Posted on October 31, 2013 in Arab American Institute
The Fellows have collaborated in teams on six project ideas aimed at addressing challenges facing Egypt and the U.S. - from establishing microclinics in Egypt to installing large interactive TV screens in Cairo and New York. Once implemented, the projects will help to achieve the goals of the East-West Initiative and ensure the program's sustainability and impact well beyond the term of the Fellowship. Read more about each project below.
Re:Perception: A Creative Investigation of Cross-Cultural Perception and Dialogue
Healthy Innovation by Empowering Cross-Cultural Solutions
Toward Sustained Renewable Energy Policy in Egypt
Survey of Attitudes Among Young Professionals in Egypt and the U.S.
Digitized Comic: "Beyond Exceptionalism" - East/West and the Ties that Bind
Team: Noha Eid, Alex Goldmark, Mohammed Mubarak, Verdana Partalo
To help break down stereotypes, encourage interaction, and improve relations between the US and Egypt, and to make people rethink their preconceptions about each other. The project attempts to answer the questions: To what extent can an interactive urban intervention address the similarities and differences among people around the world? How could it affect the way people perceive their environment?
There is significant coverage of opinion polls depicting attitudes of "everyday Egyptians and Americans" toward the people, policies, and governments of the two nations. Increasingly, the dominant attitudes are ones of disapproval or disaffection. Yet, those perceptions are largely driven by a second-hand understanding of the nation and its people.
Citizens' attitudes are essentially crafted by media stories about political leaders, complex events, and popular entertainment—none of which provides comprehensive portraits of the issues or citizens involved. In the most accessible media outlets, countries and their people are painted in broad strokes that overlook the cultural, economic, educational, and professional diversity in both societies. Add to this a lack of opportunity for "average" US and Egyptian citizens to interact with their counterparts, and the result is that these "everyday members of society" who are being surveyed are not providing opinions as much as reflecting images provided by the media. Egyptians and Americans lack the information necessary to offer truly informed opinions about each other.
During the Fellows program, team members recognized the critical role personal contact plays in breaking down stereotypes and prompting individuals to rethink preconceptions about other countries and their citizens. They recognized that the future of cross-cultural understanding and dialogue lies in creating opportunities for individuals representing the full spectrum of society to interact with their overseas counterparts.
Shared Distance will provide a forum for real-time, digitally enabled cross-cultural interactions between citizens from Egypt and the United States. Created as an urban art installation, two large screens—one in Cairo and the other in New York—will serve as communication portals. Individuals can engage in activities as simple as waving to each other or as complex as performing a group activity. The project will not pre-screen individuals, ensuring that the interactions are spontaneous, voluntary, cooperative, dynamic, and diverse in scope.
The interactions will be recorded and used in an archival video, which will be available online. Participants would be able to tag themselves and share the videos with others. This not only creates a living documentary of the exchanges, but provides opportunities to influence perceptions of greater numbers of individuals through a second-generation user experience. The Shared Distance experience can help to generate mutual respect, challenge perceptions, and bridge cultural chasms.
Team: Mariam Ibrahim, Heba Safwat, Jeff Walls, Bes Young
To design and create an interactive application that will serve as an investigation of the process of perception as well as a research tool. The application will help to codify and make tangible elements of the process of perception with the goal of stimulating and furthering dialogue and understanding of perception across cultures. The application aims to help users develop a more advanced awareness of how their perceptions are formed and thereby increase the ability to form discerning and informed opinions in an increasingly sensationalistic and saturated media environment.
As Gabr Fellows, the team recognized that the interactions and experiences
offered by the program altered not just their perceptions of East and West, Egyptian and American cultures, but also their understanding of how those perceptions were formed. The project draws from conversations among the Fellows during and after the Egyptian leg of the program, especially in regards to the way the political unrest in Egypt was depicted in the media.
The team understands that perception is a malleable and fallible process that, both consciously and unconsciously, shapes how we view the world around us. Despite what we may consciously believe or express, perceptual bias and emotion play a huge role in the human experience; a role that is often poorly understood and rarely addressed in full. Increasing awareness and understanding one's perceptive process are important steps in furthering dialogue between cultures and people, and this project seeks to provide a forum for informed discussion on this topic.
This project is centered around the creation of an interactive application that will serve two primary purposes. First, it will act as a creative exercise to evoke a deeper awareness and understanding of perceptive processes among users of the application. Second, it will act as a means of passively collecting data about how users respond to different written and visual cues, which will then serve to provide objective insights about how perception works, how certain symbols and words can evoke strong responses among users, and how the realities of perception can differ from assumptions.
Team: Haroun Habib, Amr Ismaeil, Leslie Lang, Ahmed Nagy
To address existing needs in the health and economic sectors through the introduction of microclinics, and the establishment of a foundation that will support the creation of similar health-sector entrepreneurial programs.
Egypt and the US find themselves facing a number of healthcare issues. Both countries have growing and aging populations which have shifted their healthcare priorities from infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and other chronic diseases. In fact, NCDs represent a significant portion of the rising costs of healthcare in the US, and take a toll on the economy as they impact workforce productivity.
Both countries are also facing problems of unemployment, particularly among youth. A recent report on work in Egypt stated that "young entrepreneurs need more training and mentoring in areas such as developing business plans and other core business skills..." The same can be said about the next generation of American entrerpreneurs.
Microclinics, comprised of preexisting social groups of 2-8 people with shared access to education, technology, and social support, represent a paradigm shift in healthcare. In the US, they are emerging as a new healthcare model, specifically for the treatment of NCDs and other chronic diseases. The establishment of microclinics in Egypt would provide new healthcare options based on traditional social models while creating an opportunity to develop an entrepreneurial training program. It would also serve to facilitate Egyptian-American cooperation on healthcare, education, and business models that can have long-term benefits for both countries.
This project will create a network of microclinics, as well as a training module to provide participants with pedagogical and hands-on experience identifying existing needs, creating practical solutions, and designing projects that can add value to the health and economic sectors of their own countries.
Program managers from a successful microclinic network in Kentucky will train Egyptian medical students from the University of Alexandria. This student volunteer cohort will recruit community members suffering from NCDs to participate in the program, and then launch the clinic—conducting screenings, educational sessions, and providing social support to promote healthy behaviors. Medical screenings will be conducted at the beginning and end of the project, providing measurable data on key health indicators to assess the impact and success of the project.
At the same time, participants will complete a 6-week guided course on "Health-focused Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation," created by the Gabr Fellowship team. Using an online platform, participants will learn market-based approaches, review case studies, and analyze how real-world healthcare issues have been solved through social entrepreneurship.
After completion of the course, Egyptian students will be matched with students from Boston University to form teams for a business plan competition. The projects will be charged with adding value to the Egyptian health system and providing real benefits to patients, families, and communities. Projects will be judged based on the degree of social impact, entrepreneurial ability, and real-world applicability.
Team: Christina Fallon, Moataz Hussein, Morgan Williams
To foster the creation of a renewable energy infrastructure in Egypt by aligning technology, capital, and policies to create and sustain renewable energy development. The project will bring together policymakers from Egypt, the United States, and Europe to agree on a course of action that will accelerate the adoption of effective international and domestic policies to aid in renewable energy development and packaged energy solutions in Egypt.
As Egypt's population grows, so do the demands on energy suppliers. Energy consumption has increased by 240% since 1990, and is projected to double again by 2022. To maintain and augment the quality of life of its citizens, Egypt will have to at least double energy production by 2025. With a wealth of renewable energy sources—from the winds along the Red Sea to the solar capacity in Egypt's expansive deserts—the potential for creating a renewable energy sector is tremendous. In fact, the country has the potential to be a cost-effective supplier of renewable energy for the entire region. Recognizing the economic and environmental benefits of developing this sector, the Egyptian government threw its support behind the creation of renewable energy sources, even setting a target of meeting 20% of Egypt's energy demands via renewable energies by 2020. But deficiencies in policies, technologies, and on-the-ground capacity have prevented any real progress towards implementation. While the government has authorized some private financing of energy facilities, no specific regulatory framework has been created to support the goal or the industry. Further, in the absence of stable, focused policy and law in this area, investors are unlikely to come forward. There is a critical and immediate need for strategic engagement and leadership if Egypt is to meet its goals.
This project focuses on hosting two conferences to create the policy and regulatory frameworks necessary to expedite the establishment of a viable Egyptian renewable energy sector.
The first event will be held in the spring of 2014, bringing together roughly 20 operations-level policy and energy experts from Egypt, the US, and Europe. These stakeholders will identify the key ingredients to a sensible renewable energy policy for Egypt, including complementary international policy measures that would support Egypt's domestic renewable energy industry. The group will openly assess Egypt's proposed renewable energy legislation; consider relevant policy concepts from other regions/countries; and develop a white paper analyzing current Egyptian energy policy and projecting the economic impact of establishing a renewable energy sector.
The second event will provide an opportunity for international experts and leading developers in renewable energy to meet with Egyptian decision-makers and stakeholders, to advance the case for public and private investment and policy support of projects that will encourage development of this sector. Participants will discuss barriers and strategies to progressive energy policies; economic and environmental benefits of implementing renewable energy programs; development and implementation of public education and outreach programs to support the sector; and the infrastructure necessary to secure domestic and international public- and private-sector investment.
Team: Mohga Morsy, Becca Doten, Reem Soliman, Daniel Sullivan
To look at the attitudes, assumptions, ideas and concerns of a sample group of young professional Americans and Egyptians in both countries through the use of survey tools, and present the findings in a multimedia format. This exercise hopes to bring about a better understanding of their concerns, attitudes, and priorities; identify key similarities and differences; create and support dialogue; and improve cross-cultural understanding.
These are tumultuous times for young people across the globe. In Egypt, the 2011 Revolution has not had the transformative results that many intended—and the 2013 rebellion has left the country in a state of flux and uncertainty. Egyptian youth face high rates of unemployment, increasing gender discrimination and censorship of ideas. In the United States, young people also face high unemployment, massive student loan debt and uncertain futures. The recent Trayvon Martin case points out that racism and discrimination remain a problem, even today.
An emailable/online survey will be created and sent to each of the Gabr Fellows and their networks. The target group will be young professional and working men and women, ages 24-35, living in Egypt or the US. The survey will be aimed at getting a better understanding of the views of young Americans and Egyptians regarding the current situation in their own countries, their challenges and hopes, and their perspectives on the other country.
In addition to the survey, each of the four team members will conduct video interviews with at least five young people in multiple cities in both countries on their attitudes and ideas about their respective countries and about East/West partnerships.
Using the results of the survey and interviews, the team will create a white paper that will summarize and analyze the results. The paper will include a list of top priorities and concerns of young people in each country, as well as attitudes of participants towards the other country (Egypt or US).
A "live" website will also be created, recording and expressing on an ongoing basis the views, experiences, opinions, and aspirations of Egyptian and American young professionals. It will serve as a clearinghouse for the findings and promote dialogue through the use of a message board or blog. A feed highlighting current tweets and popular hashtags per relevant news and events will be included, along with an RSS reader to display current news in Egypt and the US. Videos will be uploaded, including citizen interviews, presentations by policymakers and academics, and trending real-time events occurring in both nations.
The mission of the website is to promote a continual East-West dialogue, dedicated to collective action in seeking to resolve the great challenges facing our 21st Century global community.
Team: Beth Cartier, Ahmed Elhabibi, Amr Ismaeil, Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez
To create a digital comic book to tell parallel stories of past and present events in Egypt and the US—such as the drafting of the US and Egyptian constitutions, Tahrir Square, and the US Civil War. These stories would highlight the similarities in themes, challenges, and successes of Egypt and the United States in such areas as the role of minorities, use of violence, and the transition to a democratic system.
Many societies, including Egypt and the United States, face the challenge of balancing nationalism and cultural pride with respect for the fundamental shared experiences of much of humanity. Reconciling the two, particularly within countries holding strongly exceptionalistic outlooks such as Egypt (based on history) and the United States (based on present influence), is crucial if populations hope to learn from each other's mistakes. By carefully and accessibly organizing current events and placing them within the context of global history, the team seeks to give perspective and create an opportunity for that learning to occur.
The events of the Tamarrod have underscored the crucial role that youth movements
and leaders can play in bringing about social and political change. By exploring
issues and historical points such as these and tying them to parallel situations, the
team will create a medium through which relevant ideas from the worlds of comparative law and political theory are made accessible to the young leaders of tomorrow in both countries: impassioned individuals who may benefit from better grounding in such areas but lack the time, resources, or will for intensive constitutional and historical study.
This project aims to engage people at university age or slightly older who are politically conscious or inquisitive about history, and reflect a robust tradition of comics as a medium for making larger themes more accessible.
The plan is to develop the comic into digitized form, but options could be explored for developing into physical mediums and expanding into the social media sphere and a content-specific website.