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Middle East Youth Leadership Jam 2014

November 7-14, 2014

Wadi Rum, Jordan


It is our honor to invite you to apply to participate in a unique gathering: the Middle East Youth Leadership Jam! This Jam will connect 30 diverse, engaged and committed leaders from around the region, for a week of deep listening, sharing, self-discovery, systemic inquiry, and community building. It will take place from November 7-14, 2014, in the spectacular Wadi Rum desert in Jordan.

Apply today! 

Final application deadline: September 15, 2014


What is the intention of the Jam?

The Jam is not a conference, seminar or a typical meeting. It is a gathering for three different levels of conversation about change: the internal (self), the interpersonal (relationships) and the systemic (the whole). On the internal level, it is a place to share and reflect on their life journeys and their work in the world. It is a time to replenish, recharge and renew, and to gain specific and practical tools for self-care and personal sustainability. It is also an opportunity to grow in self-knowledge, to ask meaningful questions, to unlearn our fears and blocks, and to co-create new possibilities together.


On the interpersonal level, we come together to share our cultures, our stories and our struggles with each other, to deepen in our understanding of each other and of ourselves. The Jam values diversity and seeks to bring together as diverse a group of people as possible. During the week, we hope to discover our commonalities and celebrate our differences. Given the conflicts happening in the region, it is not always easy to hold onto a vision of unity and cooperation that exists beyond the narrative of ‘us’ vs. ‘them’. The Jam seeks to create dialogues that build on what is common among us, in which our differences are engaged, not with antagonism, but with a spirit of shared learning. We see the Jam as a chance to move from the ‘demon-ization’ that is so prevalent today, to the ‘human-ization’ we so desperately need for a healthier future for all. The intention is to build trust and friendship, in a meaningful (not superficial) way. This means challenging stereotypes, being present with each other, speaking truth, working through tough places and being open to giving and receiving support. We feel that the more authentic our relationships are, the stronger the foundations we will have for developing new collaborations and synergies within our region.


On the systemic level, through the Jam, we become clearer about our vision and work in the world. We get a chance to link issues that aren’t commonly linked, to notice crucial intersection points, and get a clearer picture of the whole. We come together to learn from each other: about what is working, about what mistakes we have made, about where we need help. We have a chance to share tools and ideas to support one another. In turn, we hope this helps us to generate a body of collective wisdom for activism in the region. We also hope it will enable each participant to feel deepened in their capacity to affect meaningful positive change and carry their dreams forward.

“I shared, learned and cared for a family that I only knew for a week but felt as if I had known for years. I have opened my eyes again through this desert Jam and I’m able to listen more to others, to feel the breeze, to taste life and listen to my inner self and body. Technology has drifted us away from reality and this Jam has given reality back to me and helped me face my fears. This Jam has helped me taste humanity again and taught me the value of sharing through all of our senses and from the bottom of our heart.”
– Wojoud, 24, Yemen Youth Council, Yemen

What do you mean by ‘Middle East’? How do you define it?

As an organizing team, we struggled a lot with this question. We know that this region has definite impacts on the world, and the rest of the world has definite impacts on it. Yet, as an ‘in-between’ place, it is hard to define. Even the term of Middle East itself comes out of a colonial mindset — one we certainly don’t want to reinforce at the Jam. As a team, we realized that part of the intention of the gathering was to increase our understanding of the region as a whole: its uniqueness, its diversity, its cultures and traditions, and what it offers the world today.


Therefore, we decided it was best to leave it to you to define what the ‘Middle East’ is to you. We have considered its geographic breadth, from North Africa to Iran, from Turkey to Pakistan, and we feel it includes a diversity of issues, cultures and languages. Many people feel connected to it for various reasons, and all of these reasons have a place at the Jam. In the application, we ask you to describe how and why you feel linked to the region and why it feels relevant and meaningful for you to be part of this Jam.


Who is being invited to the Middle East Youth Leadership Jam?

As mentioned above, we seek to bring together as diverse a group of people as possible. This means we are looking for a range in:

– leadership (from ‘person on the ground’ to ‘director and founder’);

– years of experience (from ‘just starting out’ to ‘been at it for a while’);

– methods and venues of social engagement (entrepreneurs, NGOs, communities, families, neighborhoods, healers, philanthropists, government, etc.);

– issue- or work-focus (for example, community media, local economies and globalization, indigenous issues, education, food security, cultural regeneration, cultural exchange, interfaith, health and physical well-being, ecology, spiritual healing and recovering from trauma, arts, sustainable living tools and practices, political participation, socially- and ecologically-conscious building and architecture, upholding and honoring diverse forms of human dignity, etc.);

– place of origin and base of work (in terms of country, sub-region, locale,etc.);

– ethnicity and religion.


Simultaneously, our intention is to find a great mix of people who share a few commonalities:

  • They understand, and are trying to act from, the meeting point of internal, interpersonal and systemic change.

  • They are innovating and creating new ways to face challenges that are connected to the realities of their situations, in their personal lives and/or communities.

  • They start from, celebrate and build on what’s positive, good, healthy, etc. in themselves and in their societies (rather than being based in reaction against what’s wrong, or what needs to be fixed).

With this foundation, we also seek a gender balance of 50% men and 50% women and a (flexible) age range of 20-40.

“The Middle East Jam was an extremely important stepping stone in my journey of self-discovery. Not only did I find common ground with people who most of my life have been the ‘other’, but I also received support and was touched to the core by people I now call friends. I have formed relationships that seemed logically impossible but are now deeper than any logic. I think that the Middle East is not as complex as I used to think, if people really decide to invest in relationships and community building, as we did this week.”
– Mai, 29, Cairo Refugee Film Festival, Egypt


Language of the Jam

Given the diversity of the region, the Jam will be predominately in English. It is possible for a person who speaks only Arabic to participate fully, since we expect that there will be a large contingent of people who speak both Arabic and English and who can support him/her. If you are a speaker of any of the other regional languages, we ask that you ought to be comfortable in English, although acquiring translation services is a possibility in special circumstances.

Who is putting on the Middle East Youth Leadership Jam?

This event is being convened by a diverse team of people from around the region, who have either participated in or facilitated past Middle East Youth Leadership Jams. Many of us have been part of the World Youth Leadership Jam community, which YES! had hosted as an annual event with a number of global partners with alumni from 85 countries. The World Jam showed us the immense learning that happens when we come together with people very different from ourselves, but who share with us a common vision and dreams. For this event, we are drawing upon that inspiration and re-contextualizing the Jam for our specific region and needs. If you want to learn more about the history of the Jams, or to see where else they are happening in the world, please visit http://www.yesworld.org.



You are invited!

Our team would like to welcome you to apply for the Jam.

Apply today! 

Final application deadline: September 15, 2014

Feel free to share this invitation and application with other young leaders you know in the region.

And do not hesitate to contact our participant liaison, Alia Lahlou, at themejam@gmail.com should you have any questions or concerns. We look forward to hearing from you soon!



With best wishes, hope, faith and love,

The Middle East Youth Leadership Jam Organizing Team