April 2014

April 2014 Bulletin
In this issue:

CAI's Canadian Arab to Watch


Our Canadian Arab to Watch initiative is going strong, launched in December 2013 to highlight the wealth of leadership, innovation and contributions within our community. For more details about the program, past honourees and for nomination forms, please visit our website.

Rahaf Harfoush: Helping worlds collide


This year – her 30th, no less – Rahaf Harfoush took a break from her birthday tradition of visualizing goals for herself. A break, though, would seem to be the one goal this woman can’t manage.
 
She’s spent the past two years researching and writing as a digital foresight strategist for a co-authored New York Times nonfiction bestseller, while also somehow squeezing in time to complete a murder mystery set in Boston. (She’s not decided yet whether that should see the light of day.)
 
You might be forgiven for not knowing what exactly a digital foresight strategist does. Rahaf did, after all, partly carve out this title. What may help is reading her latest book, The Decoded Company: Know Your Talent Better Than You Know Your Customers. In it, the writing team advises companies on how best to use data to foster talent. World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab has called it “a management toolkit for the future.”

If that’s not your thing, you could read Yes We Did, Rahaf’s book about – yep, you guessed it – how social media changed everything in political campaigns after 2008, based on her insights while volunteering with President Barack Obama’s digital media team during his election campaign.
 
But if you don’t have that kind of time, you could look up one of Rahaf’s many appearances (including one Wall Street TEDx event) in which she speaks on the intersections between technology, politics and business.
 
Rahaf’s passion for tech started at an early age, an intimate bond shared with her tech-savvy, sci-fi-loving father. Her interest in strategy came a bit later, as she was pursuing her HBA from Western’s Ivey School of Business. “It demystifies success,” she explained. “It makes everything feel attainable – it’s just a plan.”
 
She may be a great strategist, but her career happened by discovery. She'd assumed she’d work in a multinational corporation but after several internships, discovered it wasn’t quite the right fit.
 
She also credits mentorship and a generous tech community in Toronto for tremendous support along the way. It was Don Tapscott, Canadian thought and business leader, for example, who encouraged Rahaf to go her own way and exposed her to a more global realm of possibility.
 
Still, it wasn’t always easy: she had to work long hours for free or little money to prove herself, and there was no steady paycheque or manager to depend on. But the path she took was a good fit for her curious, exploratory personality. As one of her mentors had told her, “You can ask people for their advice … but at the end of the day, you’re going to have to be the one to walk through that door.”
 
Scary, but if she’s not a little frightened, something is wrong. “Fear becomes a tool. If I’m not really scared then it just means I’m not really pushing myself enough to grow and to keep moving.”
 
While some people spend a lifetime seeking the success and accolades she’s already achieved, what Rahaf is most proud of is somewhat surprising.
 
“I’ve created a life by design ... in a way that’s very true to myself. I’ve been able to infuse balance.”
 
“The achievements themselves at the end of the day don’t mean anything to me ... Am I waking up feeling excited, am I feeling fulfilled, am I feeling healthy, am I feeling satisfied, am I feeling connected? Those to me are the more important priorities.”
 
It’s something she is immensely grateful for, particularly considering developments in her birth country of Syria. “Had my parents done one or two things differently, that could have been me. It could be me in the street, it could be me out there protesting and fighting and living through this incredibly chaotic time.” What they did do was leave Syria when Rahaf was just five, with two suitcases in hand and three months’ worth of money to live on. Her mother, a trained architect, had minimal English and took a job at Tim Horton’s. Her father, an engineer, started a family business from their basement.
 
After spending most of her life in Toronto, Rahaf moved to Paris, where she enjoys a great balance between work and fine wine, cheese and company with her husband and dog, Pixel. And about one to two books a week. Every once in awhile she stops by a Syrian shop just to hear the dialect.
 
And why France? Well, it started with a vision ...
 

Governance in Transition Across the Arab World

 
CAI partnered with the Rotman School of Management to invite Raed Charafeddine, First Vice-Governor of Banque du Liban and international lecturer, to speak on Governance in Transition across the Arab World.
 
Though hesitant to refer to the revolts of the past few years in the region as an Arab Spring, he more conservatively referred to them as transitions, which carry with them the potential to evolve into “springs.”
 
The picture he proceeded to paint was dire and though he showed discomfort relaying the bad news, he said it was important to do so. “‘It really does bother me on a personal level … it really hurts.”
 
Charafeddine explained the tension between liberal economists and statists, or institutional economists. The former view, the more popular among financial and international development agencies, holds that efficient markets (including such factors as property rights, rule of law, reducing corruption) will lead to foreign investment and advanced technologies, leading to growth and development. The latter group, however, believes that markets are inherently inefficient in developing countries and therefore stress a development-first approach through enhancing a state’s growth-enhancing capabilities, allocation of assets, etc.
 
The question then is do correlations between good governance and economic growth reflect causality in either direction? Or are there other variables at play that drive both? It is a question that is critical to the reformation of government and governance in the MENA region. Charafeddine emphasized the need for the political and economic to work together in an integrated way.
 
After outlining the World Bank’s governance indicators (which include political, economic and institutional dimensions), Charafeddine said the MENA region has been ranked in the 40th percentile worldwide. Government accountability ranked even worse – 25th percentile in 2012. There were no good-governance performers in the region.
 
A main concern for Charafeddine was what was to become of the region’s youth. “How will we be able to produce jobs?” The region needs to produce up to 100 million jobs by 2020, he said, and no one is addressing this issue.
 
“The road to complete and serious governance in the Arab countries seems to be long and complicated, but jumping to the 3rd millennium is not a choice but a must.”
 
Charafeddine spoke at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management on March 24.
 

Mona Nemer Named to CAI Advisory Board


Mona Nemer is the Vice-President, Research at the University of Ottawa, where she is also a professor in the Faculty of Medicine and the director of the Laboratory of Cardiac Development and Differentiation. Dr. Nemer’s research interests focus on heart formation and function, particularly on the mechanisms of heart failure and congenital heart diseases. In addition to her scientific achievements, Dr. Nemer has demonstrated a strong commitment to the education of the next generation through her supervision of over 100 students from various countries as well as her contributions to numerous community services including high level national and international advisory committees and executive boards.
 

CAI Partners with the Arab Development Initiative EAS Summit 2014

 

CAI is proud to partner with the Arab Development Initiative (ADI) which will be presenting its third annual Envision Arabia Summit 2014 (EAS14) in Montreal on May 16-18. The number of participating delegates, mostly youth, is anticipated to exceed 350, coming from North America, Europe and the Arab region. This year’s summit will explore the rich relationship between mind, society, and space, based on ADI’s belief that development begins with the individual. EAS14 will encourage attendees to be the change they wish to see in the world, and to develop the skills needed to undertake development projects in the Arab world. Registration for EAS14 is now open, and delegates can take advantage of the ‘early bird’ specials on ticket prices available for a limited time only. To register or for more information visit www.arabdevelopment.com, or www.facebook.com/ADInitiative

The ADI is a nonprofit organization based in Montreal. Founded in 2011 by a group of international students studying in Canada, the ADI aims to connect and encourage motivated youth to discuss and creatively solve development issues in the Arab world. It accomplishes this mission by organizing an annual Envision Arabia Summit, which hosts renowned specialists and practicing professionals in various fields related to sustainable development such as education, society, culture, health and well-being, and science and technology. Each year, delegates participate in a weekend of talks, workshops and networking activities that deepen their understanding of the pressing development issues facing the Arab region. 
 

Better Know a (Arab) Candidate

 
The first in a series on Canadian Arabs running in the Ontario municipal elections in October 2014. 

Running for Office: Handling Green Space, Transparency, and Assimilation

Wasim Jarrah's grandfather left at least one of his 36 grandchildren inspired. Watching him while growing up in Lebanon, Wasim learned that education, experience, and willingness to help others enriches one's life.
 
A few years after his immigration to Canada, Wasim decided to run for councillor in Newmarket’s Ward 1. Having spent 11 years in Newmarket, Wasim believes he has the knowledge, vision, and sense of leadership needed to improve the services provided in his ward and enhance its management.
 
He sees Ward 1 as a badly-run corporation where its residents pay the highest property taxes in town yet do not receive the corresponding value in services. As councillor, Wasim plans to utilise his business background in order to minimize spending and closely monitor the ward’s budget. For example, instead of spending money on paying external consultants, Wasim will help develop leaders who would willingly offer their free advice in order to see their community flourish.
 
Wasim also wishes to monitor the ward’s development and tailor it to the community’s needs. As a councillor, he would stop the unplanned expansion of the ward and strategise more green and community friendly spaces. One facility that he intends to construct is an ice-skating rink, a facility that is missing from Ward 1.
 
Moreover, Wasim’s personable and friendly demeanor, along with his good relations with his neighbours and community will enable him to better listen to, and communicate people’s needs to the council, ensuring that all are taken seriously and treated accordingly. He intends to be as available as possible to everyone, be it through social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, or the old-school door knocking.
 
Having knocked on Canada’s door himself, Wasim feels that moving here has encouraged him to articulate his ideas for change more than he would in Lebanon. As much as he would have liked to be politically involved in the latter, Wasim sees the futility of attempting to affect change in a place where one’s voice is often discarded and unheard and prefers to contribute to a fully functioning and democratic society.
 
Thus, while sentimental attachment to Lebanon led him to build a house there, Wasim is building and embodying his grandfather’s vision in Canada, the country that has provided him with the wealth of opportunity, democracy, and equal treatment of all its citizens. Running for office is Wasim’s way of integrating into Canadian society as a fully contributing member, be it in politics or otherwise, an attitude which he sees as more widespread among the new generation of Arab newcomers.
 
To learn more about Wasim and his campaign, please visit his website at www.wasimjarrah.com or check out his Facebook page and Twitter account. Should you have any questions that you would like to direct to Wasim, please communicate with him at jarrahwasim@gmail.com.

This story is provided for informational purposes and does not represent an endorsement or any political affiliation by CAI. We invite you to bring to our attention any Canadian Arab candidates running for elections. Email info@canadianarabinstitute.org
 

Do Immigrants Bring with Them 'Imported Conflict'?


A new study by the Mosaic Institute – CAI partners in our past Intra-Arab Dialogue Series – shows that while many Canadians maintain connections to overseas conflicts, Canada does not "import" violent conflict. The study, The Perception & Reality of 'Imported Conflict' in Canada, found that communities of Canadians who come from conflict repudiate violence in Canada -- without exception. However, global conflicts do still have a large and lingering effect on the lives of many Canadians.

"Virtually everyone we interviewed told us how their relationships to the conflicts they came from have changed since coming to Canada," said John Monahan, Executive Director of The Mosaic Institute. "It shows us that living in Canada transforms the way we see the world."

The report is available online in English and in FrenchAdditionally, please click here to view an op-ed in the Globe and Mail written by the project team.
 

Upcoming CAI Event

 

April 29: Lunch ‘n Learn with DiverseCity – The Greater Toronto Leadership Project 

An exclusive opportunity for qualified members of the Arab community in the GTA, arranged by CAI, to attend an information session presented by DiverseCity onBoard, an award-winning initiative of the Maytree Foundation. The program’s mandate is to connect qualified candidates from diverse communities to the governance bodies of nonprofit and public sector organizations in the GTA.

The Canadian Arab population in the Greater Toronto Area is fast-growing, yet there is very little representation of Arabs in the governance bodies of public and nonprofit organizations. You can change that! Join us for a Lunch ‘n Learn to find out how.

The session will cover:
            • The benefits of serving on a board
            • Why boards worry about diversity
            • The role of a board member
            • How the program works
            • Training
            • Municipal, provincial and nonprofit boards
            • Current opportunities
Details: The Maytree Foundation boardroom, 170 Bloor Street West, Suite 804 
April 29, 12 p.m.-2 p.m.
 Register here.
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