• 15 NEP participants underwent a three-day immersive experience in Masfout, Ajman, applying ‘design thinking’ methods to develop innovative solutions to challenges faced by residents.
  • The experience embodies President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s values of placing people at the forefront of driving change.
  • The program is a launchpad for UAE-based specialists who are poised to play a transformative role in key future-growth sectors aligned with the strategic vision of the UAE.

Abu Dhabi: National Experts Program (NEP) participants have expressed their determination to help the UAE drive positive change that will benefit the nation after completing an immersive experience focused on exploring solutions to challenges faced by the local community in Masfout, Ajman.

Developed under the direction of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, NEP is a launchpad for UAE-based specialists who are poised to play a transformative role in key sectors aligned with UAE’s national priorities.

As part of the third edition of the eight-month program, 15 UAE-based specialists participated in a three-day immersive experience in Masfout. The government aims to boost the emirate of Ajman’s economy and the growth of the small regional destination, which has abundant land and is prominent for outdoor activities, in alignment with Ajman Vision 2030.

The experience focused on applying ‘design thinking’ – a strategic, hands-on approach to solving problems – with guidance from experts in the methodology.

The immersive experience is a fundamental part of NEP as it embodies Sheikh Mohamed’s values of placing people at the forefront of driving change and of working with UAE communities to contribute to the nation’s growth.

During the second edition of the program, NEP 2.0 participants visited the Delma Island community in the western region of Abu Dhabi. Their key learnings were applied to this edition’s experience in Masfout to help deliver positive results.

Throughout the three-day experience, participants engaged with residents to gain a deep understanding of their needs and values, identify opportunity areas and explore ways to establish a sustainable cultural economy in Masfout.

Among the participants who took part was Hamad Al Shehhi, Investment Manager at ADQ and NEP 3.0 participant representing the Food and Water Security sector. Commenting on his experience, he said: “By listening to people’s opinions, we found that there was no central location to enhance community bonding activities and drive residents’ creativity. One potential solution that would improve community cohesion is to establish a wellness and cultural center where residents can not only develop their local business to sell homemade products, but also be exposed to healthy lifestyle venues to exercise and experience.

“The center can be a hub for residents and subject matter experts to exchange know-how and expertise for businesses and well-being while addressing community matters and concerns. Having a center of excellence and creativity will be the initial step toward the community’s growth and prosperity.”

The immersive experience also provided an opportunity for Al Shehhi to observe some of the practices followed for water irrigation and treatment and think of possible improvements.

He said: “When exploring Masfout, I observed that some of the irrigation systems in use by the local community don’t necessarily comply with current best practices. It’s an area that needs improvement and would benefit from technological innovation. The area also lacks a water treatment facility, which can be established to drive sustainable initiatives.”

Dr. Abdulla Al Shimmari, NEP 3.0’s Technology and Innovation sector participant and CEO of, said the days in Masfout were an enlightening experience.

He said: “It was great to connect with the local community and understand what support they need to improve their everyday lives. Masfout has great potential for growth, and I believe there’s an opportunity for technology to boost sales of the food items that are being produced there, as well as other products such as handcrafted merchandise and crops. A model where farmers or small businesses can work with big organizations would benefit Masfout and the local community. Technology can also help upskill local talent and give them the skillsets needed to thrive.

“As NEP participants, we are being given a fantastic opportunity to shape a better tomorrow. It has been an amazing journey so far and I am determined to play my part in positively impacting the UAE and its people going forward.”

A key part of the immersive experience was an insightful two-part presentation from Dr. Corey Phelps, the Dean and Fred E. Brown Chair of Business at the Michael F. Price College of Business at the University of Oklahoma and McGill University.

In his virtual sessions, he explained the importance of adopting the design thinking process and why it will be crucial in the participants’ personal development.

He said: “Design thinking is a crucial toolkit that is going to be extremely valuable for the NEP participants going forward. As future leaders, they will need to use design thinking when it comes to problem solving and having the right mindset. Sometimes they may need to think outside the box or understand how to solve from a different perspective, so this tool will be really useful for their careers and one they can pass on to other people.”

About the National Experts Program:

Developed under the direction of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, the National Experts Program is a launchpad for UAE-based specialists who strive to play a leading role in the transformation of future-growth sectors.

NEP fosters the development of sector leaders who will help shape the country’s future. The program cultivates a pool of UAE-based professionals recognized as outstanding performers in their field and equips them to have a transformative impact on key social and economic sectors carefully aligned with the country’s national priorities. Participants will enhance their expertise, professional skills, and leadership ability by mastering five key mindsets for lifelong learning.