Ciao to Dubai and The Gulf!
After a month in the Middle East, it is time to leave Dubai. I have met many inspiring people here in the United Arab Emirates, Doha and Bahrain and I look forward to returning very soon. I think the most exciting part about this region is the opportunity to work with professionals in the sustainability and corporate social responsibility worlds. Much work needs to be done in this region, but the interest and growing enthusiasm is here. This is the place to lead and make a difference in a small but growing community of advocates and leaders. The people have been terrific. The more I travel, the more I realize that at the core, people are really not that different. Citizens around the world just want respect, have an opportunity at a better life and will enjoy the company of others if they are treated with dignity in kind. I always knew this was a misunderstood and misrepresented region. My visit here confirms that belief. Sure, there have been quirks and annoyances, but I have also met some of the most welcoming folks who have showered me and others around them with tremendous amounts of kindness and generosity. Tolerance is granted to those who also give it. Some of the highlights include the following people I was lucky enough to meet: Hassan Al Shouli: If Dubai is really going to become a technological hub, they need more Hassans. Dynamic, wickedly smart and gregarious, Hassan defines 21st century Dubai--an uber-modern city that still maintains ties to its past as a trading center. Watch for this marketing manager at fast-growing Dubizzle to leave a large mark on Dubai's technology and business scenes. He is also great at social media, and uses it to share information and thoughtful posts, not just for crass self-promotion. Mary Dedinsky: A journalism professor at Northwestern University of Qatar, Prof. Dedinsky inspires her students and has opened doors to new worlds for them. She has embraced Qatar and its people. I owe her some guest speaking time the next visit I make to Doha. She also has her own social enterprise scheme underway: she serves as a broker to a bathroom attendant who spends her spare time making beautiful flowers out of paper (coming soon!). Alan Frost: Director of Masdar City, Mr. Frost has a vision that many of us have but few of us can clearly articulate. More journalists and business leaders need to speak with him to see what Masdar is about and what it could be. Unfortunately too much of the commentary about Masdar focuses on the glitches, and therefore completely misses the point of this forward-thinking sustainability laboratory on the edge of Abu Dhabi's airport. I cannot wait until my next tour and meeting with him as Masdar expands and welcomes Siemens and other companies in the near future. Heba Haddad: Sustainability consultant who defines what Dubai is about: home to people from all walks of life who strive however they can to make this city a better place to live and work. Her tireless pursuit of improved environmental performance and zeal to work with small and medium enterprises is a joy to observe. Evangelizing sustainability in Dubai is not the easiest job in this Gulf city, but watch for Heba to thrive as a thought leader here. Nasif Kayed: As part of the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding's management team, Nasif is going above and beyond to preserve Dubai's cultural sustainability. The SMCCU is a gem for opening minds and awareness about Emiratis and Arabs throughout the region. I had one of the best conversations during my trip with Nasif; it was cut short because he had so many demands on his time, and it was easy to see why. More people outside the UAE and Gulf should listen to him. Kate Murphy: Another expat who accepts Dubai and the Gulf for what they are instead of castigating it for what it is not. An executive recruiter who opened her firm's Middle East office, Kate is doing her own part to embed sustainability thinking within the multinationals who operate here. Her enthusiasm for this region is infectious. Christopher Silva: As sustainability coordinator at Qatar Foundation, Chris is working hard to integrate sustainability within Qatar's educational system and is a leading advocate of green building in Doha. He is respected because he listens and he engages with Qataris. The way he has immersed himself in Qatar is a lesson from which expatriates could learn when they are quick to lash out at their host country. Plus, thanks to serendipitous timing, Chris saved me from taxi purgatory when my cell phone died and I had no way to book a cab in Education City. Belinda Scott: Senior manager for corporate sustainability and responsibility at National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Belinda radiates enthusiasm and has built NBAD into one of the most forward thinking financial institutions in the Middle East--if not the world. From environmental awareness to employee engagement to financial literacy, Belinda tackles challenges with passion and a smile. Her actions define CSR as a priority and a purpose, not condescending public relations that we often see on both sides of the pond. I wish I could have provided more commentary over the past month, but because of the great people I met, I did not have much time to opine on this site. But that is what long flights home are for. I found the Arabian Gulf region to be one of the most fascinating places I have ever visited. Much has been achieved in a short time, and a lot of work remains to be done. The opportunities in sustainability and social responsibility here, and it would be an incredible opportunity to be a part of it. I cannot return soon enough. Read about how Dubai’s sustainability agenda must start with public health on Triple Pundit.