Who is coming to the Diaspora Dialogues and what does being a Diaspora Leader mean to them? Meet the ever-growing group of leaders who, together, will comprise the inaugural Diaspora Dialogues in Armenia, 8–10 October 2017.
"Being a diaspora leader means helping others to see how to leverage the upsides of diaspora and how to manage the risks and downsides.
To be a role model and to help other established and emerging diaspora leaders to meet their full potential and to not get discouraged or be so discriminated against that they cannot get up and lead. To identify and thought lead on the cutting edge issues arising from diaspora and to point the way to solutions and future issues that we need to be proactive in discussing and solving."
Mai Chen, Professor (Adjunct) and Founding Partner, Chen Palmer Public and Employment Law Specialists
"As a diaspora leader,
I feel responsible.
I feel responsible to contribute towards the fabric of cohesion between cultures and communities.
I feel responsible to create thought processes that could be transformed into impact and integration.
I feel responsible to see through the challenges we are facing with a lens of solutions and not only resolutions."
Faraz Khan, Chief Executive and Co-Founder, SEED Ventures
"Being a diaspora leader means being acutely self-aware and understanding the cultural and social biases we bring to the table. There is a source of power in this duality that diaspora leaders can use by becoming effective bridge builders.
Ultimately it means being truly collaborative, listening to one and other, being careful not to fall into the arrogance of saviourism, and instead being adaptable and culturally sensitive to our tackling of problems, not assuming we can wholesale import solutions from one context to another. We must be connectors."
Kalm Paul-Christian, Advisor & Volunteer, SEO London
"Being a diaspora leader means understanding that identity is fluid, and heritage is a gift. It also means understanding that we are the very same in more ways than we are different. Creating and articulating an inclusive vision for humanity is a duty."
Rihab Elhaj, Founder, New Libya Foundation
"To me, being a diaspora leader means being able to help the diaspora as well as the host communities to understand that to leverage our diaspora is to leverage our diversity. A diaspora leader is able to adapt better, overcome adversities and develop a strong voice."
Jane Obioma Okoro, President, Upside Africa
"It means I have to learn how to navigate the system to ensure my community can access services that are of benefit. It is also understanding the challenges, whether they are in Somalia or in the diaspora."
Adam Matan, Managing Director, Anti-Tribalism Movement
"Diaspora leaders are eager to contribute to the success and global standing of their or their parents’ country. Coming back with their knowledge, investments and international connections they can play a very important role from any part of the world."
Kotryna Stankute, Director, Global Leaders Lithuania
"Being a diasporan has always been about being a hyphenated identity for me, and not until I lived in my ancestral land and worked as a regular person, without the mythical stories of the old country, did I come to feel very comfortable in losing the hyphenation and simply being a person with a variety of reference points and data at my disposal in any given situation.
It has also meant that I have a broader, more expanded platform to work on, about, and from. Most importantly, however, it has meant the questioning and deconstruction of assumptions in any given context."
Alex Sardar, Chief Innovation Officer, Civicus
"Diaspora can play a key role in establishing links of mutual benefits to both countries. I have been doing that between British Pakistanis and Pakistan for over ten years. I feel this is an underdeveloped area and more should be done to facilitate and promote this."
Mohammed Ali, Chief Executive, QED
"Being part of a community with others who want to make a positive difference through connecting, collaborating and sharing. Exploring the concept of identity and belonging with others."
Jennifer Duvalier, Executive Vice President, People at ARM
"As an individual who grew up in between two countries , Lebanon and Syria, who lived away from home for 8 years, who studied in three different universities across the world, who grew up in unstable/ war zones (Lebanon and Syria), I realised the importance and influence that the diaspora has on its country of origin and its people.
I realise how important it is to build bridges, create channels of communication and coordinate together for the most efficient use of resources."
Rouba Mhaissen, Founder, Director, Sawa Foundation UK
"Someone who leads a group or community in order to uphold certain cultural values or practices as they assimilate in their adopted homeland."
Eric Murangwa Eugene, Founder and Managing Director - FHPU & Survivors Tribune.
"Being a diaspora leader means using my experiences of growing up in Nigeria and the UK to help create change in both countries. Having an in-depth knowledge of two or more countries puts you at a significant advantage - you are able to bring your unique experiences to influence change. Being close to two countries also affords you the opportunity to help transfer your knowledge and
skills gained from one country to another, influencing growth and development."
Debbie Ariyo, Founder/Executive Director, Afruca
"A diaspora leader is an individual that has come to terms with cross border diversity and is able to hit the ground running in a new country. This is a leader that has embedded the skill to navigate national culture in the pursuit of organisational objectives, sometimes doing this with multiple cultures simultaneously. This individual is no longer phased by national cultural nuances in the workplace and deals with misaligned values without losing respect for the people in whose land he/she works."
Tina Muparadzi, HR Consultant, Safaricom Academy
"A diaspora leader is about building bridges between communities. Humans are the same wherever we go, at least from a physical perspective. What is different always is the mental side. We must learn from other communities to improve ours. 4 years in Malaysia, I learnt that Malaysian children have a bright future because of what they are learning now. Digging deep, I got to know the major players that affect the children's performance and decided to take some of these experiences back to Libya. The chaos in Libya now is a result of this bad education system. To get better results, we must tech our children new technologies and make them a norm so that in 10 to 20 years time they will be on the same level of those who have superior results now. So how does my work make me a diaspora leader, because I try to connect the best of the nations that have superior results to the nations that have less to offer. Learning from the best makes you the best."
Mallek Aggiag, Founder, CEO, Inspire Education Libya
"A diaspora leader is an individual who doesn't belong anywhere, yet can belong everywhere. A diaspora leader can benefit from the best of both worlds and can do the seemingly incongruent, and straddle contradicting East & West values.
A diaspora leader sees beyond labels and can find similarities within cultures that may at first appear worlds apart. A diaspora leader is a bridge builder."
Fatumata Bah, Student, Auckland University of Technology
"I am a leader who is familiar with operating in multiple organisational contexts, cultures and geographies. I connect with a diverse range of intergenerational people globally and locally. I have spent my whole life as a third culture kid i.e. my feet in multiple places, on the margins and at the centre, having to find unique ways to belong, often in places and spaces where I am the only British Ghanaian woman.
I have a strong instinct and am a natural interpreter, communicator, bridge builder and connector. I am a leader who is uniquely valuable in a world that is becoming more fragmented. Despite this I believe that diaspora leaders have a unique calling in facilitating unity and hope."
Grace Owen, Founder & Director, Grace Owen Solutions
"A diaspora leader has the ability to lead across cultures with a first-hand understanding of the power, of diversity of identity and thought in the delivery outcomes."
Aamer Naeem, Chief Executive, Penny Appeal
"As a diaspora leader, I am continually striving to raise awareness of our communities’ approach to development which manifests itself very differently from mainstream NGO’s. Being a leader with a platform and having access to influential networks and forums, I have a responsibility to provide different perspectives to mainstream development thinking and approaches."
Firoz Patel, Chief Executive, Childreach International
"Being a diaspora leader has many meanings to me. It means that most times I have to be super innovative. This is because unlike other work, diaspora work is not seen as important or urgent. Building capacity is what I believe in, not fire-fighting. Being a diaspora leader means working to leave both a legacy and inheritance for our diaspora-born children."
Sophie Gitiba, Network Director, Tujijenge Pamoja Network (TPN)
"Every individual has lived through similar experiences at some stage of his or her life, but has reacted in a unique way; the sum of these experiences, like so many stones, build the community. I, with my unique and high-level experiences in global health, propose to be a keystone to ‘Diaspora Dialogues building' with my personable nature and ability to communicate at all levels serving as cement. Being a Diaspora leader means leading the thinking of diaspora members to answer their own questions and creating lasting partnerships that maintain an African-led vision of health policy development."
Ade Adeyemi, Consulting Fellow, Chatham House
"Diaspora Leaders need to think globally but work locally."
Nadine Wahab, Founder and Director, Arab Center For The Promotion Of Human Rights
"A diaspora leader means being able to transcend barriers; both physical or mentally whilst appreciating and respecting the nuance of our innate differences as unique yet equal individuals. A diaspora leader must be able to identify common threads amongst diverse peoples, tying them together to be unified behind a common shared goal. A diaspora leader must always be vigilant to the need to stay open to the unexpected strengths, benefits and wisdoms that other cultures and communities have to offer. A diaspora leader also appreciates the history and their complex histories of diaspora."
Yasmin Greenaway, Trustee, Commonwealth Youth Council Project
"Being a diaspora leader has also given me the opportunity to connect with like minded people who want to share their knowledge, skills and experience to empower and mobilise individuals and grassroots communities in Africa. It also means that I can utilise and share on a global platform, my personal and professional experience of addiction, in order to promote a unique model of recovery that works."
Yaina Samuels, Founder and Chief Exceutive, NuHi Ltd.
"In a conflict-ridden world where the forces of division are beginning to once again grow, diaspora leaders carry a significant responsibility to take the lead in defining a narrative for the greater good. Different backgrounds and experiences offer an opportunity to look at current problems from multiple prisms and solve for the many not just the few.
Ultimately great leaders lead from the front with a passion to serve. Diaspora leaders do that and more by constantly looking to build bridges, remove biases and bring communities together."
Hamza Saghir, Managing Director, Innovorisk Ltd
"I will define the rule book for being a diaspora leader as: first come out of your comfort zone and define your narrative by observing local culture. Secondly, give yourself sufficient time & tackle your attitude optimistically. Thirdly, take part in local dynamics and understand your surroundings."
Halar Memon, PhD Researcher, University of Nottingham
"Merging with host society, help diaspora member to integrate, and work effectively for the benefit of homeland."
Omnia Eteyari, Co-founder and CEO, Mazadah
"Being a diaspora leader means to open your heart and home to visitors in your country. It also means to be able to become a local when abroad. It means to build bridges between people who are or feel different from each other.
In other words, being a diaspora leader means to have cultural sensibility and communication skills and to use them to improve the experience of the people that cross your path."
Olivia Grobocopatel, Masters Student, London School of Economics
"Being the change maker to enhance the collective acumen and contribution of community into mainstream. By building, acknowledging and celebrating our shared identities creating harmony in an often disjointed world."
Suniya Qureshi, Marketing Executive, Lifestyle D and B
"A diaspora leader should have a deep understanding of human diversity and passion to work for the common good of all. We can only live peacefully in our interdependent world by building bridges between people and working together for justice."
Muhammed Bari, Parenting Consultant, Amana Parenting
"An ambassador and key champion to support cross border development and social consciousness. Harness experience to provide new young leaders with mentorship and guidance in the challenging world they face and the ever changing landscape of globalisation. Shared experiences on how diaspora can be a force to provide much needed support and service to one's own country and communities. This model should then be shared to ensure common challenges can be shared and key learnings gained to drive positive outcomes for relevant goals."
Dakshesh Patel, CEO, Zympay
"It means being part of a network of drivers of change who work across borders and cultures. Diaspora leaders inspire each other and exchange experiences and expertise to work together in crosscutting projects, but also to go back "home" and drive change in their specific contexts. A Diaspora leader is not alone; they are part of a support network of like-minded people who have gone through similar experiences and share a common vision. Diaspora leaders, by operating in a network rather than in isolation and by having the support of their peers, are highly equipped to drive change in complex multi-cultural, transboundary situations."
Vivian Valencia, Research Fellow, University of Michigan
"The concept of a diaspora leader was not something I had ever truly thought about or applied to myself. And yet, when I think about it, I realize that it is relevant to me and my experience in interesting ways.
In my role as CEO of Tanenbaum, I am called upon to serve as a leader and to honor and respect people from all religious & belief traditions and people who comprise the diaspora across those traditions. In that capacity, I serve as a member of humankind. So does that make me a diaspora leader?
I don't know but it makes me a member of a global diaspora for sure."
Joyce Dubensky, CEO, Tanenbaum
"It means bringing back all the experiences gained from around the world to your country of heritage, thereby contributing to making it a better place."
Rafi Baghdjian, CEO, IDeA Foundation
"Sharing and drawing on particular common experiences to collaborate in mobilising resources for progressive change."
Nad Pillay, Consultant
"Being at the service of different communities, creating common objectives and visions, being a bridge builder and a facilitator of meaningful engagement across different cultures and communities. Supporting people to construct a meaningful identity that allows them to reconcile different and often conflicting cultural values and views to the benefit of their own wellbeing and that of their community."
Elisabeth Weingraber-Pircher, Global Identity Facilitator, InterCultural Coach and Leadership Coach
"Diaspora leadership is the ability to integrate personal history, identity, community, and culture with the ever-changing world. It is the fine balance between recognising and preserving what is important to you while navigating the new and inviting positive change. Diaspora leaders recognise and acknowledge differences, building on them to create better outcomes for all."
Reem Al Rasheed, Director of Operations, Alfanar
"Being a Diaspora leader means to shape people's outlooks through well justified arguments. It means being able to dierect people and find resolutions for local problems."
Anastasiia Vitko, Student, UWC Dilijan College
"Being a diaspora leader means being able to immerse myself in contexts, styles of management, issues that do not necessarily reflect my day to day living and being able to learn from those. Also being able to give my experiences in my contexts, style of management and the issues I am constantly dealing in and hopefully have someone take from these strategies and best-practices to improve the way they work."
Anthony Oluoch, Program Manager, Pan Africa ILGA
"As a Diaspora leader I believe I occupy a unique and privileged position that has afforded me the ability to navigate different cultures, geographies and mindsets with relative ease. I therefore see it as my responsibility to be a facilitator of the types of complex change lacking in the world which transcends borders, faiths, tribes and social-economic class."
Charles Sekwalor, CEO, Movemeback Limited
"A Diaspora leader means being a bridge between worlds in constant evolution. It means developing a very unique understanding of the value of diversity, placing higher value not on being from somewhere but being able to be at home anywhere, the value not of coming from one place, but developing the capacity of going any place. A Diaspora leader charts the way towards a truly global citizenship."
Diego Osorio, Advisor, Independent Consultant
"Being a diaspora leader means to me intentionally and mindfully influencing change; particularly in Africa and within diasporan Africa. As a champion who advocates for the advancement of African girls through her Academy in South Africa, I was honored to speak with Ms. Oprah Winfrey on her talk show about my passion; the importance of educating and empowering the African girl child.
For me, being a diaspora leader means using every available voice and platform to advocate for the most vulnerable amongst us."
Farai Gundan, Harvard Mason Fellow, Harvard University; Kennedy School of Government
"Being a diaspora leader entails a responsibility to not just represent a community within the context of a certain culture, but to build connections and bridges between groups of people, especially in a world moving so quickly towards globalization."
Genevieve Roby, Student, UWC Dilijan College
"Being a Diaspora Leader means being open to learning from other Diaspora leaders' experience and expertise. It will also present me with opportunities to be part of developing collaborations, relationships and partnerships with leaders from different Diasporas. After the event, I would be able to bring back the learning and experiences and apply them to current and future working opportunities and organisations I am involved in."
Evelyn Asante-Mensah, Chair, Arawak Walton Housing Association
"Being a diaspora leader means being passionate and patriot of my country, being proud and able to represent my country and my culture everywhere in the world."
Kelly Uwanjye , Student, UWC Dilijan College
"For me, being a Diaspora leader means playing a part in the life of, and the development of, my Diaspora community. The UK Jewish community is small in number (around 300,000 people); however it plays a significant part in the life of the United Kingdom, both politically, economically and culturally. Being a Diaspora leader also involves bridging between my Diaspora community and other communities. I very much see myself as a global citizen and feel that I have a social responsibility to those who are less fortunate, whether in my Diaspora community, the wider UK community or the global community."
Jonathan Middleburgh, Chair, Tzedek UK
"Being a Diaspora leader means having the aforementioned skills and qualities as well as being able to work across different communities. Personally I have never tried or wanted to be a Diaspora leader as such. Whatever role I have had professionally and also personally, I have always tried to show that there are different perspectives to what is being presented. I have tried to highlight the gaps that there may be in the service or process. The gap could be on both sides. I believe the role of the Diaspora leader is to negotiate this gap."
Maher Anjum, Founder / Director, Oitij-jo Collective
"Being a Diaspora leader for me is a way to make sure that people who left their countries of origin, who think they have left their families, come under one umbrella and form a new family, far away from home. They are no longer lost, they no longer alone. "
Marc Gbaffou, Chairperson, African Diaspora Forum (ADF)
"Challenging but psychologically and spiritually fulfilling."
Mebrak Ghebreweldi, Director, Diversity Resources International (DRI)
"Being a diaspora leader is creating a space for personal and collective journeys of action through "mosaic" self discovery and development."
Pierre Gurdjian, Philanthropy Partner RVVZ Foundation
"As a diaspora leader I aspire to be a game changer for social inequality and discrimination in society. It also means being supportive to others and having an open mind about identities, perspectives and life stories."
Sana Shah, Research Associate
"The responsibility to bring together the heritage, values and philosophy of one's background and enable a fruitful dialogue and blend to come up with universal and global solutions to international challenges."
Talar Kazanjian, Executive Director, Armenian General Benevolent Union
"Having lived in Armenia for a year now, I still find it interesting how I am referred to as "African" more than I am referred to as "Swazi". Back in Swaziland, my "Africaness" was never prominent: I was amongst many that looked like and spoke like me. However, in Armenia, and in the different parts of the Western World that I have travelled to, I am usually the minority. Many times I am asked about Africa in general and about African countries, but rarely do I encounter someone who is curious about the specific country in which I was born and raised. This experience propelled me into a journey of discovery. I became more curious about the place in which I came from, as a whole rather than a piece of the whole. I embraced this being "African" through the realization that a human being can adopt multiple identities. It is our responsibility to explore these identities, and to embrace them, no matter where we are in the world. This is what being a Diaspora leader means to me."
Takhona Hlatshwako Student UWC Dilijan College
"A professional who has a vision, trust and ability to group like-minded organizations and people to reach maximum effectiveness in professional development, Diaspora's integration with the host country and impactful engagement with Homeland."
Vartan Marashlyan, Executive director, RepatArmenia Foundation
"A diaspora leader is one who can use his or her acquired diversity, cultural intelligence and networks to influence policies, support community initiatives and shape the future."
Nundraj Narayen, Founder, Eureka Consulting Group
"Building bridges and holding spaces come to mind! It's about thinking how to build friendship and understanding between peoples and communities realising that identity is important and so is engaging fully and equitably with those around you."
Zoe Reed, Director Organisation and Community SLaM and Chair SACU, SLaM - South London and Maudsley NHS FT and SACU - Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding
"Working in a war-torn country at first, and in neighbouring countries at a later stage, has created a chance for me to meet others, learn about differences of cultures, thinking and lifestyles within the country and outside it, and expand my horizons.
As a diaspora leader, in a situation like Syria but not any more living in Syria, I was able to see things more objectively and plan strategically, and allowed me to work with Syrians inside Syria and those outside, building links and networks between them through my organisation."
Yamen Ballan, Director and Manager, Hamzet Wasel