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The untold story of Mishkat How did a bunch of passionate creative young believers create the first of its kind science center in Saudi Arabia? ECSITE Annual Conference Toulouse, France June 31, 2012. Who we are:. Leila Chapman (Schembri). I look Arabic, my name is Arabic, but I am not Arabic

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The untold story of MishkatHow did a bunch of passionate creative young believers create the first of its kind science center in Saudi Arabia?ECSITE Annual ConferenceToulouse, FranceJune 31, 2012


Who we are:

Leila Chapman (Schembri)

  • I look Arabic, my name is Arabic, but I am not Arabic
  • Introducing KCA London (
  • Azerbaijan, Syria, Saudi Arabia
  • KCA London role on Mishkat: Design, Content and Operations
  • Role as part of the Mishkat team: Learning Consultant

Who we are:

Marwa AlMadani

  • All the way from Saudi Arabia!
  • Joined Mishkat in 2011
  • Content Manager for Mishkat, part of the Learning Team

We are going to talk about:

  • Mishkat – the what, the why, the how
  • Staff recruitment and training – focus on Facilitators
  • Keeping staff motivated and engaged
  • The results
  • Future challenges & opportunities

Introducing Mishkat

The Interactive Center for Atomic and Renewable Energy

  • Initiative by King Abdullah City for Atomic & Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE)
  • The first of its kind in Saudi Arabia, the first alternative energy focused science centre in Riyadh
  • Super fast design and build programme
  • Primary audience students aged 6 to 18

Aug 2010


Introducing Mishkat

The Mission:

“...To support Saudi Arabia’s ongoing central role in the energy economy by inspiring the Saudi youth of today to be the energy innovators of tomorrow. Bringing together engaging and interactive exhibitions and events Mishkat will bring to life past and future innovations in the way we generate and use atomic and renewable energies, celebrating and inspiring Saudi and worldwide achievements.”


Learning: at the heart of Mishkat

Inspired by:

  • The Science Museum, London
  • ‘People are the best exhibit’ Taizo Miaki (Ontario)
  • Choosing a philosophy – attain respect from scientific community David Pearson (Science North & Laurentian University)

Finding our team of inspirers

Our worries:

All recruits had to be Saudi – restricted the pool

Limited work experience

Informal learning an alien concept

No culture of visiting Museums, Science Centres, or visitor attractions – it’s the mall!

Lack of popular culture references

Needed great boys and girls – two equally good teams!

How do you reach the right people?


Finding our team of inspirers


Tapping into youth-focused initiatives: New grads, private colleges, volunteering based organizations…

Reach them through social networks – BB, Facebook, Twitter

Get to know the candidates as individuals through the interviews

Assess personal qualities What made them tick…

Assess communication skills Presentation exercise

Assess initiative and audience empathy Role play


Finding our team of inspirers


  • 120 interviews in 4 days (Phase 1)
  • A mixed bag…
  • Quality of ladies much higher than males
  • Recruited: VSA’s, Communication Officers, Content Manager, Administration staff, Finance Manager, Network Support
  • Found seven candidates with the right qualities to be inspirers FACILITATORS

Facilitator Development

Build responsibility

Hire them

Build enthusiasm

Reward them

Inspire them


Build confidence

Build experience

Challenge them

Immerse them

Build skills and knowledge


Facilitator Development

Inspire them

  • Part of creating Mishkat – onsite whilst being built!
  • Familiarity with the exhibits
  • Meet the wider project team
  • Time with Director and project leaders
  • Understanding of, and belief in, Mishkat’s purpose

Facilitator Development

Immerse them – The Science Museum


Facilitator Development

Immerse them

Five day training at the Science Museum with constant mentor

Understanding the purpose of Museum’s and science centers

Approach to life enhancing experiences

Learning theory – constructivism

Shadowed explainers, spent time on gallery

Opportunities to be creative

Presentation skills training


Facilitator Development

Challenge them – onsite training


Facilitator Development

Challenge them – Energy Show training


Facilitator Development

Challenge them – trial visits


Facilitator Development

Reward them – celebrate success



Notes from the trainer

Constructivist approach to training appealed

Thirst for knowledge

Eager for feedback

Pride in Mishkat and their new role

Biggest challenge: fear of failure and responsibility

Biggest reward: growth as individuals (Moe) and as a united team that learn from each other


Mishkat today

Engaging and inspiring visitors


Mishkat today

Engaging and inspiring visitors

(4265) children reached through school visits so far

Average of (7) visits per day

A host of VIP visits, including Ministries & Princes

Preparing for family visits in (2013)

Trial outreach events (2)


Mishkat today (May 2012)

Over 50 Mishkat-ers!


Keeping going…

Supporting personal growth

  • A mission driven environment
  • Have forums for sharing experience and ideas
  • Encourage initiative and creativity
  • Trust and space to take calculated risks
  • Accept and learn from mistakes

Keeping going…

Supporting professional growth

  • Set aspiring targets
  • Encourage self assessment
  • Development is at the core: 50% development time, 50% delivery time
  • Flexible job descriptions – can try new things

Keeping going…

Maximize benefits from staff investment

Recognize what experienced Facilitators can bring to other projects or areas of the organization

Assign new hires to shadow project team leaders, seeing Mishkat from a different perspective


Keeping going…

Learning from the visitors experience

Building relationships with teachers and special educational needs groups

Encourage dialogue through social networks.. busy Twitter feed!

Constant evaluation of experience – quantitative and qualitative


Keeping going…

Children’s feedback

Nice beyond words. And I hope that eventually what the things Mishkat has will be a reality all over the world.

It is an amazing center. Contains all of the energy types, I got to learn how to generate energy by a number of ways, which I found quite enjoyable.

Indescribable definition of awesomeness

Mishkat enabled us to discover.

I want to live here!!!


Keeping going…

Teacher’s feedback

What distinguishes Mishkat the most, is the modern and comfortable ambience; the high-tech facilities; the refined behavior, reception and arrangement; the encouragement of scientific thinking and creativity and the relevancy to the schools’ curriculums.

Mishkat is where the young inventor belongs

The auditorium and all the facilities were fun, great and helpful. The facilities enable love of scientific research and encourage stimulation of the interest in motivating young generation on the importance of researching energy through their surrounding environment.


Keeping going…

Feedback about the Facilitators

The constant engaging of the facilitators helped us develop new conceptions and thoughts.

Great job with great ideas of teaching. The employees were cooperative! Perfect!

The staff cheerful and obliging.

Thanks to the facilitators for their prompt responses to the inquiries of the teachers and students


Future challenges for Mishkat

It’s only just the beginning:

  • Travelling exhibition ‘Saudi 2050’
  • Mawhiba Gifted Summer Program 2012
  • Aramco Summer Program
  • Mobily Innovation Event
  • Nuclear Power Plant Virtual Tour Film
  • Visitor program for teenagers
  • Atomic Energy Discovery Box
  • Discovery Box for children with special educational needs…

What we have learned


Recruit rapidly yet carefully – not looking for actors, but genuine inspirers

Have a common belief and purpose, and involve everyone in it

Invest, invest, invest in your staff

Create clear structures, and a culture of support

Don’t expect perfection! Expect growth

Seek partnerships for improvement

Seek new challenges – never ‘that’ll do’, but ‘what else can we do’