17 October 2011

MELA's Beating Heart


The dawn heralds another gorgeous day in Sharm El Sheikh. The tropical fish are waking up, the reef squid are doing their morning exercises, the giant clams are rinsing with mouthwash, and almost everything is as it has been since time immemorial. Yet something is different today.

There cannot be meetings without partings, an old proverb says. Nevertheless it is hard to accept that today is the end of MELA 2. Eleven days (which earlier seemed to be an unfathomably long block of time to spend at a workshop) have simply sped by.

Omar Samra, founder and CEO of Wild Guanabana, is also the first Egyptian to climb Mount Everest. He deeply impresses the audience with his account of tenacity and purpose in conquering the world's highest peak; and he shares his ambition now to climb the tallest mountain on each continent.

When Omar has finished with mountains, he can start crossing deserts. Abdullah knows a good one he can try, back home in Saudi Arabia.

"You must be Omar Samra!"

Posing with the famous mountaineer.

Posing with the famous facilitator: Rany, Nader and Mustafa with Dan.

Tariq, Hania, Yasser, Hanna

Jim discusses the power of MELA as a cooperation platform and network for its members. That power is multiplied by its affiliation with similar, parallel networks: the Society of International Business Fellows (SIBF) and the Central Eurasia Leadership Academy (CELA).

Everyone has his or her own, private Everest. Bill and Adam battle with technology in preparation for the afternoon session.


Participants are awarded a certificate of completion for the MELA Academy, and are inducted as members into MELA as a regional network organization.

Mohammad, in his capacity as the afternoon's master of ceremonies, invites the unfailingly colorful and characterful Cinderella to the stage.

Habib and Khalifa share first names, ties, and smiles.

On stage with Nabil Alyousuf, Randi enjoys the audience's approbation of her creative mind and dancing talent.

Nabil presents Khalid his graduation certificate.

Mohannad's enthusiasm is infectious.

Basel addresses some personal words to his new MELA family.

Nazem's lapel is decorated with a MELA badge -- much better than a Legion of Honor rosette!

Abdullah Riri receives his MELA bag from Tory.

At Tariq's insistence, the MELA facilitators and office staff are brought to their feet to receive the plaudits of the room. Tory, Ginny, Susan Sutterfield.

Thomas, Elizabeth, Andrew, John.

Rita outshines even the limelight.

Nader is warmly embraced by all his MELA peers.

Basma not only receives her certificate from Nabil, but is welcomed as a colleague by the MELA Board Chairman. She has been elected to the Board by her classmates as one of the representatives from MELA 2.

Peter is the other new Board member. Sincerest congratulations to both of you!

Susan Simons, Tom and Meade sport the team colors of Breakout Group Three. They are already getting nostalgic.

The impresarios of MELA: well-deserved hugs for Steven and Ginny for all their efforts towards the success of the program.

The maestros of MELA: Jim and Bill.

It has been an extraordinary eleven days, replete with challenges and adventures of the mind and spirit, spent in the company of the most humblingly, upliftingly brilliant group of friends that anyone could wish for.

The geniuses of MELA -- the beating heart of the organization. As the living, breathing embodiment of all that is most promising and inspiring about the Middle East today, we salute the members of MELA 2 and sadly wish them goodbye -- at least until our next meeting, !إن شاء الله

16 October 2011

Acting the Part


Steven introduces participants to the Association of International Philanthropic Fellows (AIFP), an organization with multifarious problems, invented for the case study simulation. Participants will listen in on AIPF's Executive Committee meeting.

AIPF Chairman Tom Scardino tells his Executive Committee colleagues frankly that they are in an awful mess. Consequently he is appealing to AIPF members to form strategy committees. They will interview the officers, analyze AIPF's problems, and help chart a way forward.

Dania and Randi quiz the Chairman.

The VP for Marketing and Communications is very vocal about what she thinks needs to be changed.

The AIPF Founder complains that the organization has drifted away from its original purpose and guiding vision.

The strategy committees start collating their information and debating ideas. They will have to activate many of the skills acquired at MELA to get the job done.

Abdullah is a strong presence on his team.

Salma confers with Susan.

Presenting his team's analysis to AIPF's officers, Nader delivers a tough message: the organization is going to need a major overhaul.

Not a message that the Executive Committee wants to hear.

There is still worse to come from the team represented by Dania.

Attacked on all sides for inertia and indecisiveness, AIPF officers don't know what direction to look.

Abdullah tells the founder of AIPF that his organization is a shambles, its leadership is a disaster, and his life's work has been a waste of time.

The founder's tight-lipped reply -- "Have you finished yet?" -- brings down the house.

Congratulations to our SIBF thespians, and talented strategy committees, for bringing AIPF to life today so successfully and vividly!


Meanwhile, the MELA Board also convened today.

MELA Chairman Nabil Alyousuf, Board members Andrew Summers and Nidal Esas, and guest Meade Sutterfield.

Board members Jim Crupi and Meisa Batayneh.

Breaking for lunch: Board Member (MELA 1 representative) Soughit Abdelnour, Nabil, guest Tom McCandlish.

Board Member Michael Kouly, Regional Director Mohammad Habib.

After the Board meeting, Meisa and Nabil attend the final session of the AIFP simulation exercise.


In parallel, MELA 1 members meet separately to catch up on their personal and professional lives since the March workshop in Jordan.

Sarah has news to share.

The boys in blue: Hamoud, Ahmed, Yasser, Omar.

Nancy, Sandra, Haya, Ramzi.

This year's must-have item.

Dima poses with Bill, Basel, and the ubiquitous water bottle.

And it is already time for goodbyes. Lyutha says au revoir.

Rateb also leaves early! Lama and Mohannad see their friend off.

But among those of us who remain, the spirit is still strong. How can tomorrow already be the last day of our workshop?