Jordan - Jordanians define capacity development needs through Professional Communities
Primary thematic focus: Fostering the rise and resilience of middle-income countries
In a Nutshell:
Professional Communities (PCs) represent an innovative, locally-driven development approach supporting capacity development among Jordanian management professionals. The PC approach is highly sustainable and has the potential to transform the very nature and impact of donor support for capacity development.
Jordan has the fundamental underpinnings of a market economy in place. While far from perfect, policies and institutions support a free market economy and quasi-democratic political system. In short, opportunity exists for businesses to grow and prosper. Select Jordanian companies such as Aramax and Zain have become regional powerhouses. Maktoob, a Jordan information technology company, was purchased for US $75 million by Yahoo in 2009. Entrepreneurship is alive and well and opportunities exist. The capacity of Jordan’s management professionals has grown along with Jordan’s GDP. In spite of Jordan’s economic status, funding from international donor agencies remains comparatively high—largely due to the neighboring Israel/Palestinian conflict. While much of this assistance supports capacity development, the emphasis on one-off training and expatriate consultancies remains high.
Professional Communities, an initiative under the USAID-funded Jordan Economic Program (SABEQ), stemmed from over seven years of lessons learned supporting capacity development in Jordan. PCs are based on the idea that provided the right environment; local professionals have as much or more to offer each other than do international consultants, and that they can specify their own capacity development needs.
Launched in 2008 with 40 members and three communities (strategic management, human resources, and trade), PCs have grown to seven communities and 530+ members, primarily CEOs and top managers of private sector companies. All members have signed commitment letters, pledging to support each other to learn and apply new skills to their respective organizations. PCs utilize in-person events in conjunction with an interactive online portal (www.jordanpc.org). A key in-person activity is the Executive Round Table (ERT). ERTs are forums where small groups of community members interested in a specific topic (i.e. Performance Management Systems) meet regularly to exchange experiences and support each other in learning new skills and implementing reforms. Other in-person events include site visits to members’ companies and community-wide events featuring high-profile businesspersons as keynote speaker. All in-person events cover topics chosen by community members and have a strong networking component to help build relationships and trust among participants.
The online PC portal serves as an additional meeting place for collaboration, a source for online trainings and calendar of events (often posted by local organizations), a consolidator of each group’s collective intelligence, and a means for continued support after donor involvement ends. Many of the resources on the portal, which include English and Arabic articles, templates, presentations, videos and podcasts come from over 25 regional and international organization who have made their content available for PC use. Currently housing over 2000 English and Arabic capacity development and management reform resources, new content is added daily. Members can rank and comment on individual resources, and can extend their in-person meetings into online meeting rooms. Community members and local organizations also develop and contribute content. PC members are in the process of selecting a local organization to lead them after SABEQ ends.
This organization will continue in-person activities, and will receive full rights to the portal and all of its content. Member fees and local sponsorships will cover PC operating costs. The Kaizen Company, which developed the Professional Community concept, continues to sign-up valuable international content partners and will continue to provide new content indefinitely and for free, but in exchange for new locally-created resources. As PCs are initiated in other countries, Kaizen will encourage collaboration among professional peers across countries in topics of shared interest. The goal is to continually grow and increasingly localize the capacity building resource base, learning, and collaboration opportunities.
Results and Critical Factors:
Professional Communities have established a means for members to become proactive agents of their own personal development. As evidence of their success, PCs have grown from 40 inaugural members in August 2006 to 530+ members in January 2010. A recent survey of those current members revealed that PCs ranked the highest in overall value to professionals when compared with training centers, business associations, and online business forums. In the survey, PCs significantly outscored others in practical (business) application, relevance to specific professional needs, and fostering a collaborative culture among participants. And perhaps the most promising revelation from the survey is that when asked how they would build on PC experiences in their professional lives, 55% of members cited “practical implementation” as their top response. PCs are providing a valuable forum for professionals to develop and apply new skills. Relationships, trust and the relevance of PC topics to immediate needs are clear factors driving PC success. However, not all aspects of PCs have achieved their full potential. The PC portal, while a valued source of resources, has yet to become an active discussion forum. The initial iteration lacked opportunities for sufficient dialogue. In response, Kaizen created interactive “rooms” for each ERT and has stocked them with topic-specific resources. While this has bolstered activity, the full potential of the online PCs remains to be seen.
Name of Primary Contact Person: Lisa Letke
Title of Primary Contact Person: Operations Director
City: Washington, DC
Image: Kaizen Logofinal.gif