London, Asharq Al-Awsat-What do a project launched by a dentist in Pakistan to give free treatment to the poor and the Muslim Police Officers’ Association in Britain have in common?
The answer is simple: A leadership program established by the Mosaic Program, a charity founded by Prince Charles and based in London.
The program aims to develop leadership skills in young people by providing them with the skills, experience, and assistance needed to become active members of their societies. And the program is not limited to the UK; it has developed projects in many countries around the world, including in the Arab region, through partnership with Arab organizations in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.
The Mosaic Leadership Program picks 80 candidates aged between 25 and 35 for its annual summit. Each new cohort begins the program with a conference, and they go through an intensive training program, attending workshops presented by international experts.
Asharq Al-Awsat recently met Jonathan Freeman, the UK national director of the Mosaic Program, to talk about this effort.
“Most of our work is based in Britain. We provide orientation programs to schools and prisons and we also organize the International Leadership Program,” Freeman said.
He added that the charity “works among Muslim communities in the United Kingdom, and we have supporters in a number of countries around the world.”
“By communicating with these Muslim communities in the UK, we noticed that the issues we deal with here are also important at an international level. We therefore decided to expand, and we hope our experiments work in dealing with those issues and providing help to the future leaders of the world,” Freeman told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The Mosaic Program relies on cooperation from the Foreign Office and British Council to promote and advertise the events, as well as on Arab institutions such as the Qatar Foundation. In Jordan, the program receives the support and patronage of Princess Badiya Bint El Hassan, who is the founding chairperson of the program and also the chair of the Mosaic Talent Awards Commission.
Freeman added: “We rely on individuals who support our mission in Indonesia and Malaysia, and on airlines such as Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi. All these parties strengthen our program and publicize it. We try to select 80 people between ages 25 and 35 who have leadership qualities. This year, we selected individuals from 15 countries through an open selection process for 1,110 applicants.”
Word of the program is spread by supporting companies and individuals, in addition to graduates or participants of previous programs. “The information is spread by word of mouth; we do not use paid advertisements,” Freeman affirmed.
“We start the program with a conference and put the candidates through an intensive training course for two weeks to prepare them to accept responsibility and to raise their awareness of issues which are sponsored by Prince Charles, such as global warming, world poverty and communication between different cultures. We do not try to answer the questions but we clarify the points which are important to the leaders of any society. We want them to become active and successful personalities in their communities,” he added.
During the training course, the participants are introduced to some successful individuals who can serve as role-models and examples. Freeman told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We select some great examples to tell their personal success stories. For example, we took the group to Brixton Prison in London to introduce them to Bad Boys Bakery Project. It is a project which was established by international chef Gordon Ramsey to train prisoners to establish and run a bakery in the prison, in order to also train them to work in catering in the future.”
As for how candidates are selected, Freeman says: “We look for people who have a record of success and who are qualified for bigger future successes. It is important that they show commitment to important issues, and it is also important that they did not have this type of opportunity before. We encourage them to think and learn from the experience they receive in the conference and workshops.”
Staying in contact with the graduates is important to Mosaic, so, those in charge keep tabs on all of them. “We follow their development by contacting each of them every three months. It is a method which allows us to monitor their progress and remind them of the aims which they aspire to achieve. We try to avoid the mistakes of other leadership programs where the whole experiment may be lost a month after the end of the program. This is why we ensure that we stay in contact with the graduates, whether through meetings or through the internet. We know that a number of them in the Gulf area, such as Saudi Arabia, remain in direct contact and exchange experiences,” Freeman added.
Freeman gives an example of one of the graduates of the Doha session in 2011, who was selected from 99 youth leaders in Bangladesh, who “made great strides and received great support for his charity program, and we hold high hopes for him. Contacts can also be arranged with instructors and tutors who we deal with through the different stages. One example is that today I met an academic who works in education within Muslim communities in the UK. I arranged a meeting for him with one of our graduates who had ambitions to establish an Islamic school.”
The Mosaic Leadership Program works with a number of institutions in the world, including the Middle East. As for Saudi Arabia specifically, Freeman told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We have cooperated with the Centennial Fund in a number of projects, but there is no specific institution which supports our work in the kingdom officially. This is why we rely on the British Council there. Our program has produced a number of Saudi graduates too.”
The program is distinct in the simplicity of its entry application which is done through a website. “Whoever wants to apply for the program should do that on the website. There are no direct intermediaries, but each country has a person who attends the personal interviews which are conducted by phone,” Freeman said.
There are many Mosaic success stories, and a database is currently being compiled to showcase the programs achievements and successes. This includes a free dentist surgery opened by one of the graduates in his village in rural Pakistan. While another graduate adopted a project to build a road in an Afghan village by launching a campaign to raise money. There are many other success stories, including a volunteer program in Dubai, and the Muslim Police Officers Association in the UK which was founded by program graduate Asif Sidiqi.
Freeman concludes: “All those projects prove that the youth are capable of success if the support and direction is provided to them.”