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An Archive of the Social Impact Lab’s Inaugural Zameli Family Fellowship, October 3-7, 2022

Putting Social Impact Lab Principles and Practices into Action

The Social Impact Lab proudly welcomed Lynn Zovighian to Northeastern University as our inaugural Zameli Family Fellow. Lynn is a social investor, human rights advocate, and managing director of The Zovighian Partnership in Beirut, Lebanon. She, along with SIL founder and Juffali Family Director Rebecca Riccio, discussed how they integrate SIL principles and practices into their collaboration on projects on throughout the Middle East and invited Northeastern faculty, staff, and students to join them for several conversations and workshops about doing the work of social change at the intersection of systems thinking, ethical practice, and social justice. Event summaries and video links are available below.

To read more about Lynn Zovighian and the Zameli Family Fellowship, click here.

Archive of Events

The desertification of traditional grazing lands, victimization by predatory lenders, and urban encroachment have long threatened to displace semi-nomadic desert tribes in Albaydha, Saudi Arabia. Based on a model developed by Rebecca Riccio, Lynn Zovighian and her family’s Beirut-based social investment firm The Zovighian Partnership have been leveraging “patient philanthropy” to engage over a thousand families in designing and building a village to meet their housing needs. The participatory design process honors their cultural traditions while also addressing health, education, employment, and sustainability. In this event, Rebecca and Lynn discussed systems analysis, multi-stakeholder engagement, participatory research, housing design, visualization and mapping, and multi-stream funding in the context of this project.

Faculty guests: Moira Zellner, Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Director of Participatory Modeling and Data Science and Co-Director of NULab for Texts, Maps and Networks; Liza Weinstein, Department Chair and Associate Professor of Sociology; and Laura Kuhl, Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and International Affairs

As the architects of a philanthropic initiative to drive women’s economic empowerment in Lebanon, Lynn Zovighian and Rebecca Riccio invited local community-based organizations to define their own funding priorities and promised to listen. In this event, they presented an alternative approach to philanthropic grant making that draws on Social Impact Lab practices and principles to disrupt the conventional power imbalance between grantees and donors to give women a voice. They also shared how their data is providing real-time insights into critical vulnerabilities, urgent needs, and emerging frontline strategies for addressing Lebanon’s multiple crises.

Lynn Zovighian commissioned, funded, and co-produced the short documentary This Is Still Genocide to center Yazidi survivors’ voices in their own story eight years after the self-declared Islamic State (Daesh/ISIS/ISIL) initiated the ongoing genocide and mass displacement of their community with a brutal assault on Sinjar, Iraq in 2014. Lynn recently won the International Religious Freedom Business Leader in Civil Society Impact Award for her work with the Yazidis, one of the oldest ethnoreligious minorities in the Middle East. To begin the talk, Lynn discuss her partnership with Yazda, an international Yazidi-led NGO committed to documenting the genocide, supporting survivors around the world, and seeking global recognition and justice for their community. The event ended with a screening of the film.

Faculty guest: Gordana Rabrenovic, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict

As Lebanon struggles with a corrupt and paralyzed government, economic collapse, and the aftermath of the Beirut explosion, civil society is demonstrating resilience in the face of unprecedented demands. Entrepreneur and social change leader Lynn Zovighian used this event to offer a critique of the international donor community’s response to Lebanon’s spiraling crises informed by her company’s collaboration with Human Rights Watch to independently monitor humanitarian aid entering the country. She also made the case for building NGOs’ data, governance, and operational capacity to engage local communities in meeting their own critical needs and shaping Lebanon’s future.

Faculty Guest: Maria Ivanova, Director, School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs

As climate crises displace people around the world, what can be learned from Albaydha, a semi-nomadic rural community in Saudi Arabia whose grazing lands were destroyed by desertification? Offered in collaboration with the Dukakis Center’s Open Classroom, this session will examine how participatory processes informed by Social Impact Lab principles and frameworks have engaged over a thousand families in the design and implementation of a community-led resettlement initiative. The program employs sustainable building technologies and ecosystem regeneration while honoring traditional family structures and cultural practices. Lynn Zovighian and Rebecca Riccio used this event to explain how their commitment to centering community members’ voices has led to this project being designated a national housing pilot for vulnerable communities in Saudi Arabia.

Moderator: Ted Landsmark, Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Director, Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy

Student-only workshops were co-sponsored by Human Services Organization, NUImpact, Center for Intercultural Affairs, Social Justice Resource Center, and co-facilitated by CIE Director Naomi Boase.

Our week of events culminated with three thought-provoking student-only events. The first event was entitled From Principles to Practice: Choosing a Career in Social Change, which was centered around Lynn Zovighian’s commitment to serving women and communities in the Middles East. In this conversation with students, she reflected on the ways her professional and personal journeys have been shaped by Social Impact Lab principles and frameworks, with the aim of assisting students in determining the next steps into career in social change. The second event entitled Deep Listening to Achieve Impact: Developing Ethical and Effective Social Change Projects and Future Strategies invited students to engage with several of The Zovighian Partnership firm’s recent opportunities and challenges as case studies. Attendees walked away with a new perspective on the importance of honoring all stakeholders’ voices and a toolkit for tapping multiple funding streams to advance social change in a challenging economy. And, to end off the week, there was an event Global Leadership: Engaging in Social Change Across Difference, encouraging students to reflect on the identities they bring to the social change table and how those identities may influence how they perceive others and show up in the world.

Thank you to our co-sponsors and thought partners:

Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict

Center for Intercultural Engagement/Social Justice Resource Center

Cultures, Societies, and Global Studies Program

Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy

Human Services Program

International Affairs Program


NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks

School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs