Meet the team: Q and A with Abdullah Suleiman
Our series of Q and As continues as we speak to Abdullah, AFDP's project manager. Abdullah has been a project manager for our founder HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein and AFDP since 2011. In this Q and A, Abdullah explains his vital role with AFDP Global and his hopes for the future of the organisation.
Hi Abdullah, can you tell us a bit about your role as Project Manager with AFDP Global – what are your main responsibilities in helping to get the all-important projects ‘off the ground’?
AFDP Global projects can be classified as directly managed by AFDP Global or funded by AFDP Global. My role as Project Manager is to manage both types of projects.
With directly managed projects, I work on the project concept and bringing in highly specialised partners to add value and to ensure high efficiency, maximum reach, and long term sustainability. With AFDP Global-funded projects, my work focuses more on follow-up, analysis and working with our beneficiaries and partners to constantly improve their project in all aspects.
You’ve seen first-hand some powerful examples over the years of football changing people’s lives – what are the some of the ones that really stick in your mind?
We’ve done quite a few projects to date and no two projects have been the same but all have been powerful in their own way. Our project at the Zaatari Camp in Jordan must surely be one my favourites. The Zaatari project is one that we have directly managed and I have been working on it from the start. It is a project that changed the lives of our direct beneficiaries in an outstanding way but has also led to my own development. I have witnessed the rise of highly skilled players as well as the positive social development of our participants and it is something that can only be experienced and not really described. I see hope, excitement, and joy where there was very little before and that makes all the difference.
What are some of the main practical challenges in getting these projects off the ground?
Football is the most popular sport in the world and youths around the world show great interest in participating. It is also a team sport so the social benefits of team work, fair play, respect, and friendship are intrinsically intertwined in any project delivery. In the most simplistic form, a coach, some footballs, an open field, and some youths are all that’s required for a football project. At AFDP Global, we always aim much higher than that and try to add value through adding more components. This is where we face challenges and they include sourcing funding to improve infrastructure and buy equipment, overcoming social barriers, and dealing with cultural sensitivities. In some situations we must deal with other organisations that may delay our delivery because they work at different speeds. Nevertheless, by maintaining good communication pathways and friendly relationships we have overcome all the challenges that we have faced.
Starting a project is only the first step; how do you keep track of projects that are already running? Do you check in regularly with projects already underway, whether it’s to assess progress or simply to see if they need advice or assistance in delivering even greater impact?
With our projects that are run locally, I do a lot of visitation and direct follow-up. Nothing beats experiencing a project first-hand to understand how everything works on the ground, what are the positives, what are the negatives, and how you can improve. We always try to improve even in areas we believe we are strong and have long discussions strategising about the future. I also do a lot of follow-up on projects that we are funding and try to advise as much as possible. I also bring in other specialised partners to projects where their expertise may be of benefit in order to maximise the potential of the project. At the end of the project, we try to assess and analyse the success of the project through our own monitoring and evaluation activity to understand what worked and what didn’t work and how we can better adapt in future implementations.
You’ve been part of much of the good work that AFDP Global is now building on – what are you most excited about in terms of the work now going global?
By going global, we are aiming to reach people and have an impact all across the world and that is definitely exciting because of the greater potential and the greater challenge. I am also excited about adapting our successes to other regions around the world and learning about the different societies and cultures through our future involvements and partnerships. It is a long road ahead but one I take with great enthusiasm, anticipation and pleasure.