The American Middle Eastern Network for Dialogue at California’s Stanford University (AMENDS) is a student-led initiative that enables young change agents from across the Middle East, North Africa, and United States to share ideas, collaborate on projects, and, through Ted-style talks, broadcast their experiences and learn from each other. This is a story about a platform for sharing stories that prompt positive change.
In 2011, as protests erupted across North Africa and the Middle East, two Stanford undergrads met in a California coffee shop. Khaled and Elliot entered into a chat about the profound potential of young leaders to create measurable social, political, and economic change. They talked about the power of collaboration, and the critical importance of sharing ideas and experiences with global audiences. The men (hailing from Bahrain and Chicago, respectively) specifically considered applying these concepts to promote a deeper global understanding of the Middle East, and better cooperation between the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the United States.
The concept became reality in the form of student-led AMENDS, sponsored by Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. Today it consists of a core team of 25 students from Stanford and Koç University (a non-profit private university in Istanbul) representing many countries and cultures working together to progress projects across MENA including citizen journalism, water conservation, micro-finance, and community organizing.
Every year delegates selected from MENA and the US meet at a 5-day summit where they can develop key skills, network with established leaders and share initiatives with a larger audience. This year’s meeting took place in Istanbul. Strategic Director, Baris Akis, as stated on the AMEND website, told Elan magazine that “this conference is important because it focuses on the growth of people and their projects. Secondly, there’s an exchange of ideas and knowledge of best practice; it also provides access to each others networks and initiates a dialogue among delegates that will hopefully create a greater impact and positive results across all organizations”.
The event, the fourth annual edition, took place in March. It featured delegates like Mohamed Amine Belarbi, who founded a non-profit youth policy-making institute with 6 branches in the MENA region with aspirations to channel young voices into enhanced governance and policy making. There was Samia Ayyash, who founded Baqqa Sisterhood, an educational system with a curriculum designed to empower young girls through asset-based community development and experiential learning at the Baqaa’ refugee camp for Palestinians in Jordan. Sanwal Muneer discussed his project to manufacture a device that harvests clean energy from air turbulence created by highway traffic in Pakistan; he is the only Pakistani to be endorsed by UK Trade and Investment to set up his green energy start-up in Britain through their Sirius Program, which supports international graduates who want to start and grow a business in the UK.
As one delegate remarked, “Stories matter, people matter. Let’s hear the people, let’s humanize each story.” Green Prophet is all about breaking down boundaries, urging constructive collaboration, and broadcasting positive stories from this region.