During his participation in the MEPI Student Leaders program at Portland State University in 2016, Safwen Karoui became inspired by the principles and ideas behind conflict resolution. He wanted to take the professional skills that he gained from the program and apply them to work with local associations and civil society organizations in his home community of Kalaat el-Andalous, Tunisia. Safwen noticed that many associations face professional challenges, which often makes it difficult for them to fully partner with citizens and local governments to strengthen the system of participatory governance. Therefore, he launched the Center of Civil Society for Governance and Local Development as a solution. The organization works with associations in Kalaat el-Andalous to create a space for training, debates, and dialogues to ensure the continuous development of associations and citizens in the region. Karoui and his team also provide professional skills training for more than 20 organizations and their staff members on topics like project management, project assessment, human rights, and conflict resolution.
From January to May of 2017, Safwen’s team held more than 10 training sessions, reaching approximately 150 association members in Kalaat el-Andalous. The main purpose of these trainings is to increase the professional capacity of these organizations so that they can better collaborate with each other, with community members, and with local governments. Safwen was also invited back in May to help deliver trainings in communication techniques and project management with Mercy Corps in Tunisia.
The MEPI Student Leaders Program aims to equip youth with leadership skills to “empower partnerships between citizens, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and government institutions to promote common shared solutions for the people of the Middle East and North Africa.” Through his work with community partners and local organizations, Safwen and his team have taken tangible, initial steps toward creating such partnerships in their communities. This is only the beginning for Safwen Karoui; he was recently accepted to the Masters of Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University, where he hopes to expand the skills he can offer his community.