American Middle East Network for Dialogue at Stanford (AMENDS) is yet another great idea born in a coffee shop. Khaled and Elliot, two undergraduates from Stanford, born and raised in Bahrain and Chicago respectively, envisioned and built a platform for young change agents to come together and share their knowledge and experience to promote social and economic development in the region. The initiative also aims to create and foster a deeper global understanding of the Middle East.
Every year delegates are chosen from the US and the MENA region where they can develop key skills, network with established leaders and share initiatives with a larger audience. This year they had their fourth annual meeting in Istanbul along with KOC University, a non-profit private university in Istanbul. Strategic Director, Baris Akis, adds that “this conference is important because it focuses on the growth of individuals 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 five day event, from March 21 – 26, saw delegates like Mohamed Amine Belarbi, who founded a non-profit youth policy-making institute with 6 branches in the MENA region, channelling aspirations and voices into enhanced governance and policy making, 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, in Jordan; Sanwal Muneer, the only Pakistani who has been endorsed by UK Trade and Investment to set up his green energy start-up in UK through Sirius Program. His project being a device that harvests clean energy from turbulences created by highway traffic in Pakistan, to name just a few.