Raises Consciousness, Serves Community
June 30, 2002
Editor’s Note: LFM-SDM, a partnership between industry and academia, is motivated by the belief that global companies can help address the economic and social needs of individuals, firms, and societies. In this spirit, LFM-SDM is honored to present the strong power of example of Ford’s Middle Eastern Community@Ford, a company-sponsored employee resource group.
About two weeks after September 11, more than 500 Ford employees gathered at the company’s world headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., to attend an event designed to raise funds for victims of the tragedy. The Ford Cares Concert did just that – to the tune of $75,000 in just one hour. According to its organizers, members of Ford’s Middle Eastern Community (MEC)@Ford, this event was about more than raising cash. It was about coming together to begin the healing, raising consciousness, going beyond the tragedies of last fall, and finding ways to contribute to American society on an ongoing basis.
"There are enough problems already in the Middle East," explained Ali Jammoul, chief engineer of Chassis Operations and one of MEC’s founders. "We formed the group in order to be supportive of the diversity of Middle Eastern cultures and to be inclusive of everyone, regardless of background. We are proud of our diversity and proud to be Americans."
Indeed, MEC’s members include Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqis, Israelis, Persians, Caldeans, and African Americans. "Our premise is inclusion and the common theme is living peacefully together," explained Anne Campbell, Customer Relationship Management Specialist and MEC’s communications director.
According to Anne Marie Gattari, Ford Corporate News Manager, MEC is one of 10 Ford -sponsored employee resource groups. The groups began meeting informally two decades ago to provide peer support for employees of similar backgrounds and cultures. The official groups now represent employees of different faiths, those of African ancestry, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, Asians, Indians, Chinese, Hispanics, women, parents, and the disabled. As with MEC, each is open to anyone with an interest in a particular group, culture, or religion.
"The employee resource groups also act as consultants to Ford for recruitment and marketing," said Gattari. For example, GLOBE, the gay, lesbian, and bisexual group, provided assistance when Ford began offering benefits to same-gender partners. And the Hispanic Network Group consults on vehicle design to help Ford better serve that growing marketplace.
The Middle Eastern Community Group@Ford was formed in summer of 2001 by a small group including Jammoul, Andy Acho, LFM-SDM Operating Committee member Hossein Nivi, Anne Campbell, and Mazen Hammoud. Ironically, their first official meeting, which was booked that summer, was scheduled for September 12.
"As a group," we felt shock and anger, which drove us to do something to show our support and love for America," said Andy Acho, worldwide director of Environmental Outreach & Strategy and sponsor of MEC.
Hossein Nivi, director of Global Product Development and Manufacturing Leadership Programs, and a co-founder of MEC, recalls the urgency people felt to help. "Andy suggested organizing a fundraiser and within one week, we had mobilized to a hold a concert to benefit the survivors."
Ford’s other employee resource groups provided support in promoting and staging the Ford Cares Concert on September 28. The program included songs by the Ford Chorus, a musical tribute to diversity by MEC member Steve Acho, and a speech by Mike Maslin of the American Red Cross.
In addition, MEC@Ford membership rose from 100 to 270 on September 12 at its next meeting, which was held several months after the concert. Les Williams, an African-American employee who attended that meeting said, "I was elated that MEC members wanted to learn more about the history of the Ford African-Ancestry Network (FAAN). It’s this type of communication between cultural groups that fosters cultural understanding. This has never been so important in our history."
MEC@Ford has planned several other activities, including educational outreach to Middle Eastern students in local schools. "September 11 is something we had to respond to, but the group won’t be defined by it," said Gattari. "Our focus goes beyond that."
Mazen Hammoud’s work in the Dearborn Middle Eastern community is a case in point. Hammoud, a technical specialist in Ford Powertrain Research and MEC’s educational director, oversees volunteer activities for Middle Eastern students in local middle and high schools.
"This group is not officially recognized as a minority, so we want to do what we can to help them," said Hammoud.
Among the activities Hammoud oversees: plant tours for students; classes in crash safety; career counseling; mentoring; and coaching in robotics for the US First competition. Ford even donated an engine for a shop class at Fordson, a high school in Dearborn with a significant Middle Eastern enrollment.
"All that is not given is lost," concludes Nivi. "Ford Motor Company is an organization that’s all about giving, not taking, and the Middle Eastern Community employee resource group is part of that effort."