Cityscape Abu Dhabi 2014: a Strategy field trip

Wow! My 100th blog post...

Today we visited Cityscape Abu Dhabi - you can read more about the event here: Cityscape website. It is a lot about real estate (the most real estate companies ever according to one of the organizers we met), but we went because it is also about the Abu Dhabi 2030 Plan and its implementation.

It has been a few years since I did a project on the strategic plan of Abu Dhabi, but I felt it was time again. The students have a guest blog and poster presentation due next week all about the plan... they need to choose 5 photos that represent a "theme" of Abu Dhabi's strategy and then explain why they choose the photos. Many of course are looking at my favorite "theme" of the plan - Estidama or sustainability built on four pillars/pearls: economy, social, environment and culture

Sand sculpture with the Estidama logo... (one of the few Arabic words I know!)

It was organised by one of the students - so we all had passes and every stand we visited we were welcomed and provided with excellent updates about what is being done... the plans are exciting and it was very interesting to see the model and hear about all the great things that await the city, emirate and country.

A few photos of the visit follow... and next week we have several guest blogger groups on the agenda... hopefully a busy time for the blog for the start of the next 100 posts :)

Listening to an Urban Planning Council employee speak about AD 2030

The model is worth the visit itself... I loved seeing my building and looking at things from a "bird's eye view"

A visit to the Abu Dhabi Municipality booth and learning about the street addresses coming and the bar codes associated with addresses and what we will be able to do with the bar codes!

Students arriving a little late :)

Reem Island :) (aka home!)

The space ship is the Zayed University campus and the glowing building are coming in the future...

At the Masdar booth


Injaz innovation camp: learning through partnerships and having fun!

Today my Strategy class participated in the Injaz Innovation camp workshop. I had my class participate last year, and the experience was so positive for the students I was looking forward to participating again.

Injaz holds many such programs around the UAE - you can learn more about them at their website here: Injaz UAE. The unique thing about Injaz is that their programs combine public/private sector volunteers, members of academia and Injaz employees to provide students with unique, hands on and fun learning experiences.

The company that volunteered their awesome mentors today was Kier Construction - a UK company with a growing presence in the Middle East and Asia. Their website is here: Kier Construction

The students that attended were largely "recruited" by myself and Dr. May Al Taie and were for the most part Business/IT students. Dr. May is the first female Emirati faculty we have at Zayed University, she is a role model to our female and male students and I am very happy to say she is a colleague of mine with a similar teaching philosophy and a great love of our students.

I will tell the story through photos - but read the captions for details!!!! I tweeted much of the day - but here is a chance to see all the photos in one place :)

Ready to start the day!

Ice breaker and team building... try to break into the closed circle... this was a strictly males only activity!

The volunteer couldn't break this group apart!

Building the highest tower with paper - it helped that table 5's volunteer was an engineer.... especially when they were no longer allowed to speak with each other as the "build" progressed! (Table 5 won this challenge)

Everyone working together....

A different construction technique....

Brainstorming about the skills needed and used for the different team building activities.... (my favorite skill they listed was "spying" which we explained is actually called business intelligence!)

Lunch is served! 
Interviews about nonsense concepts... a great activity...

After lunch it was time to develop a sales pitch for a business model - the tower is still standing!

Great interactions with our Kier Construction mentors!

A brief introduction to Kier Construction by the UAE General Manager - and insight into working for a growing and dynamic private company

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Group 1 presentation Medical Appointment application (the eventual winners!)

The pitch presentations! Group 2 presentation Zyara app for visitors to Abu Dhabi

Pitch 3 for the Zhama app to let smart phone users know where the traffic is

Group 4: an industrial/construction zone for Abu Dhabi

Presentation 5: street light sensors to save electricity
It was a great day... thank you Injaz and Kier Construction for providing our students an opportunity to learn through the interaction of the public and private spheres! Looking forward already to the next one :)

Qasr Al Hosn: A field trip to the past to learn about the strategy of the future

This blog post is a bit late... but last month we organised a trip to the wonderful, amazing, totally great heritage festival held for the second time in Abu Dhabi - the Qasr Al Hosn Festival. Here is the link if you would like to take a look at the website: Festival website

We had agreed at the beginning of the semester that we could have an evening trip - as we cannot miss any other classes... so the first group organised the event for us to learn about the past, learn about organizing big events and also learn about the implementing the strategic vision of the country.

The organizers of the trip arrived early and were very wonderfully surprised to see the VVIP visitors arrive!

His Highnesses :)

After we met at exactly the appointed time, our first place to visit was the Lest We Forget exhibit - which is part of the the National Pavilion of the United Arab Emirates for la Biennale di Venezia. You can visit their facebook page here: Lest We Forget

Waiting for a few more people....

Listening about the exhibit (me tweeting about it)

Discussing the photographs...

A typical Emirati livingroom with heritage furniture from the 1970s (awesome design concept Marco!)

Posing for photographs for the map of the UAE

Relaxing and looking at the photos...

The Lest We Forget book

Family photos - which brought back memories of their own photos from home
After the informative and inspirational visit to the exhibit we entered the festival itself and learned about traditional ways of the past from experts and practitioners...

Learning about traditional dyes from the past - for kandoras and abayas...

The hubara - an endangered bird that if you see in the wild and phone it in you receive a reward!

Learning about dates and gawa... 
Dr. Connie learning how to weave....

The master palm tree rope maker - I tried and failed miserably!

Learning from our elders... 

Old trucks and uniforms - the mission of the Abu Dhabi Polic is the same, their tools and tactics are different now...

Dancing and singing for a wedding (I never get to see the men's side of weddings, so I loved this)

The Hosn Fort - built in the 18th century...

The tour was in Arabic - but I had several translators...

Abstract photo of the Fort

Being interviewed about their experiences....

Group photo!

Our rope making guru in action!
In total I went to the festival three times... it was so wonderful seeing Emirati families with the children wearing their traditional dresses and expatriate children learning about the traditions of the country they live in. I bought some great gifts for myself and my Aunt (who was visiting from Canada) bought material for a traditional dress she had made up before heading home.

Honestly I can't wait for next year!!!!


Abu Dhabi Marine Conservation Society's Beach Clean-Up Day

This past weekend I participated in the Abu Dhabi Marine Conservation Society's Beach Clean-Up Day at Al Harmia Beach in the Western Regions. Due to heavy fog it was officially cancelled for safety reasons (for the people travelling in buses from Abu Dhabi) - but there were a few people there and we all decided to stay and make a dent in a big job!

You can follow and keep up with their events on Instagram: @admcgroup

Before I get into the actually clean-up, the group itself is very interesting. Founded by two sisters, Shamsa and Maitha Al Hameli, here is a little information directly from them:

ADMCG’s Vision: To sustain a healthy marine environment for future generations.

ADMCG’s Mission: To raise awareness, engage the community and promote positive action towards Abu Dhabi’s marine life.

About us:

“Today, conservation of the environment is not meant only for the government or for the officials. It is something that concerns us all. Individuals, voluntary groups of our citizens and others - all can and must get involved.” - Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Inspired by the words of our late father Sheikh Zayed Bun Sultan Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Marine Conservation Group was founded by a group of environmentally aware young UAE nationals with the goal of raising awareness within the society about the marine life found in Abu Dhabi’s waters and highlighting the importance of conserving our fragile marine ecosystem.

These young women are truly inspirational and super organised... which brings us to the clean-up!

I was told about the group a few weeks ago from a former student - Salem - and I started following them on Instagram (social media is THE medium of choice for communication for young people in the UAE). Salem then suggested that a group of us (from the desert clean-up crew) should go - I agreed of course :)

We set out early in a dense fog... but we made it!

Great, clear to read signs :) 

The ladies were already hard at work when we got there a little after 8 am...

Lots of weird garbage that washes up with the tide... an old gas can...

There was actually a lot of garbage, mainly plastic, brought in by the tides and left by picnicers..

Cables... which get wrapped around necks of dolphins and turtles...

The seaweed hid some of the garbage... but it was "easy" pickin's!

Argh... we really need to do something about these plastic water bottles... in Canada we have an environment fee in some provinces (e.g. Alberta)

Salem didn't use the stick either... using hands might be harder on the back, but in many ways I find it easier (but there were tons of sticks to use if we had needed)

I had the garbage 'find" of the day.... 

There are also "organic" finds on the beach... I think most of us turn into budding scientists around interesting finds!

By the time we had cleaned our patch of beach, the clouds had lifted and we had filled 3 trucks full of refuse... 

I think this is a wonderful way for organisations to do "real" CSR - encouraging employees (and even family members) to take part in cleaning our environment... I also think that the more people who get involved, the more people will think twice before throwing out that plastic bottle over the side of the boat or on the beach.

Bravo ladies for founding this amazing organisation (and gentlemen who participated).... I will be back for the next one :)

(For more information in the group - or if you are interested in advice on how to set up a clean-up day for your organisation here is their Email: