IVLP Alumni Spotlight features U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) alumni as they reflect on the impact of the program and how it has affected their work and lives. Here we feature two Pakistani alumni from different IVLP projects who have connected through the alumni network and established working partnerships to address local needs.
Visitor: Ms. Rahat Jabeen
Title: Environment Specialist, Environment & Natural Resources Department, Global Practices, World Bank
Country of Origin: Pakistan
Itinerary: Washington, DC; Maryland; Denver and Golden, Colorado; Seattle, Washington; Jacksonville and Gainesville, Florida
IVLP Project: Sustainable Development & Environmental Protection, A Multi Regional project (2008)
Visitor: Ms. Mehreen Shoaib
Title: Founder / Chief Executive Officer, Stimulus Private Limited
Country of Origin: Pakistan
Itinerary: Washington, DC; Baltimore and Annapolis, Maryland; Pensacola, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; San Francisco, California
IVLP Project: Volunteerism, A Project for South Central Asia (2011)
How did you two become connected?
Mehreen Shoaib: Our program officer at Meridian International Center connected Rahat and me sometime in 2016. Our programs were, respectively, in 2011 (Mehreen) and 2008 (Rahat). It was a fantastic connection from the beginning. Being part of the IVLP network provides a great context for discussion, exploration and collaboration. Rahat and I connected immediately and spent time getting acquainted with each other’s work and expertise. During 2017, Rahat reached out to me from the World Bank with regards to collaborating efforts and expertise on their fisheries project. A comprehensive stakeholders and experts workshop was organized and Rahat engaged us to facilitate, moderate and document proceedings of the workshop. There was a lot of learning and insights since the project was also supported by the AFD (French Development Agency) as well as by the IFC and UNIDO. There’s been no looking back ever since. Owing to overlaps and similarities in our experiences and areas of interest, Rahat and myself connect, meet, and engage on a frequent basis to deliberate on public and private partnerships and stakeholder engagements in the domains of climate change, environment, energy, value chain development, etc.
What have you been up to since your IVLP experience?
I went on the IVLP in 2008 on Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection. I attended various interesting meetings, discussions and field visits related to the program during my 3-week visit with organizations like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, The Nature Conservancy, Colorado State University, the local government at Golden and field visits to the Chesapeake Bay, the Port at Jacksonville, and the University of Colorado and the University of Florida in Gainesville.
After my IVLP, I started networking with environmental organizations in Pakistan. I proudly established the Pak US Alumni Network in September 2008, in Islamabad. Soon after I started working on the Sindh Provincial Government‘s project on Irrigation and was funded by The World Bank as an Environment Specialist from 2009-2015. During this time, I worked significantly on the PUAN network on my own initiative and conducted events pertaining to environment with the alumni in Karachi. As a resource person on environment for various programs, I organized field visits under the umbrella of Lincoln Center Karachi. Three examples are:
- Volunteered with environment NGOs, including a Hisaar Foundation Project Women and Water, funded by George Washington University, for three years.
- Worked at a regional level platform on Integrated Lakes Basin Management (ILBM), organized by the ILEC (International Lake Environment Committee), Shiga University Japan.
- Mentored two groups of young PUAN alumni, supported by the State Department in the field of environment during my previous job and shared various practical experiences in environment.
My rich experience in the environmental field propelled my career and I went to work with The World Bank Group as an Environmental Specialist in 2015 and continue with them to this day. I feel equipped with the latest aspects of environment and climate change and have been applying all my key learnings since my IVLP in 2008. There is no doubt that the IVLP program helped me tweak my career more effectively. The vision I got from the IVLP on sustainable development with environmental protection enhanced my thinking on integrated environmental management with sustainable development.
Upon my return in 2011, I remained focused on streamlining and refining our work at Stimulus. Having experienced various social change and development scenarios as well as being exposed to the knowledge and expertise of different groups of stakeholders through the IVLP Volunteerism platform, we have since been more mindful and cognizant of challenges and opportunities of each stakeholder group and more importantly, how to leverage each group for their strengths and capabilities. It has allowed us to draw skill/capacity and infrastructure gaps, parallels and comparisons as well as identify learnings and benchmarks from across South/Central Asia as well as from the United States and other developed economies, primarily in the domains of sustainable socio-economic development and renewable energy.
Whether interacting with NGOs and communities affected by Katrina; or feeding the homeless, needy and poor; rehabilitating a cemetery through community service; engaging with experts from profound NGOs, universities, local government council officials, or corporate sector executives, the entire IVLP Volunteerism experience resonates in my life and work every day.
What one lesson that you learned or idea that you gained on your IVLP experience have you started to apply in your organization or your work?
During my IVLP exchange program I learned good things about diverse ways of sustainable development with environmental protection and how these can be applied in developmental activities. I am deeply inspired by the successful rehabilitation project of ‘Blue Crabs’ at the Chesapeake Bay, MD which includes the restoration of estuarine ecosystems. The integrated management approach used to restore the overall habitat of the crustaceans resulted in the improved population of Blue Crab is a good example of sustainable management of biodiversity. I always promote this integrated approach in environmental management projects, especially for biodiversity conservation and sustainable management in my work place and the projects that have implications of biodiversity management in the environmental management plans.
There were enormous opportunities I wanted to explore through Stimulus in terms of bridging the gap between private, public, social / third sector partnerships and the associated impact and outreach. Through the IVLP I gained knowledge of the method and structure necessary to engage core stakeholder groups – the private/for profit sector, the public/government domain, the social /third sector not for profit sector and the general public. Specific projects that were born out of and / or inspired by my Volunteerism experience include:
- Volunteer Inc. (VI), a volunteer platform for individuals, offering thematic areas to select from and volunteer on; VI is also aligned with corporate platforms to establish linkages between corporate social responsibility activities and professional development;
- Access to Safe Drinking Water (ASDW), a comprehensive private sector CSR supported community initiative.;
- Clean Technology Platform for BoP (Base of Pyramid) Communities, a platform that enables access, knowledge and finance to support awareness and use of clean technology products for communities and consumers.
What message would you like to share with the people who hosted and met with you in the US?
My message to the people whom I met and who hosted me in various states is that the interactions with American families and people have long lasting impact on me and have opened up numerous avenues of joint efforts. The use of social media is the quickest means of maintaining interactions. Therefore, I always encourage people who have participated in IVLP exchange programs should continue their networking and friendships with those in the USA as well as between participants.
The warmth, openness and hospitality of all the individuals who hosted and met me was spectacular. Very brief interactions have left memories and impact for a lifetime. I am grateful for the experiences that came out of these interactions and the opportunities that they have allowed me. These interactions have made me a strong advocate for the IVLP.