Ibrahim : Ibtihal : Ayoub : Zeinab : Mohamed

Ibrahim : Ibtihal : Ayoub : Zeinab : Mohamed

Young Leaders from MENA to Sweden and back

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day at a 'Creative Cluster': Subtopia

Subtopia is...
To be honest I wondered at first what on earth we were doing there: it seemed a bit like a hippy-ish community lived there, and it, well, didn't seem like the most appropriate place to generate ideas on social change (and much less on developing them). The tour of the premises that we were given as we arrived - and which included a stop at the Circus school housed on the premises - seemed to confirm my first impression.

But as it turned out, Subtopia wasn't really a place - it was an idea. The name, by the way, stands for Spacious Suburban Paradise: you get the hint... Housed in a suburb of Stockholm, the project attempts to assist in the idea generation process by providing both the physical means - think office space - and the generalistic and specialised thematic training and support.
The result? In the space of a few years, more than 50 projects have found at Subtopia a home, creating, producing, creating change in society.

Our session was a hands-on idea development on, where we worked on developing our project ideas through a very simple and intelligent process:

"If someone was to write a magazine feature about your project in 20 years from now, what would they write?"

The process to find the headlines, main themes, images even that would go in that article was both very enjoyable - as well as quite difficult.
Because in effect, the question is - 'in 10 words, what's the main takeaways of your project?'

I appreciated the opportunity to think of our project in those terms. A solid structure needs to underline the conclusions, so we needed to think about that too. The precursory phase of the project took shape before us - I am not sure if we really developed it or if it made itself obvious, in a sort of reverse engineering of the conclusions working upwards.

In effect, one of the most enjoyable - and efficient -days since the beginning of the programme. Kudos to the Subtopia team, Jonas, Henrik, and the others!

The workday was followed by an amazing Cirkus Cirkor performance - probably more on that later - and a party, the details of which shall remain in deep secrecy. :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How do you select your project idea?

We often feel ownership of our ideas - less than a belief of superiority, but a pleasure in being able to say 'I came up with that', even if the final product bears, in effect, little resemblance to the original sketch.
So with 5 excellent ideas and the necessity to select 3 out of them to be presented, how to avoid frictions?

Time-constrained as we were - we were selecting the projects as the 'elevator pitches' session was beginning - we nevertheless favoured complete transparency over practicality, and chose to conduct a full vote.

The result was the selection of our top 3 ideas:
a/ MENA-ACT, an online resource for Arab activists that acts both as a repository of knowledge, training and tools for activists, as well as a platform for activists to connect, interact, and network;

b/ Collaborative News, a contributor-generated news website that would give an outlet to local events that are 0ften not covered, for political decisions, in the mainstream media;

c/ Online resource for graphic designers, which would provide a platform for knowledge dissemination, both for professionals and amateurs, on graphic design; as well as allow designers to take advantage of each other's skills and opinions.

The elevator pitches were, in our opinion, quite successful - the response from the audience was quite encouraging.

Will it be harder to select a single project?

Monday, May 17, 2010

I/ Main guidelines for teamwork

Even the most collaborative teams need guidelines to ensure the smoothness of their work. The following points are our selected guiding principles to guarantee perfection of our final product:

  1.  Each and everyone is an indispensible member of the team.
  2. Our individual skills do not imply in any way than anyone’s contribution is more important than the others’.
  3.   Despite our imperfections, fears, we always remember that we are here first and foremost to learn, to experience – to take a leap, every day, to step outside of our comfort zones. And we know that our teammates and friends are here to support us, challenge us, and will always have our back.
  4. We will not take ourselves too seriously!
  5.  We will share selflessly experience and reflection.
  6.  We will engage in intense dialogue – where listening is more important than speaking.
  7. We will provide honest and accurate feedback, not only for the good of the project – but in a sincere wish to help each one of us reach their potential, during the YLVP programme and beyond.
  8.   Respect and mutual understanding are imperative.
  9.    Lots of food will be had by the team members. Or rather those who don’t care about their weight.
II/ Methodology


In order to ensure a fair and optimal division of tasks, we will be addressing work on three parallel levels:

§  Group tasks: The main directions of the project, as well as certain tasks will require the dedication of all, via active contribution and ‘brainstorming’ of the whole team.

§  Sub-group tasks: Some tasks will necessitate the creation of ad-hoc sub-groups according to the task at hand. Those are likely to be the larger tasks in which a certain level of technical skills is deemed necessary, and for which a 6-person committee is superfluous.

§  Individual tasks: Divided by interest and personal skills, individual tasks have the main advantage of allowing the accomplishment of multiple tasks in parallel. Their main drawback, of course, is the absence of the ‘sounding board’ function that other teammates provide in group tasks; those tasks will therefore need to be extensively discussed during the briefing sessions.


  1.     As tasks are distributed, deadlines will be attached to them to allow for a more predictable workflow.


Integrating regular briefing and feedback sessions, twice a week, during which we shall:

a)      Constantly discuss the goals, end outcome of the project (and redesign, recalibrate the direction of the project when needed)

b)      Assess the progress – during which each team member will (if applicable) bring the others up to speed on what they’ve been working on, sharing their results and difficulties, etc.

c)       Conduct a feedback session such as the one conducted during the ‘teambuilding’ module [“I like that...” and “I’d like you to do more of...”]


  1.   Conflict among the members of one team is not an unusual occurrence.
  2.   In this event, the topic of the dispute, be it personal or professional, will be put to discussion during the very next briefing session.
  3.  The purpose of the conflict resolution is NOT to identify a culprit or to point blame – quite on the contrary. The aim is to rebuild confidence and reestablish positive collaboration between the parties to the conflict.