CIS Concludes MENA Region’s First Virtual Summer School | HBKU
Hamad Bin Khalifa University

Excellence HBKU’s College of Islamic Studies Concludes MENA Region’s First Virtual Summer School

Four-week program tackles UN Sustainable Development Goals in the context of COVID-19

Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) has concluded ‘Design Post-COVID Normal’, the region’s first virtual summer school. The design-centered program, which took place from May 31 to June 25, aimed to seek novel solutions to a range of issues brought on by the pandemic, specifically those relating to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Hosted in collaboration with SOGLAB (Turkey), NOBOX Lab (Morocco), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP - Lebanon office), and the Islamic Cooperation Youth Forum (Turkey), the virtual summer school attracted the interest of more than 1,000 applicants from the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and Africa. 

Dr. Evren Tok, associate professor and dean of innovation and community engagement at HBKU’s College of Islamic Studies, said: “COVID-19 has exposed some of the shortcomings of the current systems in supporting human needs and sustaining future generations. Over the last few months, we have seen the displacement of people, a disruption in food supply, lack of access to sanitation, and a plethora of other basic human rights placed in jeopardy. 

“The United Nations Global Goals act as a framework for achieving peace and prosperity by 2030. HBKU, together with the UNDP, has identified 12 of the goals that need to be reassessed urgently to ensure a sustainable future. These goals explore issues relating to the biosphere, the economy, and societal needs.”

The virtual school saw the participation of 111 students, comprising 57 females and 54 males, from over 20 countries, who were carefully selected based on their interests, previous experience, and knowledge of the SDGs.

Participating students were split into groups of 20 and were then tasked with developing design solution-based projects based on a chosen SDG using the creative framework provided by the UNDP. 

Throughout the process, students received direct support from SOGLAB and NOBOX Lab, who designed and led the program, respectively. The month-long program featured webinars with high-level guest speakers, online workshops, and one-on-one facilitation days with each partner. 

Speakers included: His Excellency Dr. Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, Minister of State; His Excellency Mr. Taha Ayhan, President of ICYF; Shaikha Ghalia Al Thani, UN Goodwill Ambassadors Michael Haddad and Ray Bassil; Rana El Chmaitelly, CEO and founder of The Little Engineer; Adnane Addoui, Ashoka fellow from Morocco; Noora and AlDana Al Hedfa, Friendship Ambassador’s Foundation; Zubair Abid, Global Shapers; Mariam Mohammed, a Young Leaders Programme alumna; Eddy Bitar, co-founder of Live Love Lebanon; Robert Garita, operation manager of ibTECHar; Asmaa Serhan, co-founder and producer of Salamati; Hany Anan, co-founder of ToRed; and Louy Ghazawi, co-founder of Infrastic. 

Each week, students worked through a series of carefully executed stages – ‘inspiration’, ‘ideation’, ‘implementation’, and ‘share’ – to enhance their creativity and engagement using an abundance of resources available to them. During each of these stages, students had the opportunity to engage in open-discussion and breakout groups to develop key skills needed to create a successful design-based response. 

“While learning and engagement were at the heart of ‘Design Post-COVID Normal’, the program aimed to cultivate leadership and agency among youth who will go on to create a better tomorrow. Students were encouraged to propose changes to the current system, allowing them to gain an in-depth understanding of the relationship between sustainable development and innovation,” Dr. Tok added. 

He concluded: “We created this program because we wanted students to use the skills they have developed in all aspects of their life. Students can carry forward the skills they have learned to make a significant impact. We not want this program to stop after the four weeks, but rather for students to utilize what they have learned during the course when they one day become leaders and make decisions that affect their communities worldwide.” 


Hamad Bin Khalifa University
Hamad Bin Khalifa University
Hamad Bin Khalifa University

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