The John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy & Civic Engagement — Letter from the director

This article was originally published by the American University in Cairo. The original can be found here.

Looking back, 2013 was a full and eventful year in the life of the Gerhart Center. Amid continuing sociopolitical drama in Egypt, we kept our focus on achieving results and modeling determined civic spirit. The outcome was a set of milestones we can be proud of: hosting the first Debate Egypt national completion among 12 university student teams; publishing a foundation guide for effective grant making during national transitions; and lobbying successfully for the inclusion of a clause in the Egyptian constitution to revive and expand awqaf endowments.

Our staff has grown to 15 energetic and diverse team members, with work backgrounds in Tunisia, Jordan and Palestine, as well as Egypt.  We are in the process of completing an ambitious seven-country study of responsible business to be launched early in the new year. Other milestones are reported in this newsletter, which we hope you will find interesting.

The emerging saga of transitions across North Africa saw setbacks to political and economic stability. In each country, forces of exclusionary politics are facing off while a smaller but determined set of voices call for broad inclusion and attention to the needs of the disadvantaged. We see hopeful signs, despite the turmoil, at the level of emerging forms of civic and economic engagement. In particular, we are heartened by the innovations of young social and business entrepreneurs, as well as the gradual emergence of more effective modes for citizens to debate public issues and organize. Arts and culture remain a vibrant social space across the region, and those working on economic programs to address poverty and unemployment continue to become more networked and effective.

Much remains to be done. In the New Year, we will expand our services to the Arab philanthropic community and launch an exciting new phase of the Ma’an network for civically engaged universities.  I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our partners and supporters for making this such a meaningful time to work together for the goals we share.

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Barbara Ibrahim is founding director of the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement, and a member of the WINGS Board of Directors. Regional Highlights is one of four programme tracks for concurrent sessions for WINGS Forum 2014: The Power of Networks. Follow on Twitter with #WFnetworks. For event details and to register, visit the WINGS Forum website.

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