder Blog

This list of seven traits is not all-inclusive, nor is it in order of importance. These are simply seven traits that I see all the time, which undermine the ability of leaders to help their organizations and themselves achieve all that they can.

I also want to point out that not all the following characteristics are intrinsically “bad”. There are certain situations that call for some or all of them. In “everyday” leadership scenarios and organizations not in crisis though, the following seven leader traits are not likely to result in an optimal outcome.

Common Ineffective Leader Trait #1: Micro-Managing

Wait, are we talking about leadership or management? Sometimes the line becomes blurred. My favorite metaphor illustrating the difference between management and leadership is from Stephen Covey’s story of a logging crew working in the forest. The crew is working hard and someone yells from atop a nearby mountain (paraphrasing), “Hey, you down there” … “What? We’re busy making progress, don’t interrupt us” … response: “You’re in the wrong forest”!

The effective leader is not the one that goes around “getting into everyone’s business”. Rather, the effective leader makes sure the organization and everyone in it is in the “right forest,” then let’s them get their jobs done.

Common Ineffective Leader Trait #2: Unclear Objectives

Many, if not most, organizations do not have clear objectives for where they are trying to go. The leadership of the organization has not taken the time to define where the organization is trying to go or what it is trying to achieve. In other cases, the objectives have been clearly defined, but they have not been effectively communicated to the members of the organization. Following on the forest metaphor above, the organization may even actually be in the “right forest,” but due to poor communication, the team may not know whether they’re supposed to be cutting it down or planting more trees.

Common Ineffective Leader Trait #3: Frequent Direction Changes

There aren’t too many things more demoralizing to someone working hard toward an objective, than having it change, constantly. We’ve all seen, and some of us have had the displeasure to work in, organizations where the direction and objectives seem to change with the capriciousness of the wind. We all start “rowing in the same direction” only to be informed, or worst yet, find out second-hand, that the objectives have changed and we’re supposed to be rowing in an entirely different direction. If you want to be an effective leader, don’t do this to your team on a frequent basis, and if it’s absolutely necessary at some point, explain it well. Your team will hold it against you a lot less if you communicate with them as openly and honestly as possible regarding why all the work they just expended “was for nothing”.

Common Ineffective Leader Trait #4: No Culture Of Accountability

Once you have clear goals in place and have communicated them effectively to your team, it’s critical to develop a “culture of accountability”. Your team must understand that they have their part to do, in order to help the organization achieve its goals. This “part” must be well-defined, with milestones and target dates for completion. Progress toward the milestones and overall completion must be tracked and reviewed on a regular basis. Variances or deviations from plan should be explained and if necessary, course correction must be facilitated and monitored. Without a “culture of accountability,” it’s too easy for members of the team to get sidetracked “putting out fires” and to never quite complete their “part”. If this happens systemically, the organization will never reach its goals and the leadership will have failed.

Common Ineffective Leader Trait #5: Don’t Walk Their Talk

There are some leaders who are tremendous talkers. They can “wax eloquently” on most any subject and they inspire confidence with their bold pronouncements. The issue arises when all the hyperbole does not coincide with reality and specifically, when the leader displays behavior that is inconsistent with what he or she is “preaching”. Leaders, as persons who are supposed to inspire confidence, like it or not, are held to a higher standard. If you aspire to be a “great leader,” it’s important that you “walk your talk”. Don’t make eloquent pronouncements, then contradict them with your behavior. That will be the quickest route to lose the respect and confidence of your team and other relevant constituencies.

Common Ineffective Leader Trait #6: Run People Over

Ineffective leaders, frequently unable to persuade with logic or emotional appeals that make sense to their team, often just “run people over”. That usually takes the form of “you’ll do it because I said so”. This approach can be necessary in certain situations, particularly where a team member does not want to listen to reason, or simply cannot be given enough information to fully grasp the rationale for a particular mandate. However, if this approach is used as a matter of routine, then it is likely to alienate many members of the team. This point is highly related to the point above regarding effective communication. If you communicate effectively as a leader and you have selected good members to your team, you typically will not have the need to “run people over”. That would be ideal, because when intelligent people get run over, they typically find a way to use their formal or informal power within the organization to make you “pay the price”. They undermine you every chance they get, even if just in a passive aggressive way.

Common Ineffective Leader Trait #7: Take Credit For Everything

If something works well in your organization, give credit to your team. Why? Well first, it’s the right thing to do. If you are playing a leadership role, while you may have put everyone in the “right forest,” it’s highly likely that the remainder of your organization did the execution necessary to “make it happen”. Second, you will look and feel a lot better if you “give credit where credit is due”. Even if the reward is not monetary, pretty much everyone appreciates a pat on the back for a job well done. Remember the adage, “praise in public and criticize in private”. Don’t be shy about highlighting the tremendous performance of your team and certain individuals with your team. While some underperformers may get jealous, the achievers will appreciate the recognition and are likely to continue performing at a high level, for you and for the organization.

So there you have “7 Common Traits of Ineffective Leaders” and some ideas on how you can avoid those traits and continue on your path to becoming an effective leader. As I said at the outset, I realize that this is not an all-inclusive list and I realize that in some situations, these “bad” traits may be necessary.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

When Leaders Leave But Their Name Lives !

Steve Jobs (1955 - 2011) will be remembered among generations. Few may not agree, but his contributions remain unmatchable. He made millions happy, either because of the products he developed or because of the ecosystem for livelihood he created around his product line. He spent an eventful life from the day he was born and least to say he contributed some priceless lessons from those events which still stays fresh no matter how many times you go through them. 

The famous Stanford speech is all over the Internet, especially after his death but I found it worth saving ad sharing again. 

‎" You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever." - Steve Jobs

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” - Steve Jobs 1993

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true." Steve Jobs 2005

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It's Harder To Be Kind Than Clever !

A statement from Jeff Bezo’s (Amazon Founder) speech often resonated in my head, “It’s harder to be kind than clever”. The statement is simple yet holds a message that may not be very evident unless a situation unfolds it. It may sound like a straight forward comparison between kindness and cleverness, but recently an excerpt from Paulo Coelho’s writings simplified that balancing act of self control or personal leadership. 

A young man said to the abbot of a monastery - ‘I would really like to become a monk, but I have learned nothing of importance in my life. My father only taught me how to play chess, and I was told that all games are sinful.’ 

The abbot called for a chessboard and summoned a monk to play with the young man. However, before the game began, he added: - ‘We also need diversion, but we will have only the best players here. If our monk loses, he will leave the monastery, thus creating an opening for you.’ 

The abbot was deadly serious. The young man played an aggressive game, but then he noticed the saintly look in the monk’s eyes, and from then on, he began to play deliberately badly. He decided that he would rather lose because he felt that the monk could prove far more useful to the world than him. 

Suddenly, the abbot overturned the chessboard onto the floor. 

‘You learned far more than you were taught,’ he said. ‘You have the powers of concentration necessary to win and you are capable of fighting for what you want, but you also have compassion and the ability to sacrifice yourself for a noble cause. You have shown yourself capable of balancing discipline and mercy; welcome to our monastery!’ 

Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy; they are given after all. Choices can be hard; they are taken.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

8 Rupees: A Food For Thought! - Guest Blog by Palwasha Sherin Khan, PK

Palwasha is currently working as a Corporate Responsibility Specialist at Telenor Pakistan, a leading multinational telecom services provider. She is also an advisor at ‘Idara-i-Taleem-o-Agahi’, a reputable organization working to improve the education sector in Pakistan. Palwasha is an avid reader with a keen interest in CSR, sustainable development and human rights and passionate about travel and volunteerism. 

I walked down to the chemist/grocery store today to get some stuff before heading back home. Stopped at the ATM, got some cash out. Didn’t bother looking at the receipt or counting the cash. Random thoughts flickered through my mind as I walked..... need to send that email before day end; should I enroll Zoya in summer camp or for swimming; hope the tailor didn’t ruin that lovely suit I bought; have to read those new stories to the kids at the shelter this weekend like I promised to........ 

At the store, I asked for the cleanser I came to buy, then picked some random items merely because I can never just buy one thing. A man walked in and mumbled the name of some medicine. He is evidently a laborer. Dirty shalwar kameez (national dress of Pakistan), torn shoes, scuffed hands and feet. He looked exhausted, his breath is ragged and he looked clearly very ill and weak. The shopkeeper asked him gruffly to speak louder, and finally managed to decipher what he wanted. It’s a calcium sachet, one of those that you take dissolved in water for energy. The shopkeeper tossed it rudely on the counter. The man meekly asked, ‘How much’?!' 

‘8 rupees’ is the reply. (8 rupees is the equivalent of 0.09USD) 

The man stared at the shopkeeper and said ‘Can I just take it? I don’t have the money.’ I stood with a 1500 rupee face wash in my hand and stare in shock....something snaps inside me…my heart bleeds for this man. What is 8 rupees?!!! The shopkeeper loses his patience (not that he had much of it in the first place). He snatched back the sachet from the counter and said, ‘Either pay or get out’. I failed to fathom why he could not find it in his heart to just give the man the sachet. Or speak kindly. Yell at the whole world, be impatient, be rude….but never ever ever speak to a poor person harshly. I finally found my voice and interrupted, ‘Just give him what he wants, I’ll pay’. The shopkeeper reluctantly handed it over. The man hesitated, glanced my way. ‘Go ahead, take it’, I nodded. Relief in his eyes as he walked away.

I hurriedly paid for my stuff in a daze. I rushed out after the man when the shopkeeper called me back telling me I’d forgotten to take my things. When I finally got out, the man was nowhere to be found. Slowly I walked back to work, cursing myself. Why didn’t I ask him what was wrong? Why didn’t I think to offer to buy him the entire pack? Proper medicines for whatever his ailment was. He could probably do with a good meal. I could have bought him food. A few thousand rupees is nothing to me. It could have made the entire month so much better for this man. What sort of a life must he live? No food to eat, no money to pay for medicines, maybe a family to provide for and no work. My handbag alone cost enough to provide for his family for a month. God has blessed me with SO much…He has given me enough to be able to easily help someone in need. It had only been two minutes. Oh, where could he have gone!! 

The guard opened the door. The air-conditioning soothed me. I smiled and nodded hello to colleagues. The elevator took me up to my desk. I logged back on to my laptop. It’s someone’s birthday at work. There was laughter and clapping and the cake. 

But just one thought resonated over and over in my head. 8 rupees, ….8 rupees, …..8 rupees! 

The value of 8 rupees? Worthless! The value of the lesson behind those 8 rupees? Priceless!

One of the deep secrets of life is that, all that is really worth doing is what we do for others. — Lewis Carroll

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Shadow Who Create Opportunities

‘The Best Player’ is a fair tribute for a match winning performance. But ever wondered about the invisible forces who are the real game changers? The invisible leaders who silently create opportunities and lead without being noticed. ‘Facilitators’ could be a close noun for such silent movers but it’s hard to find a word that defines their truest spirit of leadership. 

Anyone who has ever actually watched Pele play knows that the greatest leaders are almost invisible giving all the great shots to the one's who are at hand when the opportunity comes up. The opportunities are created and not an accident, rather they are the outcome of a strategic idea that takes over the team and the game as a whole. 

To round it up: 

"A leader is best when the people barely know he exists. 

Next comes one whom they love and praise. 

Next comes one whom they fear. 

Next comes one whom they despise and defy. 

When a leader trusts no one, no one trusts him. 

The great leader speaks little. He never speaks carelessly. 

He works without self-interest and leaves no trace. 

When all is finished, the people say, 'We did it ourselves.' "

- Lao Tzu

Monday, June 27, 2011

Believe that you can do it / make it / have it !

Ever heard of the story behind the 4 minutes mile? It goes somewhat like this… 

For thousands of years, people held the belief that it was impossible for a human to run the mile in less than 4 minutes. The ancient Greeks even had lions chase the runners, but it was still ‘impossible’. 

But in 1954, Roger Banister broke this imposing belief barrier. The significance of the achievement is what it did for others. In the whole history of the human race, no one had ever been able to break a 4-minute mile, yet after Roger (3:59:4) within one year, 37 other runners also broke it. And the year after that, 300 other runners did the same thing. And now it has turned out to be a standard for all professional middle distance runners. His experience provided them with a strong sense of certainty that they too could ‘do the impossible.’ Currently the record is owned by Hicham El Guerrouj a.k.a. “King of the Mile” from Morocco with his time 3:43:13 minutes. 

Leaders often excite followers by not only identifying opportunities but also breaking barriers and highlighting possibilities. 

Courtesy: RealAcad

Monday, May 30, 2011

Follow the expert, Not the loudest

I have been longing to write on how nations revolt and set their path straight when challenged by adversities and injustice. And how collective leadership works when a crowd leads a crowd. Perhaps, the leading crowd is also riding on the shoulders of individual leadership from within and that individual leadership feels pride in their anonymity.

Though the topic demands a longer piece of writing, for the time being I will stick to an excerpt by a leader from the core, an inspiration with a transforming spirit of volunteerism and a lovely personality busy day and night building the foundations of their reincarnated homeland. Here he goes…

“Follow the expert, not the loudest; - see realities in depth;

do not be limited to your own perceptions; – put your preferences to the side;

don’t think of personal glories at the moment (it will come later); -

think of process, not the product;

learn to accept who disagree with you; - seek advise if you are not sure;

rely on specialists in their own field; - compile efforts; - seek guidance;

be equipped with the right tools because good intentions are not enough;

we are all Egyptians regardless the level/type/kind of our contribution in the protesting;

be optimistic, yet realistic; Is this difficult to do?”

Simply a citizen – Amir Gohar


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Why Responsible Business Matters? - Guest Post by Saeeda Ahmed, UK

Saeeda Ahmed is a cofounder and CEO of Trescom, a successful training and community empowerment company across Britain. Saeeda holds a Master degree in Community Enterprise from University of Cambridge and a degree in accountancy. She is interested in social responsibility and international collaboration opportunities. 

In a modern day world where capitalism and globalisation seems to be the unflavour of the month, people are increasingly questioning the role of institutions. They want to know how the economics and politics influence the livelihoods of ordinary people. The status quo of capitalism is in a state of flux and this creates massive opportunities for social entrepreneurs to take the limelight and thrive

In the past it was seen as unsavoury that the poor were trampled for maximising the profits of the capitalists. Saying that, maximizing profits was not taken by the majority as THEIR OWN struggle nor was responsibility always seen by consumers on how they contributed to this imbalance of power and wealth. Often perceived as a problem that faced people in faraway lands, many dissociated themselves away from it and absolved themselves of responsibility from it. This was whilst we indulged in our modern day gadgetry and self absorbed lifestyles. The self centeredness and Individualistic centered models on their own, are not a problem but on a macro basis can be the cancer of a thriving community.

The communities across the world can see evidence of actions of private corporate without consideration of negative consequences on environment, people and producers. And it isn't just the capitalists being seen as the culprit.

The recent economic and banking crisis in the Western world really brought the issue to the forefront of the masses. People started seeing the ugly effects of what happens when people do not matter for the sake of profits. Suddenly the issue of exploitation isn't just about the poor far away but it is about us. The people that are affected are our families, neighbors, communities and us. Whether as consumers, employees or local communities, we are beginning to realize we are paying against the odds to maintain the profit margins of those in power.

People do not want to work endlessly to maintain and oil these private monetary systems. This neither gives personal satisfaction nor much additional value to the person. The great side effect of the economic crisis is that soul searching has occurred and influenced thought processes. This change has encouraged (like no scale before), the appetite by consumers for ethical, socially and environmentally responsible business. This creates a massive opportunity for social entrepreneurs to satisfy this consumer appetite. However this has to be done whilst it still matters to the masses or they are still hungry.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Make That Attempt

IMPROVEMENT always starts with ‘I’

It’s called Mind set.

As I was passing by the elephants, I suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg.

No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at any time, break away from the ropes they were tied to but for some reason, they did not. I saw a trainer nearby and asked why these beautiful, magnificent animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away.

“Well,” he said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free."

I was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn't, they were stuck right where they were.

Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it once before? 

A Wise Man once said, “Your attempt may fail, but never fail to make an attempt.” 

Guest contribution by Memoona Sajjad.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Different Color, One People: an amazing experience in UK - Guest Post by Ria Octorina, Indonesia

Ria Octorina works with local government in West Sumatra, Indonesia, controlling and evaluating various government programs. She aspires to develop youth lead civil servant community that plans and execute positive action within government and communities. 

I had a great experience while participating in Mosaic International Summit in July 2010. The event was a summer school at Cambridge structured as a leadership training and meet up for 80 young Moslem from 17 countries.

I started from my home town, Solok, going to Padang city, the capital of West Sumatera Province. It was an exciting yet tiring journey from Padang to Jakarta, to Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow to Clare College Cambridge. I missed the dinner at The Great Hall but luckily found three Algerian delegates to go to the city center for the dinner. The first night was very special as I watched the Football World Cup final between Spain and Netherlands together with new friends from other parts of the world. I sat with Laila, a lovely Algerian girl.

During this first week, activity centered at Clare College, Cambridge. It was a matter that I had never imagined before and fealt lucky making a footprint’ in one of the best university in the world. I started feeling the atmosphere as a student of this campus while attending lectures and seminars from many speakers from different background.

Mosaic team and group leaders gave a warm welcome and orientation the first day. Deputy Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University gave a welcome speech followed by the first session by Farah Pandith, a Muslim American who worked for the U.S. Government. Farah described her experiences as a woman, a Muslim living in US facing challenges and fighting the negative image of the Islamic world. She took it as her responsibility to make a better representation of Muslims. Some words from Farah that impressed me so much: "you're not failing if you are passionate with what you do!". 

The second session was also very inspiring. We were given the opportunity to listen to stories and experiences of leadership and activities of 'changing world' by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of BRAC from Bangladesh. BRAC is one of the largest NGO in the world, which has helped the world community, especially to reduce poverty in Bangladesh. BRAC started with microfinance activities program, which since it’s founding in 1970, has now been expanded and has a BRAC Bank, BRAC University, and many training institutions that help communities in Bangladesh, and several countries in Asia and Africa. I wish someday I can help people around me to make their life beter and reduce the proverty condition, like what BRAC had done. Amiin.

The next day we attended the Leadership Workshop by Stuart Duff and Prof. Binna Kandola, a specialist in leadership development. In this session I was given an understanding of leadership, which does not have any special definition and yet everyone can have a different type of leadership. From the workshop outcomes I learnt a great deal through the material provided in the form of simple theory of how to plan our dreams, build desire and the importance of coaching and mentoring as a control and sharing of ideas and plans for our dreams.
In the following days we learnt and discussed global issues, sustainable development and poverty. We were presented about the world conditions today; the world's poverty as a major problem, environmental problems and possibilities that would occur if precautions are not taken immediately. An important lesson I learnt was the obligation to maintain the world and taking responsibility of all human beings who live on it. 

An important discussion was on the topic about the values of bringing people and communities together. The point made here is how we are able to overcome the differences that cannot be denied and we will always findThe distinction of being its own value if the community / communities are able to use them to perform together at a common goal. 

Evenings were spent exploring Cambridge, spending time with delegates in restaurants and punting in River Cam and taking a detailed tour of Cambridge University Library. Allhamdulillah.

The Friday evening  was one of the best evening in my life. By wearing the national dress of each country shows the world's diversity and beauty of togetherness. We took a group photo at the bank of River Cam, had a Mosaic collective dinner in The Great Hall and celebrated and reflected on our activities. At the dinner, a friend from Jordan, who so creative and entertaining, sung a song: 'Different Color, One People.  This song is really a portrait of us who come from different background- different colors, but keep one as a Mosaic-ers, as a Muslim and as the inhabitants of the earth.
Manchester, Merseyside and London

Our second week activities were in small groups and I got a chance to visit Manchester and the world’s Best Football Club, Manchester United. At the evening, we had a great dinner at a Pakistan Restaurant and received a very warm welcome by Mosaic Manchester. 

Next we visited the Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service in Liverpool where we got an understanding of how the department believed in preventive activities and struggled for it rather than cure. Got a chance to see Manchester Town Hall and meet Lord Mayor of Manchester who was accompanied by Sir Muhammad Afzal Khan, The Lord Mayor at 2005-2006, which is First Muslim who became a Lord Mayor in major city in UK. His leadership experiences were inspiring and an important lesson was: “If you want to change, you also have to be in the circle”. To change a situation, we also have to enter the system too and not just give protest from the outside the system.
We also visited Burnley & Pendle Faith Centre where I realized a commitment to mutual acceptance, inclusiveness and respect among them to learn and grow together. They do not force the people to integrate, but rather to appreciate difference and feel the spirit of togetherness.

Finally in London we got an opportunity to meet HRH Prince of Wales (Prince Charles), in the VVIP Summit Celebratory Event at Central London. We got a chance to hear him speak and then meet and greet in person with every delegate. On the last day we had a graduation and a lunch and from there I moved out to explore London. We saw the landmarks of one of the famous cities in the world. Buckingham Palace, Bigben, London Eye, London Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street etc.

I felt like going back with a plenty of dreams and responsibilities from all the experience and lessons from Mosaic. So many things to do to change the world, I wish I could do a little thing here on my part.