Interview: Thank you, Tamara and Noor (our awesome leaving-ECR Representatives)

Interview: Thank you, Tamara and Noor (our awesome leaving-ECR Representatives)

Our Early Career Researchers (ECR) initiative has been running since January 2021, with multiple events and activities deriving from workshops to webinars. During that period up until now, we have enjoyed the contributions of our wider community in MENASP, and equally by the commitment of our 1st cohort of Early Career representatives, Noor Alabbas and Tamara A. Kool.


Noor and Tamara are about to leave as representatives after a successful year and a half of supporting MENASP in the delivery of activities and helping promote the broader work of the network. The MENASP network team highly appreciates their contribution, and we have invited them to share their thoughts on their time with us: 


Thanks for all the work you’ve done, Noor & Tamara; we know that it’s been a quite long run. Can you tell us what have been your highlights of the time?

Noor: I really enjoyed planning and chairing the first mentoring session about Researching social policies in the MENA region: Opportunities and challenges for Early Career Researchers. I think it was a good learning opportunity for me to be involved in organising and delivering a session. In addition, the presentation by Dr Rana Jawad and Dr Ghada Barsoum was thought-provoking.

Tamara: It has been great to see how Noor and I developed the Early Career Research initiative into its current form. It started as an idea during the Cairo conference in 2019. Despite the challenge of COVID, we managed to organise some great workshops, coffee mornings and roundtables that nicely comprised a variety of topics. The input of the ECRs has been incredibly valuable in this regard. My personal highlight has been, on the one hand, the panel on rethinking inequality with speakers from ESCWA and the Arab Reform Initiative, as well as the recent panel with Edward Elgar publishing and Middle East Development Journal that I moderated on publishing. These sessions provided much food for thought on the ongoing challenges that social policy seeks to address. Moreover, the mentoring workshop gave some very clear tips and insights we want to consider when publishing our research.   


Very well said. Can you describe the activities you have introduced for the ECRs and how can people get involved?

Noor: We ran different activities starting from surveys back in early 2020 and then mentoring/webinars sessions, podcasts, and social events such as coffee mornings and so on. To get involved in such activities, people should follow the MENASP network on the various social media platforms and attend our coffee morning, which will give you the ability to learn more about the ECR’s initiative or contact ECRs directly.

Tamara: That is a big question. In short, we have introduced coffee mornings, roundtables and mentoring workshops. The mentoring sessions discussed topics that can contribute to enhancing the professional careers of early career researchers, such as career trajectories and how to go about publications. The webinar sessions discussed relevant social policies related topics which are current and relevant to the region, such as inequality, human security, and gender-sensitive social protection. For an overview, see also the ECR initiative home page! Also, my colleague Noor has conducted several podcasts with ECRs that are published on our Spotify account: the MENA Social Policy Podcast Series. We always welcome early career researchers to join. To stay updated on forthcoming events or share information with and connect informally to other ECRs, they can join by registering  to the ECR’s Jisc mail. Also, don’t forget to sign up for the general MENA Social Policy Network Newsletter. Sign up here if you have not done so yet. When registering for the newsletter, there is a box where you can indicate that you are an ECR researcher. Please select this box when registering so we can send tailored information.  


Can you share what you’re excited about in the future?

Noor: I will definitely continue to be an active member of the MENA SP network, and with the ECR initiative, I will make sure to attend most of the ECR’s future activities.

Tamara: I am very much interested to see how the ECR initiative will evolve. We have two interesting ECR representatives – Achref Chibani and Samar Abdelmageed – taking over from Noor and me. Both bring a very diverse perspective (both practitioner and academic), as well as different focus points to the table. I hope they are able to develop the ECR further and bring in new topics. Hopefully, the ECR initiative will become a space where ECRs at different stages in their careers feel represented and can actively engage in.  


Would you like to share any final advice with ECRs before concluding your role?

Noor: Well, I think to keep in touch by email or via social media platforms, both the MENASP network and the ECR’s initiative provide a great opportunity for you to expand your knowledge and understanding of social policy in the MENA region, and it is a good place to network and to present your work.

Tamara: Never give up on your dreams~ Life throws you many lemons and gives you many obstacles along the way. You may wonder whether to give up or whether it will be feasible. But if you don’t try, you will never know!


Thank you very much, Noor & Tamara, and I hope you the best of luck in your future endeavours. 


As we say our goodbyes and warm wishes to Noor and Tamara and hope to see them again soon in other MENASP programmes and activities, it is time to say hello to our new cohort of representatives, Achref Chibani and Samar Abdelmageed. We will do a full introduction to their work in the following newsletter. We hope both success and best of luck to our new representatives. 


Look out for our ECR autumn promotions coming later this Summer.  


Warm wishes,


Research and Communications Assistant

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