Fully formed Diaspora organizations do not just appear one day. As with many groups, they begin in a small way through social conversations among friends. The Jordan diaspora group, Connect.jo, started exactly that way – several high school friends, seeing each other at social gatherings in Amman, began talking. They talked about the fact that they were happy in the U.S., but that something was missing for them – a connection back to their homeland, Jordan. Fortunately, part of this group of successful businessmen, engineers and scientists, was the Chief of Party of the USAID Jordan Competitiveness Program (USAID JCP) – a former expat and technical university professor himself. The group felt like there was an opportunity to help Jordan in more important ways than just “bricks and mortar” (e.g. building a house back in Amman). The group really started to come together and make more specific plans during a USAID JCP arranged conference between professional Jordanian diaspora and HM King Abdullah in San Francisco. After productive meetings in San Francisco and many Skype calls, a smaller group of these expatriate business leaders came to Jordan to the Middle East and North Africa Information and Communication Technology Forum sponsored by USAID JCP. During the Forum, an actual diaspora group was launched – “Connect.jo – Professional Jordanians Abroad”
What Connect.jo will do
The newly formed network will support efforts in the Information Communications Technology, Clean Technology, and Healthcare and Life Sciences sectors. Connect.jo’s support will be in the form of: student scholarships/internships, subject matter expertise sharing, market access – Jordanians to the US, and the US to Jordan, and investment/donations. There will be a clear focus on entrepreneurship and “start-up” firms. USAID JCP will further assist Connect.jo in forming a fully functioning group and, more importantly, being the network’s “arms and legs” – making connections and executing tasks, on the ground in Jordan.
A perfect example of how USAID JCP can partner with Connect.jo is the recent signing by All Cell, a US company co-lead by Connect.jo member Dr. Said Al-Hallaj, of a Letter of Commitment (LoC) to establish pilot solar powered electric car charging stations in Amman. In the LoC with the Ministry of Environment and the local government, All Cell committed themselves to establishing eleven charging stations in Amman. The Greater Amman Municipality agreed to partner in the project, and will be purchasing 50 electric vehicles as part of its support to this pilot and to green transportation plans. It is estimated that this initial work will bring in an additional $600,000 USD in investments and create over 200 new jobs for Jordanians over the next four years. USAID JCP helped All Cell make the connections it needed to get this initiative off the ground, and in the near future will be assisting All Cell in establishing a local company, developing the legal and regulatory environment to support this sector, and providing access to finance opportunities.
Connect.jo does not want to be just a “talk shop.” It wants to continue to make a real difference in the Jordanian economy, and its goals over the next six months are to review the insights from USAID JCP’s diaspora mapping/research efforts and to expand the number of pilot programs like the All Cell charging station that they engage in. The group is moving beyond its early “conversational” beginning, and establishing a more formal framework for the groups and creating a plan to engage new members. By the spring of 2015 there will be a full website and active LinkedIn page. The Jordan Diaspora Network website is currently under construction. For any further information, please send us an email to:firstname.lastname@example.org and check out our website: www.connect.jo