Dr. Shadi Khawandanah’s participation in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) inspired him to create a youth exchange program to build unity, diversity, respect, and leadership. During his travels in the United States as part of the multi-regional IVLP on Global Economic Cooperation and Revitalization in 2015, Dr. Khawandanah saw that “the IVLP brought all different cultures together to share knowledge and experience and to enjoy respect” and he wanted to bring this experience back to his home country. “Respect creates peace, different cultures create diversity, great leaderships create life, and unity creates future. We are all human and we accumulate each other. The IVLP brought all the different cultures together, to share knowledge and experience, and to enjoy the respect,” he said.
As part of his IVLP exchange, Dr. Khawandanah visited government agencies, private sector, NGOs and bank, academic professors and youth, creating the Direction Knowledge and Cultural Exchange Program based on that experience. The Direction Exchange Program facilitates one exchange program every month for 20 Arab youths to team up in groups and learn about different topics at a global level. Following the format of IVLP, these “smart groups” then visit key international organizations worldwide and meet the leaders and decision makers who are relevant to their specific topics, such as women’s empowerment, social accountability, youth development, volunteering values, leadership, and strategy. Through this program, the groups seek the latest knowledge in order to create a dynamic dialogue with their counterparts to exchange cultures.
Since the Direction Knowledge program was founded, 421 youths have participated in this global exchange in several countries, including South Africa, Japan, Switzerland, and Germany. “Our focus is on creating positive and real change in the society, we believe that sustainable development and social responsibility are practices and implemented projects, not theories,” Dr. Khawandanah said.
In 2016, he received the King Khalid Award for Responsible Competitiveness for Outstanding Performance in Development and Social Responsibility projects and was honored by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. In addition to the King Khalid Award, Dr. Khawandanah received the Shiekh Mohammed bin Rashid Award for Young Business Leaders in 2013 and the Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah International Award for Entrepreneurship in 2013, and he was selected by Forbes Middle East as one of the Top Leaders Inspiring a Kingdom in the Business in both 2013 and 2014.
By creating the Direction Knowledge and Cultural Exchange Program, Dr. Khawandanah is making strides towards a future filled with unity, diversity, respect, and leadership.