Nadia Al-Sakkaf - "The bridge between Nations and Cultures"

education the forge Feb 03, 2024

I had just completed my second year at university in India where I was studying computer science engineering, miles away from my home country Yemen, when I confessed to my father that I felt lost. The experience of studying abroad in a totally different culture has opened my eyes to different cultures and ways of life and made me uncertain as to where I belonged. My dad, who was well travelled himself, a graduate of Harvard in economics among many other achievements, had the answer. “You are the bridge between nations and cultures,” he told me.

Over two decades later, these words still resonate in my head and manifest themselves in everything I do. Today I am again living abroad, but this time with my husband and two children. Since India, my career path has changed from engineering and systems analysis, to sustainable development, to journalism, to politics, to academia and now back to sustainable development with a pinch of everything else.

It’s funny how we take on different roles in the various stages of our lives whether on the personal or the professional levels. But our values guide us to be who we are in every mile stone. In 2021 I started a non-profit organisation called 21st Century Forum, aiming to be a catalyst for positive change in the Middle East by fostering effective partnerships between leading international donors and local communities. Or in other words, a bridge. This time it is more than a cultural bridge, you can say it is a sustainable development bridge.

My vision is to create a region where donor interventions are efficiently utilised and have a significant impact on addressing the Middle East challenges, while always respecting and honouring the unique local realities and priorities of the target communities.

I believe that sustainable development is not only a moral imperative, but also a key driver of economic growth and social stability. So I harness the experience I had throughout the years from the different jobs, countries and experiences, mash them up with the amazing network of experts I have access to, and produce a customised concussion that would remedy any sustainable development problem.

It wasn’t easy reinventing myself all over here in the UK after an impressive career back home in Yemen. So I needed to step back and have a sounding board; a professional yet friendly environment that would accelerate my business development and help my organisation become more viable, sustainable and successful. Hence, the Futuresmiths.

In the last six weeks, this initiative provided me with a support community and expert advice. In the course of this journey, I asked questions and found answers that helped me fine tuning my goals, mission, vision and values, learn about branding, business canvas modelling, marketing and referrals, internal organisational culture, accounting and legal aspects of business in the UK. I even have my SMART strategic objectives for the next six years.

I can only go forward from here, bridging between organisations and nations, to help many cross over to the other side, working together for the common good.

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