Direction CSR hosts weekly Alf Kalimah write-ins for the writing community in Jeddah, at their office in Al Rawdah, providing space to the writers for productive meetups geared towards completing their manuscripts and peer-learning. Read on to learn more about what Direction does, and how you can be a part of it.

Special Direction, a business consultancy house founded by Dr Shadi Khawandanah in 2007, provides various consultancy services for government and private sectors, and NGOs. It wasn’t nearly enough for the ambitious businessman with a PhD in CSR; his passion to share purposeful knowledge with society led him to also found Direction, the CSR arm for Special Direction.

Alf Kalimah’s 3rd Meet & Greet hosted by Direction CSR at their offices in Rawdah, Jeddah.

Direction CSR is a Not-to-Profit organization – as opposed to being Non-Profitable – making a circulating profit (i.e. back to the organization) without being distributed among the shareholders nor the board members.

“It’s very important to distinguish between Non-Profit organizations (that make no profit), which depend chiefly on sponsors and outside aid to sustain their projects, and Not-to Profit organizations, which focus more on self-sufficient, sustainable solutions to maintain community projects and objectives,” Dr Shadi explains.

It was in 2015 when Dr Shadi stepped down as the CEO of Special Direction to focus his efforts on Direction CSR. His first order of business was to physically separate the two, keeping Direction CSR at their current office in Rawdah Star Offices and moving Special Direction to a new location. All activities and efforts were dedicated to sustainable development goals (SDGs) at the Direction office.

“Our CSR activities focus on initiatives that benefit society as a whole, encouraging youth, female empowerment, and redirecting positivity back into our communities. As the Saudi coordinator for the UNSSC that focuses on sustainable development, our activities are focused on the UN’s 17 sustainable goals.”

Direction CSR has various themed programs that invite individuals from different sectors/countries to engage in dialogue, on business and socio-economic issues that the region faces. As part of each program, members of the Direction CSR board pick a country to visit and engage in dialogue and knowledge exchange with the participants’ counterparts there, on these very same issues.

The Direction Knowledge & Cultural Exchange Program themes are selected carefully, with the Direction CSR team examining the specific, future needs of the different industries in the Kingdom and the region. This kind of foresight has made Direction CSR ahead of their time, coming up with forward-thinking solutions and special, customized content for each of their programs, the way only visionaries do. “We live in 2020, not in the present year,” Dr Shadi shares, and it shows – some of the initiatives they did a decade ago, their competitors and peers are only starting to implement now.

Complementing this, Direction CSR has an elite membership called Majlis, in which special guests from various backgrounds – private sector, government, diplomatic missions, etc – are invited to meet with the board members and engage in productive dialogue. The topics range from issues the Arab world faces, sustainable development, natural resources and reserves, intersectionality and faith, and education.

Members of Direction CSR at the tallest building in Makkah – The Clock Tower.

These are also the topics and themes tackled in the Direction CSR programs, which are open for application to the Saudi public. Successful applicants travel frequently around the world and act as informal ambassadors – or “soft diplomats” – for the Kingdom. “They represent Saudis and Saudi culture in all its forms, from different points of the spectrum. We want to represent our country in a very real way, not with the intention of proving that we are the best (or the worst). We want to show the authentic side, our different realities, the diverse cultures we have in the Kingdom, the depth of our traditions and our people.”

The Mufti of Republic of Lebanon Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian (right) received Dr Shadi Khawandanah and his delegation.

Dr Shadi hopes that by shedding more light on Saudi culture, more harmony will be created between the Kingdom and other countries, and eventually world peace will be achieved. To date, Direction CSR has conducted over 30 programs over a span of three years, touching on the topics of local mindsets, diversity, youth empowerment and education, and many more.

Dr Shadi Khawandanah (right) with Mahassen Haddara, Founder of the Youth Center for Dialogue

The programs put extra emphasis on relatable and relevant content for both Saudi Arabia and the countries the Direction CSR members visit. A trip to Italy, for instance, focused on entrepreneurship as the teams looked at the similarities of the two countries in their business landscapes and evolutions.

Direction CSR also offers members a chance to sit with decision-makers at the UN Headquarters, to interact with refugees at different camps, and go behind the scenes of many current events and organizations, to truly understand how things work and what solutions can be created and implemented for the issues the world faces.

On the local front, Direction CSR’s board members are highly involved in community services, each one a proactive member of society. Their passion, dedication, and genuine efforts to improve the world around them sustains Direction CSR, nudging it towards the right direction, and with the right people.

To date, around 442 members have participated in Direction CSR programs and traveled abroad, seeking knowledge, growth, life skills, and human connections.

For those interested, here is the application process:

  • Apply to a Direction Knowledge & Cultural Exchange Program on their website (
  • Once accepted, participate in the program.
  • Return to the Kingdom with new knowledge.
  • Gain access to the Direction CSR community.
  • Apply for Majlis membership.
  • Once accepted, become an elite Majlis member of Direction CSR.
  • Eligibility to become an active member of the Direction Initiatives Team.