Praises are due to Allah SWT for His guidance and for blessing us with the opportunity to continue our work through Islamic Outreach ABIM in 2009.
I am now into my 2nd year as the chairperson of this esteemed organization. Our mission as guided by Al-Qur’an Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching, in ways that are best … Qur’an 16:125 gives us a clear, powerful social mission. In 2007, I was very fortunate to be taking over the leadership of Islamic Outreach ABIM in a strategic position and in excellent health. When I assumed this responsibility we had benefited from outstanding previous leadership, and until now we still have remarkable individuals who play their important voluntary roles throughout our organization. We continue to have a potentially large cadre of enthusiastic volunteers across the country.
We have grown to build productive relationships with our audience and other organizations that share our common interest. This is a testament to the dedication and skilled work of many people, and to the invaluable wisdom provided by our leadership. I am well aware that working with them and working with our leadership to lead Islamic Outreach ABIM is an awesome responsibility.
I began my tenure as Islamic Outreach ABIM’s chairperson with some very large shoes to fill, but also with the comfort of having those shoes planted on very solid ground. We did not have any holes to dig out of. We had come a long way, and our future is full of potential. I could not ask for a better foundation.
Nor could I ask for a better time to continue with our work in 2009.We are now at the forefront of a socio-economic and political uneasiness that is changing the world. However, how it will change is an unanswered question. That is what makes it so exciting. It all depends on how individuals, organizations, governments and societies adapt and respond to these drastic changes here in Malaysia and in the world beyond.
Islamic Outreach ABIM is well positioned to confront this reality – to contribute moving ideas, to promote meaningful changes, and to influence how people and institutions respond to the issues. To do this we need to build on our successes and use them to achieve even more – through what we have summarized as “Inviting, Sharing, and Giving”.
These noble objectives are all leading us forward, consistent with our mission and our strategic plan, and all within our reach. Here they are, one-by-one:
Islamic Outreach ABIM must strive to be the most successful and widely acknowledged organization in Malaysia for inviting the community to know Islam, and for providing opportunities for Muslims to renew their understanding about and commitment to this great religion. We will focus foremost on our members, but the benefits will ripple out to all people, including the less well off, and ultimately we will influence all generations.
One of the important things that attracted many of us to Islamic Outreach ABIM – is our mandate for Islamic social change. The importance of influencing the environment in which we operate is one very important lesson I have learned. It is not enough to focus on the behavior of individuals alone. Islamic Outreach ABIM is one of the few organizations anywhere with the reach and the network to create real social change.
We will deliver on our promise to our members to enable them to share their experiences and contributions, whether ideas, financing, or moral support to the community. We enable them to seek their own experiences and their own choices, reach their own goals and dreams, and make the most of life through their participation in our core programs and planned activities.
This is the very essence of Islamic Outreach ABIM member service. This is how we connect with people. It is what we want them to believe when they read the Islamic Outreach ABIM theme and hear our name.
Advertising and public relations help us to create awareness and shape perceptions about who we are and what we do. However, we must also make good on our promises by providing effective advocacy, providing useful, quality information, and organizing convert educational services. We must provide opportunities for life-enriching community service and other highly regarded programs. In short, we must deliver on our promises by being valuable and connected to every member. Moreover, we must always show complete confidence that we can do that, with the help of Allah SWT.
Islamic Outreach ABIM will be a world leader in giving. We must aim to go global with this feature. Working internationally is not new to Islamic Outreach ABIM. We have been at it since our very beginning. Now we have the need to think more globally than ever before. Governments, organizations, and leaders at different levels respect our advocacy and work, our technical expertise and research, our volunteers, our size and independence. In any part of the globe, over 20 years of experience attracts a lot of notice.
Just as we can contribute internationally, we can also learn, as well. In addition, we can counter negative viewpoints about Islam. To provide global leadership to do that, we need more focused strategies, and we need to integrate this focus into our core work.
These are exciting challenges. They get the blood flowing. They address great issues and hold great promise. We CAN accomplish them through a combination of continuity and change.
First, let us talk about continuity. As I said earlier, we are dealing from strength. Islamic Outreach ABIM is headed in the right direction, and we have a solid foundation. Our large, stable volunteer base provides us with the ability to generate the resources to fuel great enterprises.
We have a good record of accomplishment in building and institutionalizing diversity, but we can do better. In addition, we have tremendous volunteer power, also with the potential for much more.
Finally, we do not have any direct competition. While there are many predators trying to nibble away around the edges, we do not face any single large threat. All of these strengths combine to make us an effective, forceful, and influential organization. However, as I said earlier, in order to lead and shape socio-economic and political change, and in order to achieve our major objectives, we cannot be complacent. We need to use our strengths as stepping-stones to even greater heights.
A historian, Will Durant, once observed that, “Most progress is made by water flowing down the middle of the river, not by the pebbles bouncing on the side.” To reach our great ambitions, we need to make sure we have a powerful, steady current, flowing down the middle of the river, and we need to stay away from side issues.
Based on my experience and on discussions with ABIM leadership, and with many of our stakeholders, as well as from visits to state offices and events, I have developed a view of where we need to change. As a friend once said, change is not a repudiation of the past; it is recognition of the opportunities that lie ahead. I see several important areas for change that we must make, all interrelated, so that we can achieve our goals.
First, we need a greater orientation to results. We are still directed more toward output rather than outcome. We can do more and better with less process and consensus seeking, and greater accountability for deadlines, budgets, and results. Part of this is the need to clarify our performance goals and measures. There are now Islamic evaluation instruments available to help us to this.
Second, along with greater attention to results, we also need more focus on what is important. This requires disciplined attention to our priorities throughout Islamic Outreach ABIM and less on lower-value work.
Third, we need to strengthen key operations. We can all sharpen our performances, starting with the executive team. As one important step, we are going to implement a comprehensive human resources plan, a “people strategy”, so that Islamic Outreach ABIM management, in partnership with strategic entities, can build upon our considerable talent. Our objective is to have a workforce throughout the organization that is trained, diverse, effective and world class.
Operationally, we can also strengthen the relationship between Islamic Outreach ABIM and other NGOs, improve our programs, grow grassroots effectiveness, and expand government/private funding for our constituents and for ourselves.
Finally, we must improve the efficiency of our use of our ample resources. We need strong revenue growth goals and strategies. We can do a better job of allocating budgets to priority needs and opportunities. Moreover, we must apply technology as efficiently as we possibly can. In addition, we need to focus on cost efficiencies. For every ringgit, we can save on the expense side, which is the same as new revenue. We can then invest that other ringgit in social responsibility and member services.
These important changes will go a long way in helping us to achieve our ambitions. It will take all of us working together, from every part of Islamic Outreach ABIM, to maintain continuity and create needed change. This will enable us to seize many opportunities and develop them to their fullest.
Earlier I mentioned our potential strength in advocacy. However, we can do more, and I am committed to increasing our advocacy leadership at the national and state levels. Part of this leadership responsibility is to get out there and engage in the important policy debates. Therefore, we are going to expand the high-level visibility of our leadership and management, including myself. We need to be seen and heard and to represent Islamic Outreach ABIM among Malaysia’s influential opinion leaders.
In addition, we are going to launch a major, integrated, well-funded and well-planned national program to make a positive difference in people’s lives. It will center on our six thrust programs, namely the Convert Development Program, Islamicare, Hospital Visit Task Force, Orang Asli Socio-Economic Development Program, Children’s’ Welfare & Sponsorship Program, and Da’wah through Guided Mosque Tours and Interfaith Dialogue Initiatives. Together with other Islamic NGOs, we will be well equipped to lead the nation in these critical areas as ours.
Moreover, we are going to expand our community service tradition by creating a strategic expansion of community services that will put Islamic Outreach ABIM in the forefront of the enormous untapped resource of senior volunteers and their desire to give back. This has proven to be a very successful formula as evidenced by our Da’wah through Guided Mosque Tours.
Stronger advocacy and expanded community service all fit together, and that is how we will do it – in an integrated way – so that we can bring all our considerable resources to bear.
Making these changes and developing these opportunities will take focus and discipline. Creating social change is serious business and hard work. It requires a sense of urgency and a bold, aggressive style. Nevertheless, the potential rewards for ABIM members, for our Malaysian society, and for we ourselves, are enormous.
Can you tell how enthusiastic I am about all this? I hope so. I believe that my experience in business and in the not-for-profit world has all been training and preparation for this. No place I have ever worked, or been involved in, was ever as capable of bringing about positive social change as Islamic Outreach ABIM is right now.
This gives all of ABIM employees and volunteers a tremendous responsibility to live up to. It is an awesome challenge, one we CAN meet. It will take teamwork and a lot of hard effort. Becoming the “best” or the “most successful” at anything always does.
We all have a very strong sense of partnership and a deep commitment to our organization’s future. Now, as we embark on this journey together, Islamic Outreach ABIM needs your support, your commitment, your dedication, your best efforts, and your ideas. Speaking for my executive team colleagues, and myself, we want to hear from you. I welcome your ideas at all of these events.
A man once came into my office and asked me, “How do you start a groundswell?” I had to answer that I was not sure. However, if someone asked me that question today, I would say, “Watch us here at Islamic Outreach ABIM, because that’s just what we’re doing, creating a powerful groundswell on behalf of many Malaysians and global citizens.”
I am confident that we will do it, through continuity and change, through teamwork and implacable effort. We will take our mandates of da’wah, social responsibility, and member service, and be the most successful organization in Malaysia for Islamic social change. We WILL deliver on our promise to each member. With Allah’s guidance and continued blessings, let us make it happen Insha’Allah.