Middle East & North Africa
Social Entrepreneurship in a Region of Change
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a region of great hope and great change. Yet too many of its people face poverty, inequity, and other development problems. Unemployment is dangerously high, particularly among youth. Women’s economic participation is among the lowest in the world. Half of all women and a third of all men are illiterate, and scientific attainment is generally low. Health problems, social exclusion, and environmental degradation affect many communities.
One emerging approach to these challenges is social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs identify, test, and scale up innovative solutions to difficult problems. They combine innovation and business skills to create solutions to pressing social, economic, and environmental problems -- improving quality of life for their clients and strengthening the broader society.
Aref Husseini (left), a Synergos Arab World Social Innovator, helps cultivate young scientific minds and critical thinkers in Palestine.
Social entrepreneurs use their skills to create new enterprises or bring innovation to already-established entities. Some social entrepreneurs implement ideas that are altogether original; others modify proven approaches to suit the circumstances of a different sector or geography.
Through initiatives on a range of issue - including education, employment and microenterprise, the environment and sustainable development, peace and good governance, health, media, culture, and more - social entrepreneurs are having a growing impact on the lives of people in the Middle East and North Africa.
But more can be done. We can help social entrepreneurs reach more people and communities. Just as importantly, we can help them test ideas that can be replicated by others, inform public policy, and provide opportunities for business, government, and civil society to work together in new ways.
Advancing Social Entrepreneurship Across the Arab World
Synergos believes that improving the lives of people in poor and marginalized communities requires systemic change. Such change can only happen when individuals work in meaningful partnership with other citizens, institutions and sectors of society, to address the root causes of poverty and inequity. Synergos has a 25-year history of providing support to such partnerships in almost every part of the world, enhancing the capacity of governments, businesses, civil society, philanthropists and individual leaders to come together and create new solutions.
Our work in the Middle East and North Africa builds upon this experience, creating enabling environments that allow social entrepreneurship to thrive, supporting outstanding entrepreneurs from across the region, and focusing attention on particular geographic areas to ensure greater success for such entrepreneurs.
We currently operate three related programs:
- The Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship is a collaborative program to help build a robust social entrepreneurship movement in select countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, with an initial focus on Egypt and Lebanon. Formed with the US Agency for International Development, in collaboration with Ashoka and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, the Alliance will raise awareness about social entrepreneurship and promote an environment that encourages social enterprises. To this end, the Alliance will facilitate the creation of Country Social Entrepreneurship Networks - national alliances of NGOs, educational institutions, businesses, foundations, and government agencies which will work together to map the current social entrepreneurship landscape, identify key constraints to social enterprises, and take the lead in fostering a more supportive ecosystem for social entrepreneurship.
- The Arab World Social Innovators program supports high-impact social entrepreneurs. To date, the program has served 37 exceptional individuals from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, and the United Arab Emirates, whose programs address serious gaps in education, employment, community development, technology and the environment. Over a period of two years Innovators receive an integrated set of offerings, including a financial award, technical assistance and capacity building workshops, access to Synergos’ global network, mentorships, and peer exchanges.
- Mobaderoon Masr / The Pioneers of Egypt program represents an investment in young leaders of Egypt who have a key role to play in building a more prosperous future for their country. Over the course of two years, Pioneers of Egypt will expand 50 successful community-led initiatives that promote economic and social change, build the skills and leadership capacity of 200 start-up social entrepreneurs, connect 1,000 Egyptian youth to internships, and increase the visibility and profile of social entrepreneurship in Egypt.
For More Information
Director, Middle East and North Africa
The Synergos Institute