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Special guest Fadi Ghandour (@fadig), founder and CEO of Aramex, the first Arab company to go public on NASDAQ, founding partner of Maktoob (aquired by Yahoo!), and founder of Ruwwad for Development, will give a talk on the importance of entrepreneurs in the role of economic development.
Okay. We are on with Fadi Ghandour. I just can't tell you all how excited I am that Fadi has been able to take some time today to join us and share some of his vast experience as an entrepreneur, as a business leader, as a social leader, as a visionary. I have known Fadi I think now for about five years and we've had the opportunity to indirect on a number of projects. In every instance, he has just been as gracious and supportive as anybody could be and I know that there are literally hundreds and maybe even thousands of partners and entrepreneurs around the world who benefited from Fadi's generosity and collaborative spirit. Fadi is the founder of Aramex. It just celebrated its 30th anniversary. Fadi announced earlier this year that he will be stepping down as a CEO of Aramex at the end of this year. He is also a supporter of Ruwwad in Jordan, which is a social venture that I think he will tell us some more about. He has been very involved in the World Economic Forum, in the Schwab Foundation, other global organizations he had spoken all over the world. He is known globally for his leadership and entrepreneurship. And that said, it's wonderful to have you on Fadi. We're going to start with just a few remarks, sort of 10 to 15 minutes, just comments from Fadi. I'm going to ask some questions and then we're going to open up the line.
Great. Thank you so much Phil. I hope that people can hear me well. This is a very generous introduction from you. I am very excited to be here with you so as you said Phil, I'll speak for about 10 minutes. It's best that we keep this as interactive as possible. I have a specific theme that I'll be discussing now, which is the role of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship and the private sector and development and the importance -- and the strategic importance of the role of the private sector in development and -- sustainable development in various communities around the world. But that will not be the only topic I would discuss I guess so it's open for anybody to raise any question that they have around this topic and around any other issue that they think is relevant for me to answer or address. So, the basic theme I hear from you, which is something that I've been speaking about for years now, is that the private sector and -- specifically the entrepreneurial society and private sector have a strategic and, in my view, a role that leads directly to their survival and they're thriving in fact in their own businesses and in their own society. So, without them playing a role and the strategic role and the vital role and the critical role in the development and in bringing in their capabilities to the societies that they live in, then they're really falling into the trap that has led us to the financial crisis of 2008, which is not sustainable in any way __3:32__.
So, I am talking about the really symbiotic relationship between the success of businesses and the success of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship alongside the well-being of the societies that they operate in. A society that is not well does not create a private sector that is well. If we look at various countries that have had some of the revolutions and -- or the awakening, if you want, or the change processes that have happened in the Arab world. We see a lot of blame going out to the private sector and some private practices that were not proper or maybe -- or maybe from a rumor perspective, it's not proper. The private sector is automatically blamed for a lot of the things that are happening in any country. So, the private sector needs to wake up and needs to understand that it has to operate in any country that it operates in, in any community that operates in, in a sustainable manner. Sustainability, in that sense, means working for the long term the profit maximization concept, the shareholder, a value of the purpose of an organization is no longer valid. A longer term means a thriving society by having the private sector participate in partnership, I would say, always in partnership with private sector, with public sector, and with the civil society and I would say that tripartite partnership is so essential. So, what does the private sector or an entrepreneurial community have that they bring to people? I am not talking really here about bringing our capital and doing the traditional CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility, PR stuff where we look good, but we don't really dig deep enough or do a long-term project that are -- or long-term work or our practices in general have to sustainable.
It's not about project, it's about the way we work it's a values-based leadership operation. So, it's a holistic approach. It's a holistic approach, where everybody benefits, the stakeholder approach. So, everybody that gets touched by the private sector or touches the private sector needs to be part of this and we need to understand that this is the only way for sustainable businesses in society. So, we bring in our capital, we bring in our know-how, our skill. We have a lot of those. We are the solution based we have solution-based minds and ways of doing things in the private sector. So, we are quite innovative in finding solutions for various issues and we need to grow -- we bring those capabilities into the public domain to address issues. Things like education I would say. Things like have a strategic value for us in the private sector. And if we don't participate in the decision making, in the public domain on how our communities get educated, then we are affected, being affected directly, not only for our own employees, but for all the society as a whole that is around us. So, an educated society around us is a society that is going to have a shared value with us and then there is that virtuous -- that virtuous cycle that happens there. So, we also bring our network. The private sector is extremely network so bringing in our networks to the public domain is essential. Opening up doors for those people that are on the margins of society is so essential through utilizing our networks whether within our own communities, within the country at large, or within the global community that we participate in, in various ways, either through our own businesses or through the conferences or through our own contact from our own __7:45__.
There are plenty of people that get best practices from all over the world and we need to utilize those and bring them to the communities that we operate in. There is also the power of access from the private sector. So, when people on the margins in our communities are not being heard, then is our role in the private sector to make them heard so that we can address all these issues that they have or participate in solving those issues or bringing them up to the public employee that is responsible for that territory. I have found, in many cases, that it is a solution as far away as a phone call to make people aware of that issue and then you mobilize their community to come and solve those issues. So, we also have employees, we are employers. So, how do we bring in and benefit, for instance, youth? How do we bring in the private -- the youth that is just graduating into internships into the private sector so that they are ready for the workforce once they graduate from school? So, we become part of the education system by opening up our own systems for these people so that they get workforce trained, understanding what the markets need, how to actually participate in a corporation before they actually graduate because there is fear sometimes among these youth and not understanding what is the best -- is required for them after they graduate. So, we have -- and we also are -- obviously are employers, and being employers, we also have, by definition, a social responsibility in the community. We are also we have purchasing powers. What do we actually do, our procurement? Do we have a responsible sustainable way of procuring? Do we engage the small and medium-sized industries? Are we engaged in the young entrepreneurs that are popping up with new businesses in our purchasing power as private sector companies?
So, there is also that virtuous relationship in that process. Empowering those SMEs so that they can create more jobs or they can become more sustainable from a financial perspective themselves. So that proposition, in general, is a proposition that says we need to move away from the mentality and specifically in emerging markets. You know, probably all markets are emerging nowadays because there are you know, even Europe today as you can see, the youth unemployment in Spain is so high. Look at Greece, which is part of the Europe. So boundaries of emerging markets are no longer the original boundaries that we had thought of just two to three years ago. So moving away from the aid mentality from being the dependency process on outside aid to help us in our communities. I am not against aid in general, but I'm saying there is enough power, enough knowledge, enough capabilities, enough capital locally in any community whether it's private sector, whether it's entrepreneurial society to participate very actively, very generously in the development of their countries and their communities so that they have a thriving community over there and then thus, their businesses thrive altogether. So the concept of thriving is not a concept of only a maximization of profit and only shareholders, but it is the thriving of the community and the well-being of the community that actually gets long-term sustainability for any business so that's, in a nutshell, my field today and I have had various experiences and various engagements and I have started various businesses or nonprofits or social businesses that are in that field and we think we have, you know, models that are on their way to proving that concept and showing the way for the private sector that their interaction, their strategic decision to actually participate makes a difference on the ground. So that's what I have. This is a general introduction just to open it up and I'll take it. I'll take questions from you and from whoever is listening. Thank you.
So, you know, I think the spirit of the words you've offered is really powerful and it's all the more powerful because you've been leaving this message now for quite some time and in a lot of different ways. I you know, there are so many directions I'd love to take this conversation, but since we have a diverse group of people who are participating in this course, but each of us in our own way self-identified the students. I want to bring you back to your days as a student and particularly to the days as a student-founding Aramex. I want to get back to the larger things that you raised around the role of entrepreneurs in business in our society, but it's just a kind of situated. I wonder if you could share the story of the founding of Aramex and actually, our good friend, __13:23__ was a student in this course and has been very involved. She had the same question for you that I had hoped to start with. So we're along the we're on the same way.
Excellent and thank you very much. I think my thinking and what has shaped my world view over the years is I'm on many things and probably the most dominant is being an entrepreneur myself, being a young entrepreneur 30 years ago graduating from college and connecting with my partner who basically came up with the idea and said, "You know, why don't we start this new business?" You know, being in the Express Logistics business overnight delivery was originally was back then, a very original concept of Federal Express was only five, four or five years old at that time. It has just established itself on the domestic scene in the US market. So at early stage, I was unable to again, it was family and friends' capital equities that helped us establish, three or four partners we were at that time. Only two of us survived because people thought it was not you know, a couple of other partners thought it was not sustainable to establish a business and compete with DHL. So my world view revolves around a company that wanted to find a niche, wanted to compete with giants because this is a giant business by definition because being in the express business, you need to be global very quickly and eventually getting, struggling and finding more capital because banks wouldn't give you money. There were no angel investors at that time, no venture capital or even private equity had not -- you know, private equity in the Arab world is a new thing that happened only in the year 2000 in this century. So we struggled early on.
It was a continuously learning process. I said we were all students and I continued to be a student myself so I learned on the job. I struggled in finding employees that would work for a startup, working and traveling every single week if you want to go to every single company to find a partner that is willing to partner with a small company like ours to become our, if you want, agent in that country to deliver our parcels. So it was a struggle, a big struggle in the early days. But, you know, the key to this is that we found our niche. We found our niche. We decided that the best way for us to actually and the sustainable way for us to actually continue the business is to partner with those big American companies that wanted to have their delivery happened in the Middle East and then, the FedEx is off the world to Airborne Express which no longer exists today because it got acquired by DHL and many other companies that are not anymore even in the market in the areas like Burlington Northern and many. These were companies that only focused on domestic market and we created a niche for ourselves by saying outsource or deliveries in the Middle East to us. And then, what did these do to us? This created something that is very important for any entrepreneur in my view that we learn from these suppliers. These people are our clients actually, not suppliers. These people I learned everything that I needed to learn originally about the business and what the business requires from them. So I learned that the hands of Federal Express and Airborne Express introduced technology with us. We learned how the world operates in that space by actually, totally integrating into their supply chain and into the way they think and strategically positioning ourselves with them. So as we were getting paid to deliver their parcels, we were also learning how actually our business can go global with them.
So a struggle of managing cash flow, a struggle of recruiting people, a struggle of introducing technology you know, if you remember. Well, some of you won't. It's that in the 80s, there was no internet. Internet is a product of the 90s so we had to actually depend on technology that was mail-framed based and very difficult to install in various emerging markets specifically. And then we had to face regulators, "Why are you opening up a company that delivers letters and parcels when there's post offices and post office monopoly?" and it took us years and years and years of actually knocking on the door, finding loopholes in the law so that we're allowed to operate. Some countries took about for 14 or 15 years to get licenses. So these are all things and things that every entrepreneur faces. The key here is that, you know, believing in it, sticking to it, making sure your cash is always there and never to spend it. If you think you have a product in the business that has value, then it eventually opens up. So it was you know, Aramex, until we went public on that back in 1997. So from 1982 until 1997, we continuously year after year struggled in our cash flow. So it takes a long time to create a business that is actually sustainable and is cash flow positive. It's different from the world that we live in today because in the internet world, everything is instantaneous. There is the need to exit very quickly. There is the need to, you know, build a business in two years and make hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars by selling it to the big guy. But these are only few stories by the way. These are only few stories. The rest of the businesses have to struggle and have to actually build value for the long run so that they can remain sustainable. Not every entrepreneur built his business just for exit.
So I'm just trying to pull it together here. You had a new business model that had only been tried in the United States fives years earlier with no institutional sources of capital. You had major multinational corporate competitors. You had no real role models and you had regulatory hurdles in every direction. Well, aside from that, what was the difficulty? It does not seem that hard. I mean, it's an amazing thing.
Look, we you know, if I look back at it, I'm glad my memory is it fades away with age so I remember that literally 14 years where years that's where I've had difficulty sleeping many, many nights. Because I chose to be you know, it's also not by, maybe not by choice, but as such, entrepreneurs are not always necessarily purposefully about the -- you stumble upon ideas and it happened that my partner thought of this idea and we ventured into it and being stubborn enough to actually think that you can make it when the world think you can't because you're competing with the DHLs of the world and who would have thought that you can actually go out and compete with such a powerful brand. But, again, the niche you know, luck also makes sense because these companies like FedEx and the Airborne Express did not think that the Middle East was an area they wanted to be in. We're not even going international being on the United States. We found that this was the easiest way for us to actually establish the business because this gives you immediate cash flow because these people will give you a lot of packages that go to the Middle East that otherwise would have been delivered by your competitors because Federal Express, for instance, were giving their parcels back in the 80s to one of their competitors to deliver it. They didn't like that so we found that that niche works well. We said we are an independent company. We will not compete with you in your domestic market and we will deliver your packages under your own name in these markets. And it took them seven or eight years to continue to work with us and we were so dependent on that process. So again, there is luck and there is hard work at the same time like every entrepreneurial' story.
You know, I actually want to I want to stick on that point for a moment. I mean there are a couple of things you just mentioned. This is a global course we have and in particular, many participants throughout the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia, many students coming from Pakistan. You know, you made an observation that the big multinationals weren't really looking to your region as an area for growth certainly 30 years ago and that you used that disinclination in the perception, the negative perception in terms of opportunity at least of a region to your advantage and use the scale of the multinational actually is a way to grow rather than competing them on. I want to kind of take us a little bit into the present and say, "Do you see that that sort of model is viable in other businesses in other context today?"
Yes. Look Phil, that's a great question. You know, I always tell whoever wants to know that we're a product of the imperfections and the uncertainties and the risks that the Arab world is meaning. Because we're from here, our risk perception is different than anyone coming from the outside so if you had looked at the Arab world back in 1982 or 1983, you would say, "Oh my god, who wants to go there?" Foreign investment laws were practically nonexistent. There were civil wars in certain countries and wars among other countries, the Iraq-Iran war, civil war in Lebanon, and __23:54__ and Palestine. Oil prices dropping down to $10 per barrel. Believe it or not, it was $10 per barrel at that certain time back in the 80s. And the regulatory environment that still is wanting today, but even back then, you can imagine how difficult it is. But, that's the opportunity for anybody that thinks that this is our own natural market and not thinking that you can make it. You can actually build your business here because that's where we come from. So it was business as usual for us, but it was high risk for others. So our risk tolerance, our risk view was different and that we took as a competitive advantage. If we won't buy the time, the big boys thought that this is a market that is interesting, we were already a powerful brand in our market 15 years after we had established the business. So I would also suggest to anybody. Look, the world did not change very much. Post 2011, post 2008, the financial crisis, I would argue that many of these companies and many people have retrenched. Many people have thought it is an opportunity to go international, but many companies have retrenched and were looking at their wounds in their own domestic markets and many others don't want to actually venture so if we don't want to talk about Pakistan for instance, and Pakistan is a fantastic market. It has many challenges.
If somebody looks at it from the outside, he'll said, "You know, why the heck do I want to go to Pakistan?" But for a Pakistani who's living in Pakistan, this is a fantastic opportunity to build your business and actually become the conduit for anybody that wants to come into your marketplace and build that value for yourself. So there are opportunities and risks and in fact, the biggest opportunity comes into it. Because when everybody is moving away from you from your country, then this is when actually build. When things have slowed down, it is easier for your business, then to build your business when there is a boom. Costs will go down, opportunities will open up and you will be able to attract talent and not compete among the larger, with the multinational for the talent in your country. So there are piece of opportunities and I would say our success today is a direct result of the difficult operating environment in our region in the first 15 years of our existence. (Crosstalk)
Yeah, and in that you know, and what you're saying just resonates so strongly with I think the sense that we've gotten from the students in this class and really the motivation of this course. You know, I want to just have one follow up and then I'm going to start to open it up to the lines about this notion of the financial crisis and you know, it's generally almost universally referred to in the US and Europe as a global financial crisis. You know, I have some doubts about that and I wonder what your comments are. You know, it's the same time that we've had a global financial crisis. We've had this continuation of a process of growth and the sharing of economic prosperity in a global sense that has been entrusted in history. Which is the bigger trend, the problems in Europe, the housing market issues in the United States, or this process of global growth?
Look, the risk of founding a bit condescending which maybe people from the emerging markets would appreciate now. You know, I see no opportunities in Europe and the United States, I'm sorry. I think their definition of global needs to understand that global means global, everywhere in the globe. Global does not mean the west, does not mean the United States of America, and does not mean the markets that have already developed and established themselves. Global, in my view, is Africa. Global, in my view, is the Middle East. Global, in my view, is Southeast Asia. The global, in my view, is South Asia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh. You know, these countries are growing. Aramex finds that our niche and our growth today and our global presence the biggest opportunities are in Africa today, in Africa for people you know, people would question some, "You know, so what's in Africa, small markets, regulatory problems, social issues." So what? You know, South Africa and the surrounding countries around it are growing and thriving. The east African market is opening up, you know, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda are establishing a common market among themselves and there is fantastic opportunities over there. So the concept of global means global in every single sense of the world. So we if the west is not thriving, then we need to go to frontier markets and establish ourselves and grow in them. So we are in essence as Aramex if you want. We are a global company and we view our globality in terms of being globally emerging, frontier, growing, promising, developing markets. That's the definition of global. We exist in the west obviously. So there is nothing anti-Western about that. We are in the US, we are in Europe, but the growth opportunities are here. So let me give you an example, our first quarter of this year, we grew about 25% in our top line and we grew about 25% in our bottom line, and we operate in 65 different countries around the world. So there is __29:50__ around the world. Yes, there is a global crisis in terms of the dollar and the euro, but there are also a lot of the economies that are actually changing, developing, evolving and growing, and the opportunities are just massive.
So that's -- you know, I think that's such a great summary. I want to transcribe that and post it to my blog so we will get to that and you know, in the sense of what that means for everybody in this column. I felt included. You know, it's just really exciting. What we can all do in the next 20 or 30 years. It ain't will take that long because __30:27__ to really build something significant, but really exciting. We have a question from Twitter for you. In the early days, when people were telling you that Aramex wouldn't make it, how did you find the courage to continue? Weren't you worried about failure?
Look, I worried about failure every single day in the sense that I worried what do I do next to make it happen and make this thing work. I mean I never really let anybody question the survivability of the business nor did I focus on them. So, yes, I would hear it, I would heart it from clients, "You know, who are you? How can you come and tell a service when we have DHL? How can you deliver a global package? How can an Arab company be efficient? You know, the Arabs are known to be time conscious themselves. So, all sorts of prejudice. Even amongst our own, my own friends if you want. You know, why should I __31:34__ and not give it to DHL? Why should I trust you with it?" But, again, you focus on building the business. I was on the road for so long. I was spending 18 hours a day in my office focusing on building the business and not letting these people put me down. If you want to listen to people, you would sit at home and probably maximum read a book or do nothing. Yes, I mean entrepreneurs are not special breed of people, but they are people who believed in the venture they're taking, they are doing. If you believe on it, you won't listen to anyone. So we are not in the business of convincing anyone, I was in the business, I was in the clients that I am to be trusted with their business. I was in the business of actually building the company and finding people to believe that this is a company that they can build their future.
Now, I wanted to tie back to the themes that you started with and really think about the role of a large company. We've been focusing on the entrepreneurial process and your experiences in entrepreneur, but you've also managed a very large significant company in the region and by way of a context setting, I was struck recently. There has been quite a controversy relating to the president of the University of Virginia. And she was removed and then just recently reinstated and a faculty member of the University of Virginia wrote a piece of flay and this is what this faculty member wrote, "Wealthy board members, echoing the politicians who appointed them after massive campaign donations too often believe that universities should be run like businesses" and this is the part that is significant to me "despite the poor record of most actual businesses in human history" and I just found that to be an astounding statement for anybody in an academic environment to make. How would you respond to this notion that business -- first of all, it has a poor record through human history and second of all, that business is necessarily a force for exclusion and for the centralization of wealth in human society.
You know, I think that's so ridiculous that I can't even think that it's a question that should be taken seriously, but I also see that it is a theme nowadays. Again, the world whoever wrote that letter -- you know, did you say the letter was written by a university professor?
Yeah. A chair of a department actually, that's in University of Virginia.
You know, I'm not a historian of private businesses, but I would have thought that historically in fact. Historically, the world revolves around private enterprise. The dominance of the public sector is an invention of the past hundred and hundred fifty years I would suggest. So businesses over the years from agriculture to small industries, to cottage industries, were always in the private domain. So whoever assumes in history that the private practice or private enterprise was bad has not read history nor does he understand what private enterprise is all about and then, besides it's not about the multibillion dollar companies nor the billionaires of the world that we talk about and then, they are talking about the 1%. It is the private enterprise is about the SMEs. You know, they are the biggest employer, the small and medium size industries. They are the biggest employers, bigger than the public sector. These are private sectors. These are entrepreneurs. I mean the concept of big companies equating to entrepreneurs is wrong. I think there are few big companies and millions of small companies. I think there was a study recently, not recently, two or three years ago by the Cushman Foundation that says every single new job in the United States was created by small and medium size companies or companies that are younger than five years, right? So where does that concept come from? That issue, I don't know if a university should be run like a private sector or a private enterprise, but a university should be run to be sustainable and sustainability has to have a financial element to it also. So the sense of entitlement and the sense of dependency of people that have worked in the public domain is also negative. What are you giving back also? So it's not -- the dependency on the public sector, in many cases, has necessitated that you have actually outsourced your sustainability to an outside source which is in the public domain rather than being dependent on yourself.
Well, that's a wonderful response. I knew what your response was going to be and I'm needless to say I'm in full agreement, but I think you elaborated it a wonderful way and you know, it wouldn't seem to me a question worth raising either except that that view point seemed to be so predominant in the discussion over this presidency at UVA.
Yes, I think it's very ignorant and it's very dangerous because it is leading for future generations, specifically I see it here in our region -- I have seen it historically. It's that there is that negative connotation towards the meaning of private enterprise, that these people in the private sector are not people from your -- from that country. They don't care about the society. They're all vicious, profit-seeking profiteers who are evil by definition and that's so dangerous because at the end of the day, if you think the public sector can absorb our youth into jobs and into becoming productive people and society, you are absolutely wrong. If the youth are going to grow up and learn that private enterprise is evil and thus they won't venture into it, you are basically telling them go and become unemployed because the government is not going to be able to employ you. So you either live off the benefits of the government or you work for a job that actually does not get you to grow and you're stock in the bureaucracy. Again, it's not for the lack of the fault of some of some the private sector, the big private sector companies like the banks that have failed in the US that have led to this perception. But we can't blame the whole private sector world or entrepreneurial world for those failures. We cannot take the responsibility for the actions of the banks that were completely running uncontrolled.
Well, I mean -- I certainly also agree that extrapolation from that context is a dangerous exercise. Now, there was a second reason I brought this up. I mean, first of all, because it's close to home. Obviously, we're calling you from Virginia so we've been following this particular story, but there's another reason that I asked which is that you have yourself being directly involved in creating opportunities for education and I'm wondering if you could tell us the story of Ruwwad. (Crosstalk) You don't need to rush in, but I really would like to hear that story.
Ruwwad is a direct I think in my view again because I'm biased here obviously. It's a quintessential story of how the private sector, how the entrepreneurial society, how companies can actually __40:09__ and capabilities beyond their cash only into development. So what we've decided to do with Ruwwad -- Ruwwad is an Arabic work which mean entrepreneurs and the organization is called Ruwwad for development or entrepreneurs for development and what Ruwwad does is exactly that. So we go to marginalized communities. We started in Jordan, now we are in Lebanon. We are in Palestine and we are in Egypt and we would like to expand to other countries one Syria is better then maybe Iraq eventually. So the concept is as such. The private sector has all the capabilities that are spoken about in the opening of my discussion. We go to marginalized communities and we are about bringing our capabilities into those societies to empower them so that they can stand on their feet and tell us, "We don't need you now. We are independent." How did you do that? And just to focus on the youth. So we go into those communities and we offer scholarships. In return, every single person that gets a scholarship needs to give a four hours a week of volunteer time to work in his community or any project that he chooses that could be outside of the community to work on. So you need to log in four hours a week at least. You need to also participate in a discussion group for two hours once a week within the community to discuss in various issues that the youth bring up. You know, over the years, we've addressed every single issue you can from religious issues to job finding to the financial crisis to the Obama speech in Cairo, etc., etc., etc.
We brought in public sector officials to come to speak to these people. So again, making sure our networks and our connectivity to the public sector so we brought in people from the education society from labor ministries from the most powerful institutions in the country to the police to come and address the issues of the community over there. So we've brought that. We also looked at all the deficiencies in the communities. So we fixed school. We established a health clinic in partnership with the Ministry of Health. The schools we fixed are in partnership with the Ministry of Education. We established the post office because the communities do not have a post office. Again, employing locals in it in partnership with the Ministry of Post and Telecom and we've also established a small library which is the first library in that community in Jordan and now, we're taking that model obviously. Everything I tell you is going with us in every country that we're establishing. And we open up the community for volunteers from the private sector to send their own people to come and volunteer their skills and capabilities. We give English classes. We have a computer lab, everything contributed by the private sector and bringing __43:13__ people from the private sector to contribute their time in that community. So it's not only about cash. The value is in the knowledge and in transferring that knowledge to those youth. And then, the power of connecting the haves and have-nots, reaching out and the learning on both sides. So people that lived on the margins know their people that are well off are giving back if you want to call it that and they're participating in the development process and they feel that they are understood or at least they're being connected with and the people from the well-off community feel that they are no longer on the margins themselves and not participating in the development of their country so it is a dual marginalization solution.
So if you're not participating in development, you're marginalized and if all on the margins of development, you're also marginalized so you connect both and you have a very powerful lethal if you want to call it that lethal, positively lethal combination that emancipates the society so that everyone feels that they are partners in this thing. Eventually, this led -- you know, this is a 7-year-old program that started as a CSR if you want to call it that project that Aramex and then Aramex and myself personally went out to the business community and now, we have 10 of different businesses either giving us cash or giving us knowledge or giving us computers or contributing for tools for the schools and equipment for schools. It was given out over 700 to 800 different scholarships up to date. We have a graduate program for the people that graduated from our programs to give back to their own community now that they've graduated. We do job placements. We do job advisories. We have a legal aid program where we have an office that gives pro bono legal advice from the topnotch legal firm of the country so that every citizen knows its rights today. We have had last year 900 different advice and now we have -- the requirement is so powerful that even the lawyer that are contributing their time, they have become so empowered that they don't only give advice, they are actually taking cases to court and defending people that don't have anyone to defend them anymore. And there are so many other partnerships.
If you want to __45:47__ of powerful partners from different part of the communities solving the issues of the community and I would urge anyone to go to ruwwad.net.jo or .net even .jo or .net and then you'll find all sorts of really inspiring stories in there. So that model which was based on the premise that the private sector has to be part of __46:17__ is a power in by itself today. We are sought after, we are -- you know, we have interns coming in from all over the world that was to come and __46:28__ their work in Ruwwad today and it's only 7 years old. So there is so much more of it and we don't really spend hundreds of millions of dollars on it. This is only a project of people contributing anywhere from $20,000, some contributed $5,000 to big organizations contributing $100,000 and you eventually end up with community that shields is no longer on the market. So the model works, the model works. We've proven that it works. What we need now is that it spreads across different communities so that you end up with a sustainable long-term tripartite civil society partnership for development.
You know, I want to just stay here for a moment because what you talked about, what you just referred to in terms of this dual marginalization solution and what Ruwwad has offered to Aramex employees. You know, it's very different -- I mean those of us some kind of circulate in worlds to pay attention to this. You know that there is a general discussion about companies moving past what has been called corporate social responsibility, but just that framing that the corporation sort of extract and then they should give something back. It's very different from what you're talking about in terms of this dual marginalization solution that by creating this partnership, you're creating value not just for the communities that you are -- in which you are working, but also for employees at Ruwwad, excuse me, at Aramex and other corporation.
I wonder if you could generalize on that. I mean that sort of a model creative opportunities for the folks in this call?
Absolutely. First, FedEx in Palestine and FedEx Ramallah. A year ago, I gave a talk that exactly addresses that issue Phil and which is that marginalization does not only apply to people that live in the margins. If you're not participating in the development of your community, then you're also marginalized. So there is also that sense for me that we take myself or you or anybody capable and is concerned and lives in community and lives in a country and worries about the future of his country. You worry about the future of your children. Then, if you don't actually bring -- and you have plenty of skills. Whether you know it or not -- the concept here is that every single individual has plenty of skill. You just need to make sure that there is a platform for that skill to come and be performed to help and to participate in the process of development. No matter how small it is, you can teach one student in one marginalized community how to speak better English and enable him to have a better job and then you succeeded in enabling one person who can basically bring in a family that lives off and no longer lives in the margin. So the concept is those of us who are capable and have those intellectual assets and intellectual capabilities and financial assets who are not participating, then they're marginalizing themselves and they are as marginalized as the people that don't have.
So the concept of The haves and the have-nots, if you want, have changed from the people that want to participate in the development and the people that don't want to participate in the development and I think Ruwwad is a model to solve both issues. I think that's the uniqueness and the power of it. Once you sink, once you're blamed, transform the thinking from you giving back to the concept of giving back is also I have issues with the word "give back" by the way because what are you giving back, what did you take -- I mean what is it that you took that you need to give back. It's not giving back, it is actually partnering. It is actually bringing in your capabilities into that development process. You're not giving back your -- actually giving something for yourself to graduate from that marginalization process. So it's powerful, it's quite powerful and I found, you know, some of the Aramex people that have actually participated in the process would come back to me and tell me "You know Fadi, I'm just going to thank you because you changed the way I view things in my own personal self. It's no longer about my job. This company gives me the ability to feel that I'm part and parcel of the country and the community that I live in a meaningful manner." So we have -- you know, many people that have come up with small projects, you have the small scale. We have one person who works for us who had gone to the community and even established an office in it and he recycles -- he does a project, an art project from recycled materials and he employs people from the community and he had raised people from the community and he gets them to sell these items back to people that have the money to buy them anything. And then he found that he's always had that skill, didn't know what to do with it and suddenly once he found that their community can actually help him, he created a productive social business if you want. So he does want to make it for profit, but he is actually feeling that there is profitability.
We just tweeted out the link to the FedEx Ramallah talk that you gave. Thanks to Sandy Maxie who's in the course and I think it's gonna be great to refer to that for an elaboration on this wonderful point you just made and I should say incidentally, Michael Youngblood and I, while working on this course, have a meeting at noon and it's really on a very similar theme I think for our region of this dual marginalization and I really feel like it's such a powerful theme for everybody on the call. As we bring it to a close, I'm just wondering, you know, what kind of -- you've offered so much in the way I think of practical guidance and avenues for opportunities, is there anything else that you want to share for those folks who have tuned in now and for others who will listen to this broadcast later on in terms of making the most of our historical moment? Individually, its community and in partnership in the way you have described.
First, I want to thank you Phil for giving me this opportunity to speak to the group. You know, my final comment here is I have found that my life personally picked me personally and many of the people that have worked with me and around me -- their lives have transformed you and the model whether we came up with and bringing in our capabilities and mobilizing people that are around us, our friends. You don't need to really do massive mobilization here. This is somehow just knocking the doors of 10 people that live around you and with you and you connect with them everyday in affluent society and telling them, "You know, you can actually make a difference and change the community and change the country that live in." It changes your life. You find much more meaning to it. That is more holistic nature to it. You feel much more comfortable in your existence. It gave me answers to many things. If you want beyond because we all -- you know, some of us have been lucky enough to make it or wonder "so what's next", what is actually bringing that knowledge and that capability and that luck that you've had over whatever period of time in building your own career and move on with this and they can get to the next level by sharing it with people who have not have the ability to share it so by doing that, you're actually giving the most valuable thing that you can actually offer for anybody and that's the virtuous partnership among people on both sides of the marginalized group.
Well, that's just great. I know that -- as I said, I had the pleasure to know you for some time, but I've learned a lot of new things in this call both about your own backgrounds and also about your ideas related to entrepreneurs for development. I know that, you know, everyone on the call has similar feelings and we will have this available indefinitely for folks to tune in to and add to the resources online that have communicated your vision on this topic. So, thank you so much again for joining us Fadi. It's been a great hour and I look forward to next time I see you.
Thank you so much Phil. Thank you. Thanks to everyone. Good luck to you.
Okay. Take care. Thank you. Bye
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It's good to talk.