Building a Reading Community in Oman: steps towards a knowledge economy

It was a windy evening in Muscat in a climate which can be depicted as significant; weather wise and symbolically . This weather is a sign of the times in Oman. The country is in the midst of a shift towards a post oil future. Reading is often considered the edifice of a innovation economy. Reading is often the first responder, in this era of fake news and alternative facts. There is no recourse away from the act of reading.

Knowledge Oman, a community organisation which is led by youth pioneer Mr. Tariq Al Barwani and a team of committed volunteers has a number of programs related to entrepreneurial ventures in the information economy. Knowledge Oman has embarked on the book review program to initiate a reading culture in Oman. The evening was held at a shopping mall, in an open space on the first floor. Taking reading from the seminar room to a shopping mall, is novel as it mainstreams reading and certainly refashions the shopping mall as a value added space and Panorama Mall in Muscat excels at this mixed use criteria.

The book review program leader is Mr. Tushar Vakil- a corporate trainer with a sharp demeanour of a banker in a black suit. His performance while reviewing the best seller ‘The Power of Habit’ by a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist was surgical, with the intended focus on the voice of the author of the book, rather the reviewers take on the book. The book presentation was liberally sprinkled with anecdotes and cases. I particularly loved the Pepsodent toothpaste case where, not brushing the teeth was considered a national security problem during the war! Behavioural Economics is at the forefront of public discourse with Richard Thaler’s Nobel Prize win for the economic sciences 2017. The book in that respect is current/contemporary and relatable.

The Habit Loop was interesting to learn off and I look forward to reading the book in detail. It was a full house and the audience post presentation asked questions which were important probes. The conversation regarding the book post event would continue on the web, with further engagements lined up to inspire more thoughts.

A program which was merely an idea about 60 odd days back, would be implemented successfully on a weekday evening mid week, is exemplary to say the least. Community catalysts like Knowledge Oman and it’s team of volunteers are certainly taking a small step towards a knowledge driven journey in Oman.