LDEM students travelled with Dr. Nayla Al-Akl to Ajloun, Jordan (June 21-29), to participate in an intensive program to develop projects for sustainable tourism in Jordan. Under the framework of the Middle East Social Innovation Lab (MESIL), the interdisciplinary and intercultural exchange considered ways to sustainably safeguard unique cultural and natural landscapes.
Participants addressed questions like: how to promote and nurture cultural heritage, making it tangible for tourists; how to involve households and small businesses in tourist activities (e.g. hiking trails through the nearby mountains); how to inspire young people to plan their future permanently in the region?
Over a period of ten days, 40 international students from multiple disciplines, including seven from LDEM, worked with local civil society actors to develop concepts and business models that focused on sustainable tourism in the Kufranja region of northeastern Jordan, near the Syrian border. Issues discussed included: concepts of landscape identity, capacity building, sustainable tourism, empowerment of women, and rural development. Students broadened their world-views and learned to address real problems while working in interdisciplinary, multicultural groups. The LDEM team also received training in social entrepreneurship through an online course coordinated by Nürtingen-Geislingen University. The course familiarized participants with concepts of social entrepreneurship, social innovation, recognizing local challenges, design thinking, and business modelling.
The intellectual property (IP) tutors and organizing institutions included Dr. Dirk Funck, principal in charge of the effort, Drs. Ellen Fetzer and Simon Leberl, Nürtingen-Geislingen University (HfWU); Drs. Omaimah Ali, Tala Awadallah and Kawthar Rayya, German Jordanian University; Dr. Samar Nazer, Birzeit University; and Nayla Al-Akl, FAFS-AUB. Local partners included the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism, and the Municipality of Kufranja. The program also received support from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the FAFS Dean’s Office, and LDEM.