Soliya Project Brochure


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University of Northern Colorado's Honors Program students engage in a series of thoughtful, intensive, and rewarding personal dialogues with their colleagues in countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, and Bahrain. During this live student-driven demonstration, discover how synchronous, web-based technologies serve as a conduit for new understandings across the oceans and cultures. As participants of the Soliya Connect Program college students in the U.S. Europe, and Middle East/North African countries to collaboratively explore relations between the West and the Arab and Muslim Worlds with the aim of improving intercultural awareness and understanding. More info at

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Soliya Project Brochure

  1. 1. THE PROGRAM A cross-cultural education program using the latest in social media technologies to bridge the “West” and the “Arab and Muslim World” Powered by
  2. 2. Soliya | 2 Message from the President All of us at Soliya have had cross-cultural experiences that have profoundly affected our lives. They have changed the way we think about other people in the world, the way we look at ourselves, and the way we understand the issues that divide us. As our world becomes more and more interconnected, the challenges we face are increasingly global in nature, and the solutions to those challenges will require people around the world to work together better than ever before–to understand diverse viewpoints and communicate effectively across cultural divides. We feel that having a cross-cultural experience is an essential component of preparing the next generation of leaders to address those challenges. Traditional constraints associated with international travel, however, need not limit those experiences to the privileged elite. New information and communication technologies present opportunities for young people to have intensive cross-cultural experiences without leaving their home environments. The Connect Program is a unique educational initiative that does just that in a rigorous academic setting. After several years of conducting the Connect Program at some of the world’s most prestigious universities, we are as inspired as ever by its potential. Through the program we are building a network of young adults around the world who are empowered to collaboratively address the global challenges of the 21st century. Please join us. Lucas Welch President and Founder
  3. 3. 3 | The Connect Program The Need Tensions between the “West” and the “Arab & Muslim World” have reached unprecedented heights. These tensions have far-reaching effects, whether manifested by political unrest, economic instability and inequality, or violence. These issues are by no means based on a lack of communication alone, but improved communication will certainly play a critical role in addressing them. Soliya contends that at the root of the misunderstanding between these groups there are “conflicting narratives” about the relationship between the “West” and the “Arab & Muslim World” that often lead to misguided policies and acts of violence against the “other.” These conflicting narratives derive from: 1. Ignorance and Stereotypes – There is a lack of knowledge regarding the historical, political and cultural context of many of today’s most divisive issues. This ignorance can result in negative stereotypes and lead to actions that further exacerbate the tension. 2. Lack of Meaningful Relationships – The vast majority of people on the various sides of these issues simply do not have the opportunity to directly interact with each other and discuss their differences. Without such opportunities, it is easy to dehumanize the “other” and believe that they have few common values. 3. Deficiency of skills to effectively communicate and think critically – Many people lack the necessary communication skills to effectively convey their viewpoints and hear those of others. In addition, the average individual does not have the skills to critically assess the flood of information he/she is exposed to via mainstream media today. These issues are exacerbated because there are few opportunities or tools to constructively influence relations between the “West” and the “Arab & Muslim World.” This can lead to a pervasive sense of powerlessness and frustration which can promote disengagement from the political process or engagement in less constructive ways, such as through acts of violence or support for such acts. Soliya is developing a global network of young adults and empowering them to bridge the divide between the “West” and the “Arab & Muslim World.” Using the latest in “social media” technologies and cutting-edge methodologies, Soliya is providing a new intercultural generation of young adults with the skills, knowledge and relationships they need to develop a nuanced understanding of the issues that divide them. By offering unique training, tools and opportunities to convey this understanding to their broader communities, Soliya is empowering these young adults to play a constructive role in creating a more informed, just and peaceful global society.
  4. 4. Soliya | 4 THE Soliya’s flagship initiative, the Connect Program, is a unique cross-cultural education program that uses the latest in Internet PROGRAM and communication technologies to bridge the gap between university students in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, Europe and the United States. Through the Connect Program students engage in intensive dialogue and collaborative media production, as they explore the issues currently dividing the “Arab & Muslim World” and the “West.” The program is usually offered as part of an accredited course in university departments such as International Relations, Media Studies, Communications, and Conflict Resolution. The active and dynamic learning process is designed to complement students’ coursework and develop the skills, knowledge and relationships tomorrow’s leaders will need to address the challenges they will face. Soliya Develops: Relationships Relationships Means to interact Connections Empathy Knowledge Skills “It is fine to talk about theories about “engaging the other” or “increasing understanding across Issues Critical Thinking cultures”, but Soliya puts the students on the front lines of intercultural relations. They will Cultures Communication learn more about themselves and their place Perspectives Media in the world in the Soliya sessions than in a semester of international relations classes.” Ambassador Cynthia Schneider Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy School of Foreign Service Georgetown University = Empowerment
  5. 5. 5 | The Connect Program Soliya’s custom-built video-conferencing application enables students to see and hear each other in real-time as they discuss a range of different issues. The application is web-based and does not require any special hardware beyond a standard computer, a webcam and a high-speed internet connection. Each student is assigned to a different multi-national group, with other students from across the globe. Students login each week to Soliya’s web-conferencing application for the two hour sessions over the course of a semester. Two highly trained facilitators, one from the US or Europe and one from the Middle East, North Africa or Asia guide the discussions. The conversation is carefully facilitated, ensuring that students directly address the difficult issues that divide them in a way that enables genuine understanding of alternative perspectives and reconsideration of previously held views. The curriculum includes an activity plan for the online dialogue process, as well as suggested activities, discussions and readings for the in-class component of the course, and two assignments that students complete. The first assignment is a video editing project, in which they create their own short news-pieces using raw news footage from major news networks. The second assignment is a joint project, which allows students to work collaboratively with a partner from a different region, get to know them better and jointly explore one another’s perspectives and cultures. Following their participation in the Connect Program, alumni have the opportunity to continue developing their skills and working to “I felt that these discussions were very effective in both learning about the views of others, as bridge the divide between the “West” and the “Arab & Muslim World” well as forcing me to think and analyze my own by participating in Soliya’s Continued Engagement Activities. perspectives by bringing them to the surface.” Since the program began, approximately 35% of students have Mohammed El Fakhani opted to continue their involvement with Soliya after finishing the Connect Program Alumni American University of Beirut Connect Program.
  6. 6. Soliya | 6 University Partners Since our first program in 2003 we have worked with over 60 universities across the globe. Please see the map below which indicates where we have worked and highlights a cross-section of our university partners. Universitè Libre de Bruxelles Brussels, Belgium Tufts University Medford, Massachusetts University of Jordan Amman, Jordan Gadjah Mada University Yogyakarta, Indonesia University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, North Carolina Al Akhawayn University Ifrane, Morocco American University in Cairo Cairo, Egypt So·li·ya [so le yu] n. About Us 1. The integration of the Latin word meaning sun (sol) and a classical Arabic word from Lisan al Arab meaning beam of light (iya). 2. A new organization that aims to shed light on the relationship between the “West” and the “Arab & Muslim World” in a way that promotes understanding, respect and joint action. Soliya is an international non-profit organization head- quartered in New York with staff, volunteers and university partners across the globe. Since the first Connect Program in 2003, Soliya has established a wide range of partnerships and affiliations to expand the reach of the program. Soliya is affiliated with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Initiative, the World Economic Forum’s Council of 100 Leaders Program and the Brookings Institution’s US-Islamic World “The Connect Program enabled my students to become independent thinkers and knowledge-seekers by Forum. Financially, Soliya is supported by a diverse group encouraging active self-learning in an environment in of donors from across the Middle East, Europe and the which they posed questions and searched for answers on their own.” United States. Dr. Sahar Khamis If you would like to participate in Soliya’s Connect Program, Former Professor, Department of Communications, Qatar University Assistant Professor, Department of Communications, University of Maryland support our work or help spread the word, please contact us at
  7. 7. “As I participated in the program, I came to realize that the ‘news’ we see or hear about the Middle East doesn’t tell half the story. By meeting real people, and by hearing about their day-to-day lives, the events and issues I read about became less abstract. They have become something very real, and I can’t help but think of the people who are affected by them.” Margaret Poe Connect Program Alumni University of Iowa 25 Washington Street | Suite 414 15A Ibn Radwan Al-Tabeeb St. | 10th Fl. Brooklyn | New York 11201 Giza 12211 | Cairo | Egypt +1 718 701 5855 +20 2 3570 7948 • • • •