On being Lebanese by Raaida Mannaa.
My name is Raaida Mannaa and I am storyteller. Since I can remember, my passion has been developing and sharing stories that amplify the positive and defy the negative of our contexts.
Everything I love about human identity has its place in the in-between: my best self is, without a doubt, in the ability to be ‘here and there’. Born in Colombia, from a first generation of Lebanese parents born in Latin America (Colombia and Brazil), learning from other cultures and sharing the uniqueness of my background has always been a natural condition of my essence. I grew up in a Muslim household to entrepreneurial parents who strive to give their kids the best education possible. I am the first woman in my family and one of the very firsts of my village of origin in Lebanon to ever pursue postgraduate studies. I have nothing but gratitude for the opportunities presented to me in life and for the wonderful family support I have had, especially from my parents, who always encourage me to get out of my comfort zone to chase my dreams.
Growing up proudly carrying my Lebanese identity, mixed with the always-present Latin American feelings, meant emerging as a curious and resilient human being. In the past few years, I have worked with social entrepreneurs and activists from over 30 countries worldwide, all developing creative ways to better impact their communities. In getting to know their realities and being welcomed into their everyday lives, I have confirmed that our stories hold the power to drive tangible development only when we build them together. The learning of all these experiences is the foundation of my own entrepreneurial project: socialBaq, a firm that foster innovation through human-centered design processes.
My professional career has taken me from the academic field, developing international programs and communications strategies to promote internationalization at HOME initiatives while teaching undergrad classes, to exploring the field of mass media communication, working as a reporter and editor of topics like science, environment, technology and social development, always with a documentarist approach. Deeply connected with these issues and wanting to put my skills to the benefit of society, I started working with organizations of the non-profit sector and social enterprises, bringing a mind-set of change to solving their needs. In all the steps of my journey so far, two key-elements have been always present: communication and innovation.
Using the influence of storytelling to address social inequality and to empower agents of change, I have coordinated leadership initiatives in all regions of the world, advancing efforts to convene social frontrunners actively fostering service in their communities. Not only am I sure that doing good does you good, but that when we work together, we are more and better.
Having the opportunity to work in the field of international cooperation has allowed me to explore many essential cores of interaction: the much needed transformation that we often hear about can only arise from truly collective actions, finding connectors in our differences. Growing as an Arab in Latin America meant exactly that for me: constantly finding (and designing) ways to use my differences as a bridge to reach new paths of interaction. It is precisely there, in empathy, where we find our uniqueness: our individuality is only possible because we are part of a whole.
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