At a time of great challenges in the Middle East and North Africa, the Network for Dialogue (N4D) warmly welcomes short proposals from citizens, civic leaders, and/or civic groups in the region who wish to work together to address a particular local or national challenge confronting their country.  Like other regions of the world, Middle Eastern and North African countries face daunting challenges – from rising youth unemployment to widespread corruption, weak governance to resource scarcity and beyond. The war in Gaza has only compounded these challenges. As in other regions of the world, these sticky, wicked problems will not be solved by governments alone, but will also require the concerted help and engagement of citizens.

The Network for Dialogue, a joint initiative of the Istituto Affari Internazionali (an Italian international relations institute) and PAX (a Dutch peacebuilding organization), seeks to identify creative ways to support such citizen-led efforts by offering quiet and secure spaces for dialogue, whether inside or outside the country. The intent is to help provide small groups of civic leaders the opportunity to engage in critical reflection and ongoing discussion, as well as build trust and common understanding, on a societal challenge that they deem important. The expectation is that such dialogue will lead over time to a concrete strategy and plan for collaborative action. 

Examples of possible Citizen Challenge dialogues include, but by no means need be limited to, the following topics:

  • Improving the delivery of public services;
  • Reinvigorating civic discourse;
  • Building stronger relations among different national, ethnic or religious communities;
  • Addressing environmental and climate change-related challenges.
  • Creating better conditions for entrepreneurship and private sector growth;
  • Strengthening the administration of justice and the rule of law;
  • Tackling corruption;
  • Developing a more vibrant media and journalism landscape;
  • Engaging youth voices more actively in political and civic life;
  • Promoting women’s participation in politics and/or peace-building;
  • Fostering closer relations with neighboring countries and/or deeper regional cooperation; and
  • Revitalizing the country’s arts and cultural scene.

According to the wishes of the applicant, these dialogues can be strictly off-the-record or more public, can include representatives of government or solely members of civil society, and can or cannot include individuals with opposing viewpoints on the issue to be discussed.  Regardless, the participants involved should be diverse in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, and professional background.  The dialogues should start small in terms of the number of participants (6-12), with the possibility of growing larger over time. N4D believes that “whole of society,” “whole of sector,” or “whole of community” collaborations are usually most effective in addressing difficult societal challenges, in keeping with Collective Impact Theory.

The Network for Dialogue’s dialogues generally occur three times over the course of a year and are three days in length. N4D covers the conference facilities, accommodation, meals, and transportation for these convenings. As needed, the Network for Dialogue can also help structure effective dialogue processes and advise on the mechanics of horizontal collaborations, provide professional facilitation and subject matter or country experts, and link participants with counterparts from other countries who have grappled with similar challenges. 

To apply, simply fill out the confidential one-page application form found here on our secure website.  You will be asked to describe briefly the objective, approach, potential participants, and expected outcome(s) of your proposed dialogue. You should demonstrate in your application that you have a compelling reason for gathering, the ability to get the right people to attend, a strategy for making effective use of their time together, and a plan to ensure the dialogue eventually leads to action. For questions regarding The Citizen Challenge and the application process, email: .

This round of applications is due on 30 June 2024.  Applications may be submitted in English, French, or Arabic. For those interested, there will be an informational session via Zoom on 4 June 2024, at 5 PM Cairo time, which you can register for here.