Center for Arab Narratives (CAN) History & Timeline

Matthew Jaber Stiffler
August 8, 2023
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The Center for Arab Narratives (CAN) is a new institution of ACCESS, the largest Arab American community non-profit in the country. CAN was officially launched in spring 2021 and offers an interdisciplinary approach to improving the wellbeing of Arab American communities, by facilitating and sharing community-empowered research.

Under the direction of the current ACCESS CEO Maha Freij and former CEO Hassan Jaber, the agency began a national research initiative in 2015, with the aim of securing better data on the national Arab American community. Representatives from ACCESS and the Arab American National Museum (AANN) met with scholars of Arab and Middle East and North African (MENA) communities, convening them annually in Dearborn and other cities. The research team also worked closely with leadership at the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Division.

In the spring of 2016, in response to the influx of researchers wanting to work with the Arab refugee
communities that ACCESS was serving, Matthew Jaber Stiffler, then Research and Content Manager at
AANM; Madiha Tariq, former Director of Public Health at ACCESS; and other ACCESS staff initiated a
team that would review and facilitate external research requests, mainly from university-based scholars.
This team, now called the Community Research Review Board (CRRB) and under the direction of CAN,
has facilitated more than 125 research projects in the fields of public health, sociology, education,
anthropology, and museum studies.

Through our network of more than 20 CAN Affiliates—scholars and community leaders from a range of
academic backgrounds—we bring cutting edge research to the Arab and MENA communities through
our growing web platforms. The goal is to make research accessible for everyone. It’s the community
that enables the research to work, by participating in surveys and studies, and we want community
members to have useful and actionable information that affects their daily lives.

In the coming years CAN will continue bringing scholars and community together through
1 interdisciplinary initiatives to improve the wellbeing of Arab and MENA communities. Follow us on
Instagram (@ArabNarratives) and watch this site for ways that you can get involved in our work.