Posted by: Academy of Achievement | 05/25/2011

Zach Leverenz

Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow 2009

Harvard University, Ed.M

CEO, Middle East Education through Technology

After my Reynolds fellowship and an additional year as a Harvard Management Fellow, I moved to Jerusalem full-time to serve as CEO of MEET – Middle East Education through Technology. In partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MEET harnesses the power of technology to create an active network of young Palestinian and Israeli youth who share a common professional language and the capacity to work together to achieve positive social, economic and political impact in their communities.

Despite some prior experience, including 7+ years of managing nonprofits in four conflict/post-conflict zones, my strongest credential for the MEET job has probably been my simple non-affiliation with the region. I am neither Israeli nor Palestinian, neither Jewish nor Muslim, which had afforded me an important level of neutrality and reciprocity in introducing MEET to Palestinian and Israeli communities. We are now recruiting from over 5 cities in Israel and the West Bank with plans to double our participants through expansions to two new hubs by 2014.
While much of both populations suffer from “conflict fatigue,” and have retreated into the dangerous places of apathy and indifference, something new is growing within our small computer lab on the East/West seam in Jerusalem. MEET students, 50% Israeli, 50% Palestinian, are meeting every week to learn new technologies, business approaches, and leadership skills. Through the intensive, three-year technology education program, these students are developing real relationships that withstand and transcend the constant stress tests of regional politics, perceptions, and violence. They are forming bi-national, entrepreneurial teams and jointly launching real-world projects.

The key is the competitive excellence model that focuses on pragmatic skills and attracts the most high capacity students based not on the prospect of meeting the “other,” but on the value of the education itself. This year we received over 600 applications for 44 open spots. Over the course of three years, while entrenched in the reality of the Middle East (as opposed to the many once-off coexistence programs abroad), our student organically build the relationships and mutual respect that leads to lasting impact.

We are now entering an exciting period as a critical mass of MEET alumni begins to form in the region. We believe that these alumni will be the next generation of decision makers in the region and that they will bring the skills and perspectives they’ve gained at MEET to bear in creating positive social, economic and political change.  In my role, I often draw on my experiences and network as a Reynolds fellow, which has been instrumental in preparing me to lead sustainable, high impact organizations like MEET.

Check out Lina Kara’in, our most recent MEET student accepted to MIT and our first MEET woman: http://tinyurl.com/6b7fejz

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Responses

  1. Zach,

    Congratulations on your CEO leadership role with the good folks, students, alumni and volunteers! I have been a long-time believer in this kind of process in the West Bank / Israel area of the Middle East. I actually did a 28-day volunteer stint with the YMCA of East Jerusalem in the December 2008/January 2009 era. I was quite moved by all the pain & suffering and the horrors of the war at that time. War is not the answer for anyone on either “side”. So I remain hopeful of organizations like MEET and leaders like yourself to help make a difference where it counts — at the human level, one person at a time! Thanks for this post and for referencing it via Facebook so that more of us follow more closely what’s going on in this very important MEET transformation!


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