APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
The approach taken by YaLa-Young Leaders in formulating the YaLa Online Academy mirrors the movement's mission: catalyzing the power of information and communications technology to allow young people to engage across borders and divides and to lead the way towards regional peace and prosperity. The YaLa Online Academy therefore seeks to strengthen the skills of its young members so that they can become a new generation of open and forward-thinking economic, social and political leaders. An issue of great importance in the MENA region, the YaLa Academy will place great emphasis on women's empowerment and gender equality in the selection of its students and its courses. Building upon the foundations of YaLa's nearly 250,000 strong membership, the aim is to make use of the sense of community and joint-destiny already cultivated by the YaLa Online Movement, taking it to the next practical level and serving an acute need among the region's youth for empowerment, opportunity, support and facilitation.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
YaLa is already engaged in developing the concept, structure and inputs required for the implementation of the YaLa Academy vision. Specifically, YaLa Members were consulted and expressed their overwhelming enthusiasm during the YaLa Online Conference (January 23-24, 2012). Additionally, YaLa has evaluated and determined relevant fields of study for leadership skills; contacted top global and regional universities and private sector companies; approached specific professors and experts in a wide range of subjects; carried out extensive research on technological solutions for online learning; and begun forming an International Advisory Committee.
YaLa has begun forming a vast network of top universities and institutes that have expressed an interest in partnering with YaLa and providing courses as part of the YaLa Academy. Amongst these are Princeton, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, U-MASS Boston, U-PENN, George Washington, Sabanci, and the Euro-Mediterranean University (EMUNI) as well as the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin and the Mediterranean Universities Union (Unimed).
In addition, believing in the crucial link between accessible high-quality education and employment possibilities in the region, YaLa is partnering with several private sector IT companies in order to offer skill-oriented training tailored for the modern market. YaLa is thus continuing its close partnership with Facebook, which will work with YaLa in the ongoing development of the Academy, as well as offer courses as part of the New & Social Media Department. In addition, Microsoft Corp., as well as Hewlett Packard through their HP Life program, will offer training courses to YaLa Academy Students.
Incrementally beginning in September 2012 YaLa will launch a "pilot" of the Academy. During this one year period, six courses, one in each Academy Department: Good Governance, Business/Economics, Technology/New Media, Culture/Arts, Communication/Mediation and Mediterranean Studies, will be given. The duration of each course will vary in accordance with the final curriculum developed by the course's professor, but in general terms each course will last 6-10 weeks. The target beneficiaries for the pilot will be 300 YaLa Members, who will have completed the Application Form created for the Academy, and enrolled for no fee, from Israel, Palestine and across the entire MENA region who will receive a letter from the professor certifying completion of the course. This one year pilot will allow for the project model to be refined and for adjustments to be made before it is scaled up to full implementation.
The recent upheavals in the Arab world, led by the new generation and spread through social media, have shown that the young people of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are powerful agents for positive change. From the Yasmin and Tahrir revolutions, through the struggles for liberty in Syria, Libya and Yemen, to the struggle for social justice in Israel, the youth of the region has shown its willingness and ability to mobilize for greater freedom, equality and solidarity, opening a historic window of opportunity. Nearly 65 percent of the population in the MENA region is under the age of 30; about 30 percent of the population is between the ages of 15 and 24. (See, Navtej Dhillon, "The Role of the US in the Middle East", The Middle East Youth Initiative, Congressional Breifing, 2008, http://www.shababinclusion.org/content/blog/detail/986/ & Samantha Constant & Mary Kraetsch, "Taking Stock of the Youth Challenge in the Middle East: New Data and New Questions", Brookings Institute, June 2010, http://www.brookings.edu/articles/2010/06_middle_east_youth.aspx).
In this light, the Peres Center for Peace and YaLa Palestine founded in May 2011 YaLa-Young Leaders, an online, Facebook-based movement promoting dialogue and engagement as means to securing a safe, productive, and peaceful region. As of May 2012, YaLa has grown to over 80,000 members and has become the broadest and fastest-growing regional change movement today. Members from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, which constitute over 80% of YaLa's total membership, come from Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Algeria, Israel, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Sudan, Syria and Yemen (in order of magnitude).
While these ambitious young people are seeking to lead the region into an era of prosperity and cooperation based on the shared positive values and visions promoted by the YaLa community, their success depends upon their ability to translate this spirit of change into action, within the larger national and global systems in which they are inevitably embedded. The young generation of MENA is not well prepared to transform their protest successes into active participation in, and leadership of, decision-making processes (see "Investing in a More Robust Public Policy Environment in the Middle East" CSIS, 2011 http://csis.org/publication/investing-more-robust-public-policy-environm...). Furthermore, there is a gap in alignment between MENA higher education and the realities of the marketplace, resulting in graduates who are not adequately prepared for the workplace. (See, "Education for Employment: Realizing Arab youth potential" IFC/IsDB, 2011 http://e4earabyouth.com/report.php & "Arab WorldCompetitivenessReport2011-2012" WEF/OECD, 2011 http://www.oecd.org/document/16/0,3746,en_2649_34529562_48927952_1_1_1_3...). It is in this light that the YaLa Movement, having identified a substantial need for a strong, professional, targeted, and cooperative, education and leadership program, has decided to develop and launch the unique YaLa Online Leadership Academy program.
Financial Resources, Implementation Partners
YaLa-Young Leaders is seeking partnerships with leading academic institutions and private sector companies willing to donate courses in the areas of Business/Economics, Technology/New Media, Communication/Negotiation, Mediation/Conflict Resolution, Diplomacy, Good Governance/Political Science, Leadership/Activism, Culture/the Arts and Mediterranean Studies. YaLa is also seeking partners for the technological platform of the Academy as well as financial sponsors.