Arab World Social Innovators Program

photo of Ziad Abichaker with recycled glass
Ziad Abichaker, a Social Innovator leading several for-profit recycling initiatives in Lebanon as part of his quest to create a zero-waste society.

The Arab World Social Innovators (AWSI) program was Synergos’ first program in the Middle East North Africa region. Launched in 2008 and closed in 2015, the program has supported nearly 50 social entrepreneurs serving poor and marginalized communities in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Palestine.

The program created a strong foundation for Synergos to expand its programming beyond established social entrepreneurs. Over seven years, the AWSI program established a name for Synergos in the region and field of social entrepreneurship and is incorporated into a new model for the organization which supports different groups along the life cycle of a social entrepreneur.

photo of women working in field
Maysoun Odeh Gangat (left), with staff of 96 NISAA FM in Palestine, which she founded; NISAA is the first women’s radio station in the Middle East.

Program Impact

With Synergos’ support, Social Innovators reached new levels of success, expanded existing programs or launched new ones, hired new staff, entered into new collaborations and partnerships and increased the total number of beneficiaries served by their initiatives.

Highlights of the network include:

  • The training of 750 Jordanian female storytellers and the establishment of 350 libraries reaching more than 10,000 children with community-based literacy and educational programs.
  • A school with integrated education for visually-impaired Palestinian students has secured facilities to more than double its student base to 300 students. The model is being adopted broadly by the Palestinian Authority.
  • An organization serving Egypt’s long-neglected garbage collectors expanded vocational training to over 3,200 youth and is working toward formal government recognition of the community.
  • A company utilizing mobile technology to connect job seekers with employers, and help connect organizations with the audiences they need to reach for support services that has expanded to 23 countries.

About the program

Social Innovators are pioneers of change in their communities and offer original approaches, methods, and solutions to address social and economic problems. Their entrepreneurial ventures represent a diverse array of fields ranging from education to microenterprise, which impact the lives of tens of thousands of women, children, youth, and people with special needs.

These grassroots leaders challenge the existing systems that perpetuate poverty and inequality in their communities in search of a more equitable outcome for society’s most underserved. Through the AWSI program, Synergos enabled Social Innovators to reach more people, expand or replicate their projects, and increase their capacity as local leaders to bridge economic and social divides.

Over a period of two years, Innovators received an integrated set of offerings, including a financial award, technical assistance and capacity-building workshops, access to Synergos’ global network, mentorships, and peer network exchanges.

In 2015, the program came to an end for the organization to focus on the Pioneers model, but the organization will continue to engage this network through convening and other opportunities.