Arab World: 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.
Social Entrepreneurship in a Region of Change
A promising approach to improve the wellbeing of the people of the Arab world is social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurs combine innovation and business skills with a determination to improve the wellbeing of the communities they serve. They are agents of change in their communities combining innovation and business skills to meet pressing social needs in a variety of sectors including education, health, the environment, employment and others.
Social Entrepreneurship for Systemic Change
Since 2008, Synergos has worked in the Middle East and North Africa, creating enabling environments that allow social entrepreneurship to thrive, directly supporting outstanding entrepreneurs across the region, and focusing attention on particular geographic areas to ensure greater success for such entrepreneurs. Our work has helped them collaborate with others inside and outside their communities. We've also helped them think more systemically - all with the goal of scaling up their reach and impact.
We are not only helping raise the number of people and communities these social entrepreneurs serve directly, but can also test ideas that can be replicated by others, inform public policy, and provide opportunities to engage business, government and civil society to modify in new efforts.
Our Approach to Social Entrepreneurship
Synergos operate on three levels:
- Country-level - At a country level, we support youth, startup social entrepreneurs and established social entrepreneurs through personal & professional development, capacity building and financial support for established social entrepreneurs. This model is revolutionary as it illustrates the life cycle of a social entrepreneur and allows Synergos to deepen our engagement. This program currently operates in Egypt and Palestine with potential expansion to other countries in the region.
- Regionally - Since 2008, Synergos has brought together social entrepreneurs in regional networks which encourage the growth of trust, the sharing of best practices and lessons learned, and create a space for innovation, collaboration and increased networking. This program was originally called the Arab World Social Innovators. Moving forward, this network of social entrepreneurs will be convened in regional meetings to share and encourage learning.
- Globally - Through the Alliance for Social Entrepreneurship, a five-year (2011-2016) collaborative program aimed at creating and supporting a robust social entrepreneurship movement in selected developing countries, we worked to address the root causes that prohibit the growth of social entrepreneurship and focus on supporting sustainability for social entrepreneurship around the world.
Our work at the country and regional levels is made possible thanks to sponsorship from Alwaleed Philanthropies.