15 March 2014

Expect the Unexpected

MELA 5, DAY TEN: 15 MARCH 2014

The anonymous author of this doodle, spotted on a jotting pad during the final day of our workshop, is the unsung philosopher of MELA: the Arab Confucius who has penetrated the essence of the program. For, as John King said on the very first morning of MELA 5, the amount of learning achieved is proportional to one's openness to be surprised. 

Samira, Elham and Heba say jibn  cheese!

Since then, the surprises have been coming thick and fast. How many of us could foresee so many transformative leadership experiences crashing over our heads, wave after wave, during a mere week and a half? Who expected that so many of the strangers in the room on Day 1 would become necessary people to us – lifelong friends and leadership peers – by Day 10?  

From the vantage point of 6 March, who would have believed that many of us would part from our fellow "Melos" tomorrow with sighs and separation anxiety? Who would have expected we could return to our homes with withdrawal symptoms and hybrid feelings of sweet sorrow? But we are accustomed by now to expect the unexpected from MELA. Today as the end draws near, we are prepared for a welter of mixed emotions.

Victor Antonio kicks off with the theme "The Logic of Success," peppering his talk with insights from psychology, brain science, sociology and marketing. As a special bonus, he offers an analysis of Michael Kouly's blockbuster session yesterday evening. As an illustration of excellence, Victor endeavors to decipher what made Michael's presentation so powerful. Venturing where no man has dared to venture before, Victor seeks to unlock the labyrinths of the Kouly Kode.

There was a lot here that Michael himself didn't know. Deconstructed into its elements, the mysteries of the Kouly Kode are thrillingly revealed.

The goodbyes are beginning, and with them a renewed desire to capture and preserve these elusive, fugitive moments together. Noor and Mashael pose with the MELA maestro. 

Mohannad and Ginny, sporting her Palestinian colors.

Jassim and Nahla pretend to be unmoved by the emotions washing around them. But we know they are posing.

Yes, today is Saturday, and yes, there is going to be a party tonight. But these guys have stepped out of their time machine at the wrong stop (see "MELA 5, Day Nine"). Somebody, please send them home to 1977.

Said Al Shanfari and Amer Al Fadhil (MELA 4) invite their new compeers to the MELA 2014 Summit in Oman in October.

On behalf of the MELA 5 members, Ghareb presents Jim a token of their appreciation for all he and the team have done to touch and change their lives. The Arabian (White) oryx is the national animal of Qatar.

The Arabian Gold oryx is the newly-minted national animal of MELA.

Jim communicates our thanks to Rob Sherwin (General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Qatar Shell) for his company's support for this wonderful MELA 5 program.

The audience rises to its feet in acknowledgement of MELA Program Director Samer Ebbini, who guided every aspect of the program, kept his eye on the goal, covered defense, rallied the mid-field, and set up the scoring combinations from the wings. Winner of the MELA 2014 Most Valuable Player Award.

The Board of Directors is on hand to welcome the participants into the post-Academy world.


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

Regional Director Adam Albion welcomes Siham to the stage.

Abdelrahman's batteries never go flat.

Arwa made her probing, penetrating presence felt in every one of the sessions.

Asim's strength and intelligent leadership were an inspiration to us all.

Farid and Michael: birds of a feather.

Majid's charismatic personality brought a splash of color to MELA...

...while Mounib's splashy charisma brought a colorful personality to MELA!

Najla made a big splash in Doha.

Mohammad's fans are wild over his poetry – and his giant heart.

When we talk about getting the right people on the bus, we are talking about Raja.

Forget about buses. When we think about getting the right people on board a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, we are talking about Salah. (How Salah feels about joining us on board a lifeboat thousands of miles from land is a separate matter.)

Samira is the kind of leader on whom you know you can rely never to compromise on her principles or values.

We celebrate and recognize with gratitude the program's shepherd and guiding light, Jim Crupi.

Without Jim, there would be no MELA.

Without Faye, there would be no Jim.

Hail to the staff!

Hail MELA 5!

14 March 2014

Time Travellers


Capstone Project. On the penultimate day of the MELA Academy, participants are challenged to synthesize and utilize all they have learned through a team project. Their mission: to travel by time machine to the year 2019, when a global media organization is profiling MELA, and explain through a presentation what MELA has achieved in the intervening five years to make it worthy of such international attention.

Suha and Monah chart their group's course. (Isn't it somehow comforting and homely to know that they still have flip charts in 2019?)

Rawan scripts her team's presentation. (Apparently they still hand write in 2019, too!)

Portrait of collaboration. Study in concentration. Samer and Samira put their heads together.

This gang is ready to rumble. Go MELA 5!

In parallel, the Doha Reunion of MELA members has got underway today with the arrival of some familiar faces  celebrity spottings at every turn!

MELA legends Obay Ghazal and Wassim Al Khatib have breezed into town. The temperature in Doha has already shot up.

MELA All-Stars Wassim, Adib El Hachem and Abdulrahman Khansaheb.

The afternoon's first capstone presentation describes how MELA members, by 2019, have united to contribute to the region's economic betterment, made social contributions through the establishment of schools and scholarships, and developed innovative learning games.

Nailed that presentation!

According to the second group, the drive to create and educate a new generation of junior leaders has been facilitated through Val – an inspirational cartoon creation whose exemplary quality is that he always sticks to his core values.

To feel the pulse of the Middle East, the smart money tunes in to the award-winning talk show Afternoon with Noor. Under her baton, we hear from the mouths of MELA members themselves how, piece by piece, they have promoted peace in their societies by exploiting the possibilities for communication and understanding afforded by MELA's global network. 

Tuning in to Afternoon with Noor: MELA 1's Firas Abu Wishah and Soughit Abdelnour join Michael Kouly and incoming Board Chair Meisa Batayneh.

MELA movie star Hamoud Al-Tobi is in the building!

Following the success of the MELA 2019 Middle East Summit, the world's press corps goes hunting for the back story: how the drive towards a dignified life, rooted in core leadership values, inspired MELA members to cooperate over issues such as food security in the region, the preservation of water resources, and expanded access to education.

MELA TV, hosted by 2019 television personality of the year Rafal Ridha, reports on the creation of the Middle East Union. Its co-founders pay tribute to one of the commonalities that helped to break down barriers and ultimately paved the way to their achievement: their love of shisha!

Ghareb and Salah. Give 'em five – MELA Five!

The final group moves the room profoundly by describing how a MELA initiative to help children and adults with special needs has borne fruit by 2019, promoting new attitudes in the Middle East and radical changes in the medical and education systems.

United we stand.

As a summary of the day's work on the Capstone Project, Vickie speaks for us all!

Tarek Haddad (Director of Planning, JWT Levant) and Mennah Ibrahim (Head of Brand Intelligence, JWT Middle East Africa) inform the audience about ten trends in brands and marketing to look out for in the Middle East/ North Africa (MENA) region in 2014.

After dinner, we reconvene in the ballroom for a hearty Lebanese dessert: a heaped serving of Michael Kouly's session on purpose.

For those of us not yet sated from a full day of treats, there is always a late-night aromatic puff available at the Marrakesh shisha place.

Furthering the cause of Middle East Union through shisha: MELA 4's Mater Al Dhafeeri discovers his Yemeni brother Mohamed.