The Lazord Fellowship is a multi-dimensional program that
seeks to empower young graduates to develop a critical understanding of civic
engagement, and improve their leadership and technical skills for their future
careers, regardless of the sector.
Lazord is one of the main programs under The John D. Gerhart Center for
Philanthropy, Civic Engagement and Responsible Business promotes social change
in the Arab region through building a culture of effective giving, corporate
social responsibility and civic responsibility. Building on social value,
the center serves as a source of knowledge, a cultivator of partnerships, and a
catalyst for innovation, community engagement and a heightened sense of
citizenship and social responsibility.
The Lazord fellowship was established at AUC by Gerhart
Center and has been running since 2010. Now it has chapters in Jordan, and
Tunisia as well, working with over 50 organizations. The fellowship is a
yearlong regional program that includes a chance for the chapters and fellows
in Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia to meet together twice a year. After a
competitive recruitment effort, fellows are selected in each of the 3 countries
and placed for one year in a local organization. The fellows receive trainings
provided by the local Lazord representatives as well as mentorship to help them
realize their full potential as responsible leaders.
“We aim to select candidates who actually know how to work
on the ground, have the open mind to critically think about any issue and who
have the intellectual ability to criticize the current status to be able to
lead a job in development. We also look for people who value development and
who strongly believe in a certain purpose that they want to achieve,” Nada
Bahgat, Lazord Program specialist.
Each year a total of 12 fresh graduate fellows who has shown
promising interest in the development field are selected from different parts
of Egypt. The fellows gets to be hosted for one year in a local non-profit
organization as a full-time employee; receive a living stipend (based on the
country) and a modest housing stipend (based on the fellow’s placement and
needs). The fellows are also offered a minimum of 10 training sessions by
influential civil society leaders and professional trainers on an array of
topics surrounding civil society, entrepreneurship management, leadership, team
building and business skills; they undergo monthly mentoring sessions with
professional mentors with civil society experience; and partake in networking
opportunities with professionals and influential individuals from different
sectors – at both a local and international level; as well as attend the annual
opening and closing retreats with a
regional cohort of fellows from all 3 countries.
After the yearlong fellowship the fellows present their
initiatives, researches or ideas and each country selects a candidate to
compete in the final retreat, with the winner getting a symbolic financial
award to help evolve the presented initiative.
“we started a community day initiative, in which
participants and alumni work together on all the logistics of the day, with the
aim to give back to society in mind. This year we went to Tadamon community
center in Maadi and conducted sessions with Sudanese refugees on resume writing,
how to market their products, health awareness, as well as art and storytelling
classes for refugee kids,” said Bahgat
Each year different NGOs present available job vacancies and
Lazord pick from them. “We select NGOs with good reputation, who have been
around for over 5 years, that would provide the fellow with team experience,
and a clear job description for the job openings” Bahgat explained.
For participants, this fellowship is life changing as, “It’s
a shared learning experience, at the end of the year you don’t only leave with
your own experience but with all 12 experiences,” said Mohab Ali, capacity
building officer and planning advisor in Gerhart civic engagement unit. Ali is
an engineer from Minia who graduated from Lazord in 2014. “I knew about this
fellowship through Facebook. Before Gerhart, I was an engineer and a volunteer.
I wasn’t decided on shifting my career to focus on development, but after the
fellowship I directed all my efforts to development.” During the fellowship,
Ali worked at Etegah NGO as a youth development program specialist. But then he
realized that it was similar to what he already worked on as a volunteer prior
to Lazord, so he shifted his work to IBM and worked in their corporate social
responsibility program as a junior manager of an educational project. He
continued to work with them for a while after graduation, and then moved to
Save the children international and then Gerhart.
“Lazord is a turning point, you go in with a singular random
experiences and you step into a world of different networks and ideologies. You
come out with a lots of experiences, training and a new perspective based on
education... The group discussions and feedback sessions were eye opening as
you hear the different experiences of others as well,” Ali said. He continued,
“the main issue in the development sector in Egypt is the management system itself
and how the government deals with NGOs and how unorganized it is. There is only
some logistics and paperwork required but when you come to measure the work
that has been done or impact there is no way to measure it.”
“Lazord really fills a huge market gap in Egypt, because
there isn’t any schools that teaches you how to work in the development sector,
at least not a proper one. So Lazord is really filling a market gap. It equips
you with the basics in different areas to work in this field,” said Osama Samir
from Ismailia, a 2017 Lazord graduate and currently a programs assistant in Gerhart center. During his
fellowship he worked in the CSR at PWC.