Options Magazine, Summer 2021: Q&A with Tyseer Aboulnasr, Chair of the IIASA Committee for Egypt to discuss her participation in a series of workshops that aimed to set the agenda for the new program’s research activities.

woman © Alexandria and Mediterranean Research Center

Q. Tell us about your experience participating in the SI Program workshops and what benefits such consultations hold for Egypt and other IIASA NMOs?

A. Given that this was the first consultation of its kind, I was not sure what to expect. However, we were extremely delighted that IIASA is consulting with the NMOs to understand their priorities and to engage them in choosing the direction of the winning projects that will be pursued under the auspices of the program.

In this way, IIASA is ensuring the engagement of its stakeholders from the start, which increases the likelihood of transferring IIASA knowledge and expertise to NMO communities once the project is completed. The workshops were well organized and allowed NMO members to express their views, thus allowing for a broader perspective and better appreciation for common problems.

I am looking forward to hearing which projects are chosen and to the opportunities for continued engagement with them. I sincerely hope that such consultations are a general direction IIASA will continue to pursue and not just for the Strategic Initiatives Program.

Q. What would you like to see as an outcome from this initiative in the future?

A. It would be great if we can take this type of collaboration a step further. Once projects are selected by IIASA, the NMOs can, for instance, identify researchers from their countries to engage with IIASA researchers as stakeholders, thus providing better regional context and possibly conducting their own projects related to the institute’s work and sharing results regularly rather than just at the end. There would be no transfer of funds, no “required” work, just interested researchers connecting to achieve common goals and produce exceptional scientific work grounded in and connected to realities on the ground.

Q. What was your biggest take away from the experience?

A. My biggest take away was that IIASA regards NMOs as partners and not just as a source of funding. Engaging with NMOs in charting the direction of the SI Program’s priorities, really creates a sense of responsibility on the NMO side — that we as NMOs must become actual productive partners in and not just recipients of the institute’s work.

In other words, IIASA is working with NMOs to provide exceptional scientific outputs that they can use to do good, each in their own region. This enables us to truly work together to fulfil the goals IIASA was founded to achieve — bringing people together from East and West, North and South to collectively make the world a better place.

By Monika Bauer