Community-Based Partnerships for Employment: A Somerville - Tiznit Sister Cities Partnership

Community-Based Partnerships for Employment: A Somerville - Tiznit Sister Cities Partnership

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The University of the Middle East Project (UME) has facilitated the establishment of a Sister Cities partnership between Tiznit, Morocco and Somerville, Massachusetts. Now UME seeks to involve educators, businesspeople, and local government in the city of Tiznit, Morocco in a multi-tiered, synchronized effort to improve the state of education for employment in the city’s youth population.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Among the most pressing problems to address in Tiznit is the paucity of jobs at the community level and a pace of job creation that is too slow to keep up with the bulging population of unemployed youth. Subsequently, graduates go in search of jobs in big cities, work in "traditional" jobs at home, or become dependent on their families. Thus, communities fall behind in growth and their capacity to serve and nurture their citizens. A major underlying cause of the unemployment problem is the failure of schools to prepare youth for the realities of the labor market. Were youth to learn how to analyze and develop solutions for changing needs in their communities, they would come to understand the link between making productive use of local resources and assets with gainful employment. Youth might also find ways to stay in their communities and contribute meaningfully to their development. The CPE seeks to address this issue through collaboration between Tiznit's education system, local government, social services and business sectors. Over time it would generate a model to meet the needs of the entire MENA region, struggling with the world's highest unemployment rates.
About You
The University of the Middle East Project
Section 1: You
First Name


Last Name


Website URL

The University of the Middle East Project


, MA

Section 2: Your Organization
Organization Name

The University of the Middle East Project

Organization Phone

617 440 1636

Organization Address

191 Highland Ave., Suite 2A, Somerville, MA 02143

Organization Country

, MA

Your idea
Country and state your work focuses on


Website URL
What makes your idea unique?

The Community Based Partnership for Employment (CPE) will involve UME’s network of educators, business people, other community members and local government in the city of Tiznit, Morocco in a multi-tiered, synchronized effort to improve the state of education for employment in the city’s youth population. By applying the multi-dimensional approach on a feasible scale in this city of 55,000, UME strives to produce tangible results on the ground in both the short and long term that will serve as an inspirational model for what is possible when an entire community works in concert to prepare their youth for the 21st century job market.

This project is unique in its effort to integrate the education, government, business and social services sectors in order to improve employment for Tiznit's numerous unemployed and disenfranchised youth, as well as upcoming generations of students who are not learning the skills they need in school to effectively engage in local and global economies.

Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had?

Thus far UME has succeeded in creating collaborative working partnerships between the citizens of Somerville and Tiznit in numerous sectors, including education, government, health, the arts and social services. To see an article from the Somerville News about the UME-facilitated trip to Tiznit in December 2009, please click here:

With the support of this Changemakers award, UME would be able to implement the next phase of this sister cities relationship with the Community-Based Partnerships for Employment, enhancing high school curricula to provide students with tools they need to succeed in the workforce upon graduation.


UME has long standing relationships with numerous educators in Tiznit. In April 2009 UME held a program for American and Moroccan teachers, and in December 2009 UME implemented the Somerville-Tiznit Sister Cities, Civic Participation and Leadership Institute (CPLI) in Tiznit. As a result, UMEP has successfully gained the confidence and support of the entire Tiznit municipality, the Province of Tiznit as well as a treasure-trove of civic-minded local citizens who learned of UME's efforts either through participation or national television coverage. The CPLI, in particular, because of the involvement of so many Tiznit professionals and social entrepreneurs, prepared the field for a successful CPE initiative. Moreover, the CPLI included 25 American professionals working in a variety of sectors in the City of Somerville. Each one formed meaningful friendships and partnerships with the Tiznit civic leaders and are all committed to furthering their collaborations. Through the CPE initiative UME would organize the energies and efforts of these talented individuals to work together on a city-wide plan to improve the future employment possibilities and improve community development.


The CPE seeks to (1)promote cross-cultural understanding and collaboration between people from Somerville and Tiznit; (2)create direct linkages between the Tizniti education system and job market, increasing employment and economic development by ensuring that graduating students have the necessary skills for entering the workforce.
The CPE will involve 15 high school teachers and 15 professionals from different sectors in Tiznit who will serve as Career Mentors, and 20 Americans from Somerville - 10 high school teachers and guidance counselors and 10 professionals in fields corresponding to those of the Tiznit Career Mentors. 100 Tiznit youth in their final two years of schooling will also participate.
The CPE will open with a workshop between the adult participants from Somerville and Tiznit. Career mentors will work with educators to develop skill set matrices for Tiznit youth in various sectors that complement the school curriculum. Building off of this collaboration participants will lay out a learning plan in which Tiznit career mentors provide internships to the educators’ students, arrange for site visits to their workplaces, and other similar activities.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

Buy In (2010): It is vital that this initiative produce strong result in its early stages, not only during the exchange component of this program but also immediately afterward. As such, this program must have continued support and collaboration between the citizens of Somerville and Tiznit on numerous levels in order to establish a sound foundation for change during the first year.

Evaluation and lessons learned (2011): UME should measure the impact of the first year of this initiative and make the necessary changes from cultural, economic and personal factors. Additional funding should be secured to implement a follow up program utilizing data from the evaluation process.

Tangible results and showcasing (2012): This project must display tangible results in terms of measurable job growth by the end of the third year for it to not only have an impact in Tiznit but to an wider audience. The successful results should be displayed as widely as possible in order to maximize the multiplier effect of this program.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

1) The CPE is a highly ambitious program involving cultural, social and economic issues and institutions. Gaining and sustaining buy in and motivation of all the participating entities can be challenging and requires a high level of cooperation not only between citizens of Somerville and Tiznit, but also within the institutions of Tiznit itself. Therefore, UME is committed to on-going monitoring and evaluation of program goals and adjustments to how the program is being run based on evaluation results.

2) Another global financial crisis or local financial crisis in Morocco or Tiznit could be detrimental to the results of the CPE. Wider economic forces are not under UME's control but have a large impact on Tiznit's job market.

3) People losing motivation and giving up on the project because they don't see results fast enough.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$100 ‐ 1000

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


What stage is your project in?

Operating for less than a year

In what country?


Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

University of the Middle East Project

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

In 2006 the Association of Moroccan Alumni (AMA) made up of alumni of UME's professional development programs for teachers was established. This NGO serves as an on-going support network for Moroccan teachers that implements workshops throughout the country. There are five members of the AMA that live in Tiznit and are well connected within the community.
In the CPE, the AMA will be in charge of recruitment, selection and orientation of Tiznit participants, including educators, career mentors and youth. UMEP staff previously trained in and tasked AMA members with admissions responsibilities for the Sister Cities Partnership implemented in December 2009. Many of the same individuals may be recruited for the sake of relationship continuity, and will be a great resource for UME.

UME has a partnership with Sister Cities International, which can provide support and advice to UME in moving into this next phase of the partnership between the two cities.

Andre Azoulay, Counselor to the King of Morocco, is a member of UME's Advisory Board. Mr. Azoulay can facilitate the cooperation of local and national governments within Morocco.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

We need actions to occur at three levels:
(1) Individual - We need a commitment by all of the individuals involved in the project, from both Somerville and Tiznit in a variety of sectors, to ensuring that youth are equipped with the tools they need to be socially and economically engaged in their societies.
(2) Interpersonal - We need positive collaborations and cooperation among the individuals involved that evolve into solid relationships and partnerships that can endure and thrive over time.
(3) Institutional - We need the buy in and commitment of the educational, governmental, social and business institutions involved to be innovative in developing partnerships that are beneficial to all, and adapting them over time, based on monitoring and evaluation data, to meet the needs of the individuals and institutions participating.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

In December 2009 UME facilitated the official signing of a sister cities partnership between Somerville and Tiznit. To commemorate the event, UME brought a group of Somerville professionals from a wide range of different professions to Tiznit for five days of dialogue and planning for future collaborations, as well as an opportunity to learn from and with one another. Through this cross-sector and cross-cultural dialogue and site visits to schools, health clinics, artists' studios, government projects and local cultural sites in Tiznit, participants from both cities were inspired to create joint projects and partnerships moving forward in various professional sectors.

In the spirit of collaboration and learning the Tiznit local government expressed a desire to learn how to better link its schools and employment opportunities, so as to reduce the city's large unemployment rate and ensure that graduating students have the skills to meaningfully contribute to their community. This interest, combined with the momentum created by the personal and professional relationships formed between the participants from Somerville and Tiznit that led UME to develop the CPE.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

The University of the Middle East Project (UME) is an education non-profit organization that develops and implements professional development and exchange programs with high school teachers in the Middle East, North Africa and US. Since 1997 UME has sought to promote educational leadership that prioritizes critical thinking, civic engagement and cross-cultural collaboration, striving towards creating a more sustainable, tolerant and peaceful world. UME continuously evaluates its programs, seeking the feedback of participating educators, and adapting its workshops to meet the evolving needs of teachers in the Middle East, North Africa and US.

The Sister Cities partnership, which has led to the development of the CPE, was originally inspired by Samira Idelcadi, a UME alumna who took the training she received from UME and applied it to involving her students in community issues of importance to them. Her students' engagement in the Tiznit community was so impressive to local government officials that she was asked to run for City Council. It was Samira's position on the Tiznit City Council that originally facilitated the Sister Cities relationship between Somerville and Tiznit. UME is dedicated to working with educators at a grass roots level to promote positive social change, and has been delighted to bring this model to other sectors, fostering cross-cultural and cross-sector collaborations.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Email from Changemakers

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