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Scrum Training in Ramallah

12/30/2010 by James Coplien

Jim "Cope" Coplien is from one of a handful of Scrum firms whose ROI consciously and regularly reaches beyond economic value to give something back to the world community.   Supported by the Scrum Alliance, Jim Coplien recently traveled from his home in Denmark, and teamed up with Agile community leader Huthaifa Afanah from Jerusalem to organize a Scrum training for 28 new CSMs in Ramallah, Palestine.

"Most of us think of Scrum as a way to improve the quality of life for software developers suffering under poor management practice. Jeff Sutherland's vision goes further, inspired by Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus' vision for microenterprise development. Jim Cundiff has faithfully supported that vision in sponsoring Scrum Missions, and Donna Farmer will be continuing the tradition."

It was a high-energy event in Ramallah for a vibrant software community that focuses mainly on web development. Attendees came from throughout the Palestinian territory. The region of course faces many business challenges because of the conflict and political situation of the area. It is typical of those areas of the world that Scrum trainers don't frequent. It's not a casual trip from the airport to the hotel, but entails travel through military checkpoints and kilometers of starkly beautiful, rugged desert. It's a market that hasn't yet attracted the kind of cash flow that can rise to the usual CSM course price tag. Once there though, you're in the middle of some of the most hospitable people on the face of the earth, with all the comforts of home. The food is superb and lives up to all the high expectations for the delicious Arabic influences. And the relationships forged there and newfound enthusiasm to become a software powerhouse overshadow any sense of immediate economic opportunity.

As for Scrum, Palestinians "get it" better than most places in the world. "I have taught Scrum in more than a dozen countries, and nowhere have I found a place where self-organization more readily took root," Cope noted. "Perhaps it is the egalitarian nature of society, or perhaps the lack of a conscribed military. And there is a hunger to do better and better." The prospects for Scrum to succeed are strong.

In the sense of Jeff's original vision, Scrum can lift a whole community or even a whole culture, one company or one neighborhood at a time. Cope added, "Palestinians have been choked off from many of their supply lines for decades, and are eager to get on with the process of making a quality life for themselves and establishing their place in the business world. Jeff once told me that Scrum is a process for making something out of nothing." Building on the high level of intellectual capital in Palestine, Scrum can help give blossoming new firms the edge they need to vie for attention beyond their borders in a world market.

This wasn't Cope's first Scrum mission. In 2009 he traveled with Alan Cyment and Dan Rawthsthorne to Belgrade where together they certified 100 CSMs. Scrum trainers in the U.S. have been holding local events for the unemployed. Next on Cope's radar screen is Nepal.

"There will always be people who will seize on publicity like this to lay some kind of political claim. This was not a political visit. Though I have now trained in Palestine and Turkey and will be headed to Dubai with Jens Østergaard next year, I also have taught in Israel. And I'm still welcome in both places. I think events like this help us look beyond the headlines that are too often seized by an opportunistic few to realize that there are good people everywhere. I feel that Scrum celebrates that facet of humanity in the workplace and builds on that kind of trust, instead of the distrust that historically has been at the root political rife and misunderstanding over the ages. So though this was not a political visit, I don't think it was a superficial one, either."

Cope adds, "If you're a CST, I think the folks in Ramallah would love to see you come by and run another class. Or in Serbia. Or for the unfortunate in your neighborhood." It's one little thing you can do in the spirit of this season, which is all about Peace.

Scrum Training in Ramallah