Israel and Jordan: Engaging and Exploring the Complexities of Global Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership


In January 2014, for three weeks, I along with 19 undergraduate and graduate students embarked on a journey throughout Israel and Jordan as part of  a once-in-a-lifetime study abroad experience.  The course, at the University of Maryland's Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership, analyzed global philanthropy and the role of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), focusing on the many diverse and complex humanitarian, philanthropic, and NGO leadership issues facing the two countries and the region in general.  The trip immersed students in countless academic and cultural exchanges, including meetings with over 40 NGO and public leaders and consulting projects that leveraged their expertise. 


During the trip, students met with various leaders that are creating a lasting impact in the Middle East. The group began its journey learning about the culture and history of philanthropy in the Middle East from some of the top scholars at Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University, and Ben Gurion University. In order to gain context and see nonprofits in action, students also conducted site visits with local NGOs— ranging from large multimillion dollar foundations to grassroots organizations serving local communities. While in Israel, students split into small groups to begin a more in depth consulting project with one of four NGOs representing a variety of subjects from refugee support to environmental advocacy and empowerment of the blind, deaf, and deaf-blind.  After returning home to the US, students have continued their projects, which will culminate in a final project based on the specific needs of the NGOs.


While in Jordan, students met with a number of influential leaders including top officials from the Jordanian Health Aid Society (JHAS), the King Hussein and Queen Noor Foundations, and the retired General Mansour Abu Rashid, the former head of Jordanian Intelligence. These organizations and their leaders shared reflections on the dramatic influx of Syrian refugees and its impact on the country and their work.


Students regularly posted to a blog chronicling their learning. For a glimpse into two students' experiences, read Sara Gallagher's One Wall, Many Prayers and Ben Simon's Reflecting on Good vs. Evil.



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