The Institute for Sustainable Development Practice (ISDP) was launched by the Columbia Global Centers | Middle East, the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and the Jordanian Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, in December 2010 under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah.
The Institute, supported by the technical and policy expertise of Professor Jeffrey Sachs and his team at the Earth Institute, is the first of its kind in the Middle East and serves as an innovative mechanism for mobilizing international expertise and experience, while building national capacities to achieve sustainable development in Jordan and elsewhere in the region.
The Institute is built upon four pillars: Capacity Building, Policy Support, Advanced Education Opportunities and Strategic Research. Through these pillars, the Institute directs its efforts towards tackling Jordan’s 32 poverty pockets, while also addressing other crucial development issues including employment, agriculture, nutrition, health, population, education, climate change, environment, water resources, microfinance and infrastructure.
Drawing on Columbia University and the Earth Institute’s scientific rigor, technological innovation, and academic leadership, the Institute aims to position Jordan as a leader in sustainable development in the Middle East and North Africa region.
In an effort to build a cadre of well-informed development practitioners in Jordan, ISDP has trained over 380 practitioners, since its initiation, on core practices of sustainable development and other specialized areas identified as priorities by trainees and their organizations. The practitioners represent over 30 national governmental and non-governmental organizations and three regional and international organizations. In less than a year, the Institute drew on the expertise of more than 30 international experts to deliver its trainings.
After fifteen months of assessing progress and capturing lessons learned, ISDP has identified new opportunities to improve and further advance the ISDP Capacity Building and Executive Education Program. The improved approach, implemented in December 2012, was based upon stakeholder needs assessments, and builds on the previous successes of the program, ensuring continued momentum and further contextualization of the most fundamental issues related to sustainable development in Jordan.
ISDP’s enhanced training approach aims at increasing the professionalism and developing the skills of mid- and senior-level practitioners throughout the Middle East; responding to the needs of key stakeholders to offer a curriculum that is targeted, flexible, and leverages the network of Columbia University; creating opportunities for multi-sector collaboration among various agencies and NGOs, to strengthen the fabric of the sector and services to support sustainable development; structuring a program that aligns with new objectives and provides participants a clear course of training through which essential skills will be acquired to facilitate their work; empowering mid-level practitioners to effect institutional change.
Since the focus of the Institute is Jordan’s 32 poverty pockets and poverty alleviation at the national level, ISDP was commissioned to develop the framework of a national poverty alleviation strategy, in collaboration with a national taskforce of experts and policy makers. ISDP worked for more than six months on providing a targeted, time-bound, actionable, and results-oriented poverty reduction strategy, based on a sound analytical framework and building on the national priorities outlined in the National Agenda and the National Executive Program.
Many ISDP participants, from varied organizations, strengthened their collaborative ties at the Center’s training programs and worked together to tackle challenges and topics of common interest within their respective professions. Together, as a group or “task force,” they worked through challenges and presented their ideas to levels of government that previously would have been out of reach had they been working independently. These self-organized policy task forces coordinated actions among development practitioners at different government departments and NGOs. They received coaching from Columbia University’s instructors through regular visits to Jordan and long-distance communication. Task forces were incubated at the Center, where they accessed further resources to create greater impact.
To date, six policy taskforces are active and tackling complex policy issues, including:
ISDP continues to build the capacity of middle level planners, managers, scientists and other professionals from the government, NGOs and universities. Special attention continues to be given to the needs of local government authorities and development NGOs responsible for the 32 poverty pockets.
ISDP launched a Sustainable Development Masters Fellowship Program in partnership with The King Abdullah II Fund for Development, the Jordanian Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, and the Earth Institute at Columbia University. This one-year program is a joint venture between the Earth Institute at Columbia University and the School of Continuing Education, and provides training in sustainability management at Columbia University in New York City. The program is designed to strengthen fellows’ ability to implement reform, create policy, and advance goals of sustainability. Upon conclusion of the program, fellows return to Jordan to apply the learned principles in practical development settings.