Arab World Social Innovators
Program News January 2010

Synergos’ Arab World Social Innovators program includes 22 exceptional Social Innovators who are each transforming a powerful idea into a growing social venture - in fields such as education, microenterprise, youth employment, arts and culture, environmental protection, civic engagement, and peace building. They come from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and Palestine and represent the vast pool of entrepreneurial energy and talent in the Arab World.

Synergos offers each Innovator a financial award and leadership development, as well as capacity-building services, media exposure, and strategic connections to leaders in philanthropy, business, and civil society. Our aim is to increase the capacity of the innovators and their ventures to address issues of poverty and inequity.

Below are links to summaries of remarkable work our Innovators have been doing and highlights of ways the Arab World Social Innovators program has been engaging with them. You can also watch the new Innovators in Action video for insight into the accomplishment of four members of this exceptional group.

Our program is part of our broader, long-term effort to empower leaders and organizations in the Arab World to strengthen the capacity of civil society to help meet the needs of those who are poor and marginalized. With the success of inaugural class of Social Innovators, Synergos is now planning for a new class of Innovators in the second half of 2010, as well as additional ways to support a larger number of Innovators in the region. We would welcome any comments or suggestions you may have.

With best wishes for 2010,

Robert Dunn, CEO, The Synergos Institute

On behalf of our Arab World Social Innovators program staff:
George Khalaf, Director
Sarina Beges, Senior Coordinator
Husam Jubran, Representative Palestine
Hisham el-Rouby, Representative Egypt

Notes from the Field

A new video - Innovators in Action - captures the work of four Synergos Arab World Social Innovators - Rana Dajani in Jordan and Ali Abu Awwad, Mohammed al-Kilany, and Nureddin Amro in Palestine.

It was produced by documentary filmmaker, Barbara Cupisti,

Watch the video.

Updated profiles for each of the 22 Arab World Social Innovators are online.

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Members of the inaugural Arab World Social Innovators Program at their orientation in Amman, Jordan using sign language to spell “Synergos.”

Social Innovators take the Global Stage from Oxford to Dubai

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In 2009, members of our Arab World Social Innovators (AWSI) program participated in a number of global forums to present their work, network with influential individuals, and comment on the challenges of operating in the Arab world. Highlights included participation at the Skoll World Forum in Oxford, UK, in March where Aref Husseini of Palestine, Kamal Mouzawak of Lebanon, and Raghda el-Ebrashi of Egypt were on a panel entitled New Approaches in the Arab World, and had the opportunity to be interviewed by BBC World Business Service’s radio to introduce their projects and the concept of social entrepreneurship to a global audience.

According to Arab World Social Innovator Aref Husseini,

“Skoll was a very enriching and energizing experience. It provided a global platform to showcase my work and a new network of contacts. I return to Palestine energized and inspired to continue to advance my work.”

In April, founder of the Palestine Mobile Cinema Project and Social Innovator Yousef al-Deek was featured in a special edition of CNN International’s The Screening Room to celebrate the work he is doing to bring film to communities in the West Bank who have never experienced the joy of live cinema. CNN followed al-Deek and his volunteer crew as they traveled to the West Bank city of Jenin armed with a projector and screen to share the joy of cinema as an escape from the harsh realities of daily life.

The following month, Social Innovator and head of a non-violence movement in Palestine Ali Abu Awwad joined Yousef Dib, a member of the Synergos board and Global Philanthropists Circle (GPC), and George Khalaf on a panel at the European Foundation Centre’s annual conference held in Rome, entitled Social Entrepreneurship in the Arab World. The summer ended with a visit to New York by Moroccan Social Innovator Wafa el-Zerrouki, who came with a delegation of Moroccan women sponsored by the US Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. Synergos hosted a brownbag lunch for New York City’s development community as an opportunity for these women to comment on their work in the civil-society sector and the development needs of women in Morocco.

September was the busiest month of the year with our annual network meetings and fundraising event, University for a Night, which took place in New York. With the goal of integrating our three networks together (Senior Fellows, GPC, and AWSI) we invited six Innovators to showcase their work and represent the AWSI program as a whole in New York and to strategic audiences in Washington, DC. We were joined by Mohammed Kilany (Palestine), Rami Mehdawi (Palestine), Kamal Mouzawak (Lebanon), Ezzat Naem Guindy (Egypt), Younes Naoumi (Morocco), and Paul Abi Rached (Lebanon) for the two-week trip.

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Participants in the Senior Fellows Annual Meeting take a break outside to reflect on their work in a session led by Synergos founder, Peggy Dulany.

photo of group of people talking intensely Discussion at University for a Night 2009.

Highlights from the visit to New York included connecting with 30 peers from around the world at the Senior Fellows annual meeting, enjoying a traditional Middle Eastern meal in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, networking with social investors and philanthropists at an all-networks meeting, and shaking hands with Kofi Annan at the University for a Night event. At the same time, participants took advantage of being in New York to meet with organizations of strategic interest and to soak up the various sites of New York City.

In Washington D.C., the Innovators’ projects were front-and-center as they participated in a number of events showcasing their work and commented on the field of social entrepreneurship to government, academic, and foundation audiences. Synergos partner and AWSI funder USAID hosted a brown bag lunch at its offices where Innovators’ introduced their work, commented on the challenges of scaling-up their projects, and discussed the US government’s role in supporting entrepreneurial ventures and grassroots leaders in the region. The El-Hibri Foundation, a charitable Lebanese family foundation that supports dialogues across cultures and religions, hosted an event at its beautiful townhouse to raise awareness for the program and feature the work of select Innovators. One of the highlights from the week was a panel at the US State Department moderated by Farah Pandith, Special Representative to Muslim Communities, where Ms. Pandith commented on her new role serving Muslim-majority countries and engaged in a lively dialogue with the Innovators about the role of the US government in supporting the efforts of grassroots leaders and community activists. Ms. Pandith echoed the sentiments of President Obama and his approach to listening and working directly with a new generation of leaders to forge a new relationship with the Muslim world.

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Social Innovators meet with Special Representative Farah Pandith at the US State Department. From left to right: Ms. Pandith, George Khalaf, Rami Mehdawi, and Younes Naoumi.

A major conference was held on Social Entrepreneurship: Putting Powerful Ideas to Work, organized by Georgetown University, USAID, DAI, and the Society for International Development. This event, held at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, marked the opening of the Rafik B. Hariri Building, a generous donation from the son of the former Prime Minister of Lebanon. An audience of over 400 joined a panel of experts in social innovation including representatives from the White House Office of Social Innovation, USAID Middle East Bureau, the Wolfensohn Center for Development at Brookings Institution, and Synergos. In the style of Ted Talks, Social Innovators Kamal Mouzawak, Mohammed Kilany, and Ezzat Guindy had ten minutes to deliver a speech describing their innovative work and the impact it has on the communities that they serve. The trip ended with a visit to Synergos partner Booz Allen Hamilton’s (BAH) global headquarters in McLean, Virginia, for one-on-one meetings with consultants from the Social Entrepreneurship Assistance Program (SEAP) who are delivering technical assistance training to the group. This working session was hosted by Ghassan Salameh, Senior Partner at BAH and champion of the SEAP program, and gave the Social Innovators an opportunity to meet their volunteer consultants whom they work with on a series of virtual trainings.

photo of group of men at meeting The group at Georgetown University’s Rafik B. Hariri Building auditorium for the seminar. From left to right: George Khalaf, Mohammed Kilany, Paul Abi Rached, Ezzat Guindy, Younes Naoumi, Rami Mehdawi, and fellow panelist Ehaab Abdou from the Brookings Institution.

The 2009 event calendar ended in November when four Social Innovators-Dr. Gamal Kamal el-Din, Rabee’ Zureikat, Nureddin Amro, and Kamal Mouzawak-traveled to Dubai to participate in a series of meetings with international organizations, private-sector firms, and leading Arabic-language television network al-Arabiya. They were joined by Synergos Founder Peggy Dulany, Synergos President and CEO Robert Dunn, and Director George Khalaf. The trip was highlighted by a lunch hosted by GPC member Raza Jafar, a supporter of the program, held at the Capital Club and attended by his close friends and business partners from the region. Social Innovators had the opportunity to present their work to this influential audience and forge relationships with regional institutions that can support their work.

The first big event in 2010 will be our Social Innovators Annual Meeting in Jordan February 14-17. In addition, select Social Innovators will serve as delegates at the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship hosted by President Obama in Washington, DC in the first quarter of the year. More details and live updates will be sent during this historic event!

Building the Foundation for Organizational Development: One Step at a Time

While many Social Innovators possess innovative ideas and approaches to solving outstanding social and economic problems in their communities, it is often challenging to move their project from an idea into reality. To address this obstacle, Synergos has a two-pronged approach providing both financial and technical assistance to develop both the individual entrepreneur and their organization.

photo of group of men at meeting The Social Innovators with volunteer consultants from Booz Allen Hamilton's Social Entrepreneurship Assistance Program (SEAP) at an organizational development session in September 2009.

Together with financial support totaling $34,000 over the course of the two-year program, Synergos has entered into partnerships with leading consulting firms and international organizations to deliver professional-development training to the Social Innovators. Our partnership with the Social Entrepreneurship Assistance Program (SEAP) affiliated with leading strategic-consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton has connected each Social Innovator to a dedicated consultant who provides advisory services on strategic planning and organizational design.

At the end of 2009, each of our 22 Social Innovators crafted a Strategic Plan for their organization in consultation with their SEAP consultant, outlining the vision, mission, and goals for their project, which will provide the foundation and roadmap for the development of their project. In 2010, modules will focus on Action Planning to transform their objectives into tangible activities as well as Communications Strategy to strengthen their organization’s external relations and messaging.

In addition, Social Innovators are offered individualized services to aid in their personal development. Synergos has a partnership with the American-Mideast Educational and Training Services (AMIDEAST) organization to provide English-language training. Synergos also provides a personalized relationship-management system to Social Innovators to give them the individualized support and access to key network constituents to forge the relationships necessary to further the development of their work. Finally, the Synergos global leadership network provides Innovators with strategic connections to mentors, civil-society leaders, social investors, and key regional institutions to help them build financial and organizational sustainability for their innovations.

Moving forward, Synergos will be identifying more locally-based resources in the Arab world to provide our Social Innovators with training and professional-development opportunities closer to home. If you are interested in serving as a mentor or would like to become involved with the Arab World Social Innovators Program in any capacity, please let us know.