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I was honored to have been accepted into the first ever MPA/ID cohort. At the time, I was a Lebanese American technology entrepreneur working in Colombia in South America. Heads down into technology for most of my career, my passion for development had been simmering in the background, but unable to fully emerge. The MPA/ID Program would bring to the fore the mystique of international development.
Initially, I focused my studies on what was of most interest to me - namely technology and the Arab world. So, I drudged along in what I perceived as less than exciting material - who cares about concave and convex utility curves, right? In reality, the Program’s holistic curriculum was and continues to be its key element and differentiator. This would become all the more apparent to me during the Program’s summer project that took me and a group of fellow MPA/IDs to Lebanon for a holistic study of the country’s development pre and post-civil war. It was an experience that changed my life and way of thinking, as I began to write and publish articles and studies that looked at different aspects of the greater Arab world. Many years later, it would lead me to publish a book, which boldly claims that democracy in the Arab world has become inevitable, basing the hypothesis on the very same holistic approach. Its introduction perhaps explains best the influence of the MPA/ID Program on my way of thinking:
“I began work on this book in the spring of 2003. I tend to think it was the result of three factors, all of which make it unique. The first was my postgraduate studies at an interesting new program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Founded under the auspices of Jeffrey Sachs and the Center for International Development, the rigorous program’s objective was to bring together multiple disciplines under a single umbrella of economic development. This interdisciplinary approach had a profound effect on how I saw the region, analyzed its issues, and projected its potential future…”
Wissam S. Yafi is an international development practitioner, technologist, and writer. He is the founder of TidWiT, a social learning high-tech firm based in Washington, DC, which helps governments, nonprofits, and businesses worldwide to educate and share their knowledge with their communities in new and innovative ways. Wissam has traveled extensively throughout the world particularly in the Middle East and North Africa from the Mashreq to the Maghreb, consulting with leaders, policy makers, academics, and entrepreneurs. He recently published a book titled Inevitable Democracy in the Arab World (Palgrave MacMillan, 2012), which describes the geo-economic, geo-social, geo-political, and technological factors behind the Arab uprisings and looks to the road ahead.