TYO at Clinton Global Initiative 2009

TYO’s second experience at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York was even more productive than the first! Not only did we have huge progress to report on our first commitment, we announced an exciting new commitment in cooperation with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. We are eager to share our experience with you – for a more complete overview of panels and working sessions, check out our Twitter feed from last week! In the meantime, here are some highlights.

President Obama’s made for a great opening, but the best part of the conference for us was the focus on Girls and Women, which began with dinner that evening. The speakers were great, as well as tablemates, including partner, Henriette Kolb (Director of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women), inspiring champion of businesswomen in Cameroon Kah Walla, and a Colombian champion of early childhood education.

Hani & Henriette

Hani & Henriette

After an evening on the town, we were up early on Wednesday for the plenary on Girls and Women during which Maria Eitel introduced our new commitment. See Henriette and TYO founder, Hani Masri, on stage live or just a snapshot! A great discussion followed – watch the whole video for the hope-inspiring consensus among these in-the-know folks that we may be on the verge of a tipping point regarding the treatment of and investment in girls and women, pointed out by Melanne Verveer.

CGI staff did an awesome job of organizing Action Networks throughout the conference in order to facilitate more concentrated discussion among members with shared interests. Both the Women’s Empowerment and Investing in Girls sessions were enlightening and inspiring. Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of participating in CGI is being exposed to the caliber of work that is being done in each field represented. One cannot help but come away energized and motivated to learn from the best.

Thursday was no less exciting for TYO. We met up with Cherie Blair and Henriette in time for a Human Capital panel about the twenty-first century workforce, after which, we were to sign the legal agreement to formalize our cooperation. The panel was expertly moderated by Gwen Ifill, and included notable speakers like Quincy Jones, Luis Moreno and John Hope Bryant. The panel embodied CGI’s pervasive feeling of being among friends. Moreno, President of the Inter American Development Bank, knew of our Nablus project, which he cited in his comments. Ifill later cold-called Cherie Blair to talk a bit about our project, which reflects the meeting’s focus on women and girls as well as the strategic Middle East region. Mrs. Blair presented an impressively eloquent overview of the project, her visit to Nablus last May, and her commitment to women’s economic empowerment. We’ll share the video here as soon as we get it from CGI’s media office.

Thursday night’s awards dinner was dynamic, authentic and truly heartwarming, from Usher to President Kagame to Ben Stiller to Dr. Rola Dashti to Quincy Jones to Ruchira Gupta!

Finally, the last day was no less exhilarating for TYO: the gorgeous video produced by Students of the World aired in two breakout sessions. And as well as wrapping up the week’s events eloquently as ever, President Clinton commended the work that we are doing with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and quoted Cherie Blair:

access to finance should be viewed as a human right as much as education and health if you really want to elevate the status of women in the world.

What a week! Now, back to work – we have a lot to live up to!

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PR-Canada: Clinton Global Initiative Members Cherie Blair and Hani Masri Collaborate to Support Women Entrepreneurs

Cherie Blair, Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and Hani Masri, a Palestinian American businessman and Founder of Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, launched a project that promotes economic empowerment for women in at-risk communities in the West Bank.

Read the full story on their site.

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Maan News: Cherie Blair supports women’s project in West Bank

Ma’an – Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and wife of the former UK prime minister, and Hani Al-Masri, a Palestinian-American businessman and founder of Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, on Friday launched a project that promotes economic empowerment for women in at-risk communities in the West Bank.

Read the entire article here.

Midterm Impact Report, Summer 2009

Midterm Impact Report, Summer 2009 Session

During the fifth week of our summer programs, a letter was sent home with a random sample of 20 Morning Core Program participants inviting their parents to attend a discussion. TYO Psychosocial Specialist Suhad Jabi facilitated a focus group later that week with five mothers and one father of ten TYO participants.  The focus group was an open discussion in which the parents introduced themselves and discussed their level of satisfaction with the program, changes in their children’s behavior and suggestions for future program development.  Suhad described the conversation as enthusiastic, lively and organic.  The following Midterm Impact Report was compiled from testimonies given by those parents.

TYO compares initial, midterm and final parent surveys and focus groups to determine the impact of its program on each child and identify which children could benefit from further services either from TYO or by referral.  Please check back later this week for our Final Impact Report for the summer session.  The full text of the midterm report and past reports can be found in the Results section of our homepage.

After four weeks of the program, we see concrete and significant change in many of our children, especially in the following areas:

-    Age-appropriate sociability with peers and adults,
-    Appropriate behavior (including the disappearance of bed wetting problems),
-    Improved vocabulary and increased vocalization and self-esteem

Abu Sami, father of Gofran, age 4, Balata refugee camp
My daughter, Gofran, used to be selfish—wanting everything in her hands. She never shared and was aggressive with her siblings. My children would always fight and there was never any peace in our home.  Despite my encouragement, they never managed their studies well. Now, Gofran is more cooperative and less aggressive.  I see her respecting other children and finishing her tasks with more care. She is outspoken and shares stories with me about her classroom and her teacher Rana [TYO’s art teacher.]  She told me that when she is upset she wants to talk to Rana about her anger. She no longer has nightmares.

Om Ehab, mother of twins Sadeel and Sandee, age 5, Askar refugee camp
Both Sandeel and Sandee have bed-wetting problems.  During their first session [at TYO], the problem decreased to around three times a week.  After the first week of this session, they both stopped completely. My daughters are happier and cooperate with each other much better. They are always talking about their teacher Rana [TYO’s art teacher.]

Om Mohammad, mother of Mohammad, age 5, Khallet al-Amood
My son used to be a rude child.  He created many problems in the neighborhood.  He was difficult to talk with and aggressive.  He is a tough kid. I have always been a bit surprised that TYO doesn’t send him home.  Many times I have wanted to visit the TYO Center, but I do not come because I am afraid that I will hear the staff complaining about my son. I am very satisfied with the program.  Now, Mohammed is better in every category.  He has become polite, much calmer and sweet.  He is more expressive and articulate about his ideas. Sometimes I cannot believe I am talking with a five-year-old kid.

CGI 2009, Day 1

It has been a crazy first day at CGI – some familiar faces from last year, great energy, awesome kick off to focus on girls & women, of course highlights of Bill & Barack, and exciting preparation for our new 2009 Commitment (news coming tomorrow!). Unfortunately, I’m not getting service in the plenary room (maybe it was Obama’s security today – will try again tomorrow), so I wasn’t able to update from the Opening. But I jotted down some highlights the old school way that I share below. The Girls & Women dinner tonight was great, topped off by the star performer by far: Ann Cotton of Camfed. I did manage to tweet highlights of that session.

After Matt Damon announced a new commitment for water.org, a panel of 4 spoke, moderated by President Clinton. The Turkish CEO of Coca Cola talked about their micro-distribution program for women, which seems pretty great, as well as their efforts to become water neutral by 2020. He also announced a new bottle that they plan to produce 7 million of in 2010, which is made 30% of plant (sugar cane) products, and is 100% recyclable. President Clinton pointed out the significance of these efforts since 80% of the casualties in the world related to water issues are children under 5 years of age.

While waiting for Obama to navigate New York traffic, President Clinton cited a phrase coined by George W. Bush, that the President is really the ‘decider-in-chief’. He added that most decisions are not really to be made, but simply signed off on after reading a one-page memo. Just those decisions that are really ‘horrible’ are left to the Decider-in-Chief. Clinton’s warm intelligence and dedication were as evident as ever during the session. He pointed out the value of having a ‘decider-in-chief’ and Secretary of State with long backgrounds in the NGO world, where there is no choice but to take action.

When Obama did arrive, he had several good points to make, building on this NGO experience as a community organizer in Chicago, which he said taught him that real progress doesn’t come from the top down, but from the bottom up. He added that ‘to bring real change, you have to step up, you have to serve,’ and echoed this call to action several times throughout his address.

He suggested that this transformative moment in our twenty-first century interconnected world offers both great promise and great peril, which calls for a new spirit of global partnership. He commended the Clinton Global Initiative for embodying and facilitating exactly such a spirit, and acknowledged that his administration aspires to the same.

President Obama acknowledged having, ‘with friends from across the Muslim world, launched new beginnings based on mutual interests and mutual respect.’ He also alluded to a new initiative of Secretary Clinton’s that will engage businesses, non-profit organizations and faith groups – will listen for more details in coming days.

The President concluded by suggesting that ‘we can leave this world even better, even more hopeful than we found it,’ perhaps trying to summon some of the original hope inspired by his candidacy just a year ago.

Overall, the address was certainly eloquent and positive, but to me, the challenge of our times was tangible. Nonetheless, the stage was set for what I hope will be an educational and productive three days!

We start early tomorrow morning – downstairs at 8 am, but the result will be more than worth it. Stay tuned for more details and photos here tomorrow!

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Clinton Global Initiative 2009

I’ve just arrived in New York for the Fifth Annual Clinton Global Initiative, TYO’s second CGI conference. Although the events don’t officially begin until Tuesday afternoon, the buzz is already tangible! The UN General Assembly also opens tomorrow, so the city is officially overflowing with official visitors.

In its fifth year, CGI seems to be making a lot of changes for the better, toward a greater focus on concrete action and feasible commitments rather than high-profile talking sessions. We are extremely excited for this year’s Action Networks on Investing in Girls and Empowering Women, both topics that are so essential to TYO’s work. They also provide an ideal platform to announce an exciting new project that we have made our Commitment to Action for 2009. Keep your eyes out for full details here in the coming days…

Another highlight of CGI 2009 for TYO will be the broadcast of the video produced by the New York Students of the World team in Nablus in June 2009. We will also post the video here as soon as its available on the web!

Finally, an important aspect of CGI is always the networking: taking advantage of the knowledge and willingness of CGI staff to help members (philanthropists, practitioners, and private sector representatives) connect with each other according to their shared passions and complementary resources. President Obama has confirmed his attendance at Tuesday afternoon’s plenary, which should set an extremely positive tone for the event.

I’ll be tweeting as much as I can about the event and the working sessions – follow along and let me know what you think along the way: http://twitter.com/tomorrowsyouth .

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Inter-sectoral approach to Early Childhood Development

I was glad to be in the US last week, in preparation for the Clinton Global Initiative, on the occasion of a panel on inter-sectoral approaches to early childhood development, coordinated by the Wolfensohn Center for Development at Brookings and Save the Children.

The Obama administration’s newly appointed focal points on early childhood education (Jacqueline Jones in the Department of Education, and Joan Lombardi in the Department of Health and Human Services) provided hopeful perspectives on the early developments of these new efforts to integrate the government’s policies and programs for young children. They also underlined a recurrent theme of the discussion: the need to develop a coherent and holistic message for advocacy of political and financial support for early childhood. We need to leverage the strong scientific evidence that has been gathered in the fields of health, education and economics about the potent value of early childhood interventions.

Lombardi pointed out that from her experience, early childhood initiatives were mainly missing public financing and coordination between health, education and other sectors that touch the lives of young children. The discussion suggested that at least in the US, with the important factor of high-level support from President Obama and Secretaries Duncan and Sebellius, efforts are being made to remedy these common challenges. While of course the newly appointed representatives’ work will focus on domestic issues for the time-being, Lombardi did mention the Office of Global Health in HHS, which she suggested could be a starting point for related initiatives that extend beyond US borders.

Jean-Louis Sarbib, formerly Vice President of the Human Development Network at the World Bank, and now a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Wolfensohn Center, reviewed what he saw as the highlights of Lombardi’s and Jones’s presentations. First, he emphasized the value of the high-level support in any effective early childhood policy, which they confirmed feeling from the President and both Secretaries. He felt particularly strongly about President Obama’s choice to invest in early learning as part of the recent stimulus, emphasizing this sector as investment in our future health and economic development, rather than consumption. Finally, Sarbib suggested that we need to talk about early childhood as the period from conception to 8 years, rather than starting at birth.

The first question from the audience highlighted the fact that the discussion had focused largely on domestic arena, perhaps reflecting the reality that these inter-sectoral efforts are new to the US, and have not yet extended to our international policies. Peter Laugharn, executive director of the Firelight Foundation, asked whether this priority on early childhood, and specifically an inter-sectoral approach, would be reflected in the US’s international development assistance. While there was no information provided about specific efforts being made to promote the issue within international policy, the panelists’ eager support for the issue inspires hope. Further, Lombardi mentioned several times her fondness for and commitment to international work, which is evidenced by her extensive and enduring in that realm before accepting this position with HHS.

In sum, the event provided a very satisfying first discussion on the topic. The enthusiastic participation of about 40 professionals from all sides of the early childhood field (health and education; domestic and international; funders and practitioners), as well as the panelists’ eloquent and action-focused interventions, lead me to believe that we will manage to raise the profile of early childhood as a valuable priority for international development aid.

Our experience through TYO in Nablus provides incontrovertible evidence that not only do early childhood programs have profound and lasting impact on children, but also that they provide access to entire families, and thereby communities. What better public diplomacy instrument could the State Department be looking for?
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