The Commons
 Synergos News | Winter 2011-2012

Above: Arab World Social Innovators Ziad AbiChaker, Zeina Awaydate, and Yorgui Teyrouz at TEDx Beirut (see story).


Pioneers program begins in Egypt; Hisham El Rouby joins Synergos staff

Egypt, like much of the Middle East, is undergoing tremendous change. While political turmoil, and even violence, tends to dominate international news, that struggle is occurring against a backdrop of aspirations for social and economic change. Persistent and high unemployment is a large part of this. Egyptians, particularly young Egyptians, are looking for new opportunities to earn livings for themselves and their families.

Synergos Arab World Social Innovators in Egypt address a range of issues: Eslam el-Dawy works with Berber craftswomen (top), Maher Abdel Malak helps marginalized groups such as fisherfolk (above), Sameh el-Halawany uses arts to for neighborhood preservation (below).

Synergos is helping Egyptians respond to these aspirations. Building upon the success of our regional Arab Word Social Innovators (AWSI) program, we are launching a new, country-based, effort. Called Mobaderoon Masr - Pioneers of Egypt, the program represents an investment in a new generation of leaders who will have a key role to play in the building of the future of their country. Our hope is that it will contribute to the successful transition to democracy and economic prosperity in Egypt by expanding employment and self-employment opportunities, particularly for youth, and supporting a new cadre of civil society and business leaders.

Over the next two years, the Pioneers of Egypt will directly support

The program will also try to raise awareness about social entrepreneurship through competitions to increase the visibility of the approach, particularly among youth. The Pioneers of Egypt program is funded in part by the US Agency for International Development.


We are fortunate to have Hisham El Rouby as our new representative in Egypt to lead this program. Hisham is not new to Synergos - he helped launch the AWSI program in 2008 and became a Synergos Senior Fellow in 2010. He’s also an Ashoka Fellow and CEO of ETIJAH, an institute contributing to the development and dissemination of community-development methodologies. Hisham has deep experience in volunteer management, youth development, and communications, and has worked for organizations including the Near East Foundation, the European Union, UNICEF, and the World Bank.

Synergos opens office in Ethiopia to support agricultural transformation

We’ve opened a new office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, led by Abera Tola, a Synergos Senior Fellow and former head of Oxfam America’s Horn of Africa Program with deep experience in managing multisector partnerships. Almaz Abera, Selam Geremew, and Lensa Mekonnen, Ethiopian nationals like Abera, have also joined our team. Our work in Ethiopia focuses on helping the Government’s new Agricultural Transformation Agency in its efforts to identify and implement new approaches to increasing agricultural output, thus increasing the incomes and food security of the Ethiopian people.

Senior Fellow Mary Amuyunzu-Nyamongo helps build cross-sector, cross-discipline health partnership

Dr. Mary Amuyunzu-Nyamongo speaking in Tanzania

After becoming a Synergos Senior Fellow in 2008, Dr. Mary Amuyunzu-Nyamongo helped found the Consortium for Non-Communicable Diseases Control and Prevention in sub-Saharan Africa (CNCD-Africa). The four major risk factors contributing to non-communicable diseases in Africa are poor diets, lack of physical activity, tobacco consumption, and harmful use of alcohol. Dr. Amuyunzu-Nyamongo says “tackling a single condition or risk factor is unlikely to achieve broad-based results that would lead to population-level changes.” CNCD-Africa uses partnerships across countries and sectors to create systemic change, enabling stakeholders to focus on multiple components of a complex, multi-dimensional problem.

“When I started the consortium, I was a member of the Senior Fellows Network, and the first peer consulting session I had was about establishing the consortium."

Learn more about Amuyunzu-Nyamongo’s work.

Learning circle of women social entrepreneurs

Lack of funding. Not being taken seriously due to gender. A shortage of female leaders to learn from. Requirements of a father’s consent to open a bank account or take out a loan.

These are some of the obstacles to women’s social entrepreneurship identified by participants in a new learning circle of women social entrepreneurs from places including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and the United Arab Emirates.

Marwa El Daly a social entrepreneur from Egypt who founded the Waqfeyat al Maadi Community Foundation, speaking at a Synergos learning event in Jordan.

Synergos, with support from the Alliance for Global Good, convened this group so that they can learn from and build upon each others’ approaches to these challenges while increasing the impact of their work on the communities they serve. Participants, all exceptional leaders from our Senior Fellows and Arab World Social Innovators networks, are overcoming attitudes and rules in Muslim communities that discourage women from taking leadership roles.

The group met in person for the first time in Amman, Jordan, in July. The meeting began with a visit to the House of Tales and Music, the project of Social Innovator Rabeea al Nasser, whose initiative promotes the creative arts among local children, particularly those from disadvantaged communities and orphanages. Participants then received media training from Maysoun Gangat, a social innovator who runs the first commercial women’s radio station in Palestine.

The women’s circle identified ways Synergos can help, including connecting them to other women leaders in our networks and providing access to mentoring and training on typically male-dominated topics such as banking, finance, and negotiation. In addition, learning from the women’s circle will support another Synergos project to create an enabling environment for social entrepreneurship in the Middle East, by integrating the crucial perspective of women.


New York City office space available, Synergos moving

We’re moving our New York City office to a new location on East 54th Street near Fifth Avenue in late January. You’ll be receiving details in a few weeks.

We have a handful of workspaces in our newly constructed open-plan office for a small nonprofit organization or foundation. Our sub-tenants will have receptionist services, use of meeting and conference room space, phones and IT availability, a security system, kitchen, and other amenities. The space will be available on or about February 1st.  The fee is $1,200 per work station per month for sub-leases of a year or longer.    

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf shares Nobel Peace Prize

Congratulations to our former board member, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf sends a video message about her receipt of the 2006 David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award

The first woman elected head of state in Africa, Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf also served her country as a democracy activist and as Minister of Finance. During time in exile from Liberia she held a variety of positions in banking and international development, including at the World Bank, at Citibank and as Director of the United Nations Development Programme’s Regional Bureau for Africa.

While Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf was at UNDP we worked with her and her colleagues to gain a better understanding of how to create partnerships between government and civil society groups for development in Africa.

In 2006 we recognized Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf with the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award.

Watch video on Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

Arab World Social Innovators share at TEDx

Ziad Abichaker and Yorgui Teyrouz, both members of the second class of Synergos Arab World Social Innovators (AWSI), presented at TEDx Beirut in September.

Ziad shared a “garbage love story” about his work toward a zero-waste society in Lebanon. Yorgui told of the origins of Donner Sang Compter, the organization he created to better the blood donation cause in Lebanon. Their presentations, in Arabic, are online at TEDx Beirut’s website.

Rana Dajani, a Jordanian member of the first AWSI class, presented at TEDx Dead Sea in May about the “butterfly effect” - making small changes with big impacts. In her case, she spoke about her work increasing literacy and learning among Jordanian kids and college students.

Watch Rana Dajani’s presentation.

LINC makes finals for two prestigious awards

Synergos’ work in South Africa through our Leadership and Innovation Network for Collaboration in the Children’s Sector-LINC was recognized in two awards competitions. Ann Lamont and LINC were finalists for the 2011 John P. McNulty Prize, which seeks to inspire young people from around the world to make a real difference in their communities by recognizing the very best in high-impact leadership. The Prize recognizes leadership projects undertaken by the Fellows of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. Ann, who founded LINC, is both an Aspen Fellow and a Synergos Senior Fellow. The prize was awarded to Dele Olojede and NEXT for helping revolutionize media in Nigeria.

LINC was also a finalist for the 2011 Investing in the Future and Drivers of Change award run by the Mail & Guardian newspaper and the Southern Africa Trust.

Watch video about LINC.

African Senior Fellows gather in Johannesburg

Synergos Senior Fellows from nine African countries came together in South Africa in October for a regional meeting focused on the concepts of bridging leadership and building trust for social change. Video comments on the meeting - including thoughts on the legacy of the late Wangari Maathai - are online at our YouTube channel.

University for a Night in Africa recognizes Mamphela Ramphele for leadership

Above: Redi Thlabi, Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, and Peggy Dulany
Below: Tokyo Sexwale
Bottom: Opening reception

About 130 representatives of African business, government and civil society came together in Johannesburg in October for Synergos’ third annual University for a Night in Africa. Following an opening reception, Dr. Mamphela Ramphele received the David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership in Africa Award for her tireless work for freedom, social justice, and shared prosperity in South Africa and around the world.

Redi Thlabi then moderated a discussion with Dr. Ramphele and Peggy Dulany, Synergos’ Chair, about inclusive approaches to the persistent challenge of inequality in South Africa, and Africa as a whole. The evening closed with dinner discussions, in which participants explored issues including health, nutrition, and economic empowerment.

The Ackerman Family Foundation, Wendy Appelbaum, Kim Samuel Johnson, and Shell were major sponsors of the event, which raised support for Synergos programs in Africa.

Photos are the event are online.

GPC learning journey to China

In May, Peggy Dulany and Global Philanthropists Circle members Mark Chen, Yangjin Lamu, and Cherie Nursalim led the GPC’s first learning journey to China and Taiwan.

It included meetings in Beijing, Shanghai, and Taipei with leaders from government and business, teachers and students, development professionals, cultural leaders, and philanthropists. Participants also visited Gansu province to explore the unique culture and political complexities of one of the poorest regions in China.

The trip exposed participants to innovative approaches to addressing some of China’s critical development challenges. Participants were also able to share global perspectives on philanthropy through events such as a philanthropy forum in Beijing, and more information discussions throughout the trip.

A trip report is available in the private GPC network site at Some examples of media coverage include:

GPC visit to Cuba

Earlier this year, Synergos was granted a license to organize people-to-people exchange visits to Cuba by the U.S. government. In November, we brought a group of philanthropists to the island nation for a rare behind-the-scenes perspective of a country on the cusp of major political and economic change. Our board member Daniel Schwartz, Executive Director of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, played a key role in organizing the visit.

Following a briefing in Miami by Julia Sweig, director for Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, participants spent four days in Cuba. The group met with senior government officials, educators, health officials, and religious and cultural leaders - as well as with community activists, workers, tradespeople, and students. They visited community health centers, a medical school, a synagogue, artists’ communities, and government and independent markets.

Participants saw some examples of growing openess in aspects of Cuban society, such as in the re-emerging Jewish community, and at an event with Havana’s LGBT community. Yet obstacles to the expansion of the private economy and political diversity remain formidable.

Looking at women’s philanthropy in Brazil

Fundo Social Elas, under the direction of Synergos Senior Fellow Amália Fischer, hosted two events in November to promote philanthropy for women’s causes among a group of affluent women in Brazil.

Peggy Dulany, Brazilian Senior Fellows Amália Fischer and Beatriz Azeredo, and Synergos’ Daniel Domagala.
The meetings, which took place in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, brought together distinguished speakers and guests, including Synergos’ Peggy Dulany, the representative of UN Women Brazil and Southern Cone Rebecca Tavares and Nilcéia Freire, the Director of Ford Foundation in Brazil and former Chief of the Special Secretariat of Policies for Women.

The events sought to emphasize the importance of giving to programs working with women and girls, who are now recognized as major agents of social transformation.

Read more (in Portuguese).

Campaign to reform international aid

The Dalia Association, a Palestinian community foundation established by Synergos Senior Fellow Nora Lester Murad, has endorsed the Make Aid Transparent Campaign. “Our campaign is not about eliminating international aid, which is much needed, or about making well-intentioned aid workers feel unappreciated,” says Murad. Instead, it aims to make the aid process more accessible and transparent, with Palestinian civil society voices playing a greater role. Changes like these will not only directly improve aid programs, but leverage local insight and capacity, thus providing donors with greater value for their contributions.

Learn more from the Dalia Association.


A blueprint for country-driven health programs

The Obama administration in the United States, the Cameron government in the United Kingdom, and other donors talk almost daily about developing countries owning and directing their health programs. But are donors ready support this? And what would that look like? In an article in The Lancet, Rosann Wisman, John Heller, and Peggy Clark identify seven key factors in improving country ownership, and the impact, of health programs. Their findings draw upon experience including Synergos’ efforts in Namibia.

Read full article in The Lancet (free registration required).

Global Giving Matters looks at philanthropy for peace

Global Giving Matters looks at the efforts of two philanthropists striving to create a more peaceful world. One is Tom Oliver, who through his World Peace Partnership and the inaugural World Peace Festival is seeking holistic and sustainable solutions to achieve global peace. The other is Steve Killelea, founder of the Institute for Economics and Peace. He is deepening understanding of the connections between peace and economic growth, and since 2007 has shared that understanding through the Global Peace Index.

Read article in Global Giving Matters.

Bob Dunn on systems-changing collaboration at

Rahim Kanani of’s Leadership blog interviewed Bob Dunn, President and CEO of Synergos, about how we inspire and support sustainable and systems-changing collaboration to address poverty, equity, and social justice around the world. In talking about what we’ve learned in this work, Dunn states that:

“In order to develop sustainable solutions to addressing poverty what we have probably learned that’s most important and what makes the greatest difference in determining how helpful someone can be in bringing about meaningful change is dependent on that person’s interior condition. When someone is present with others in an open and generous way, with a desire to be the ‘biggest’ and ‘best’ possible person he/she can be, it’s amazing what can happen. On the other hand when someone is motivated by fear or driven by ego, it’s almost impossible to establish the kind of trusting relationship that makes it possible for people who are different to come together in a creative, productive and sustainable way.”

Read full text at

Ron Bruder on jobs as essential to peace and stability in the Arab World

Ron Bruder, Founder of the Education for Employment Foundation (EFE -- and a member of the Global Philanthropists Circle, wrote an article in Time magazine that points to the importance of providing jobs for young people in the Arab world in order to create more peaceful, stable societies. Bruder, who was recently named by Time as one of the world’s 100 most influential people, writes:

“When we talk about the Arab Spring, we talk about democracy, about nations rising up to demand representation from their leaders. But it’s important to remember that the movement began when a young man lost his livelihood. On Dec. 17, Mohammed Bouszizi, a 26-year-old street vendor in Tunisia, set himself on fire shortly after an inspector stopped him from using his unlicensed produce cart, the only means he had to feed him family. A month after Bouazizi’s final act inspired so many young people to protest, the President stepped down. The revolutionary tide had begun. But jobs were the impetus, and they will be crucially important in paving the way for stability in the Middle East and North Africa.”

Through EFE, a network of locally run nonprofit organizations that not only prepare young people for work but also commits companies to hiring them, Bruder is helping meet this challenge.

Read full article from Time magazine.

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We thank our many donors, who help make our work possible. Listed below are donors who gave to Synergos from January through December 15, 2011. We hope that you will join them in supporting our work.

Ackerman Family
African Federation of Public Health Associations
Afrika Tikkun
Aga Khan Foundation
Hope Aldrich
Hussein Adam Ali
Alliance for Global Good
Omar Amanat
Kayrita M. Anderson
Hylton and Wendy Appelbaum
The Loreen Arbus Foundation
Alberto and Tere Baillères and Family
The Banking Association South Africa
Maria Rosa and Roberto Baquerizo
Othman and Leila Benjelloun
Edward and Sharon Bergman
Stanley and Marion Bergman
Katherine Bierce
David Bohnett Foundation
William Bohnett
Maria Matilde Bonetti
Boricua College
Amy and Ed Brakeman
James M. Brasher III
Ronald Bruder
Magalen O. Bryant and Family
Carlos and Natalia Bulgheroni
Charles Butt
Raymond Chambers and the MCJ Amelior Foundation
Changing Our World, Inc
Petr Chitipakhovyan and Family
Noreen Clark and George Pitt
Community Foundation of New Jersey
Department of Social Development of South Africa
Alan Detheridge
Ana Maria Diniz
Donner Canadian Foundation
The William H. Donner Foundation
Peggy Dulany
Robert H. Dunn
The Drums Touring Inc.
Jodie Evans
Corinne Evens
Daniel Feffer
Alan Fleischmann and Dafna Tapiero
GAIN - Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition
Garcés and Echavarria Family
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Eleanor H. Gimon
Anna M. Ginn
Dorian Goldman and Marvin Israelow
Katja Goldman and Michael Sonnenfeldt
Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation
Roberto Gonzales Barrera Family
Eileen Growald
Agnes Gund
Mimi Haas
Scott and Sally Harrison
Heller Family Foundation
William and Flora Hewlett Family
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Jerry Hirsch and Family
Raza Jafar
Johannson Family
Franklin P. Johnson
Cynthia Jones
JPMorgan Chase
Riad Kamal
Patricia Kahane and Family
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Uday Khemka
Stephen Killelea
John Klingenstein
Kimberly Kreiling
Philippe Lacoste
Alykhan Lalani
Sebastien Laye
Jon Ledecky
John P. Lennon
Jerome and Kenneth Lipper Foundation
 George and Nitzia Logothetis
Suzanne Longley
Laura Lopez
Oscar Lopez
Marc Lubner
Vincent and Anne Mai
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Mannheim, LLC
Marcela Manubens
Marga Incorporated
Dulce María Martínez-Gama
Strive Masiyiwa
Sally McDaniel
Janet A. McKinley
Mora McLean
John P. & Anne Welsh McNulty Foundation
Fondation Mérieux
Terje Mikalsen and Ellen Ewald
Peter Miscovich
The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation
Marcos de Moraes
Precious and Patrice Motsepe
The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
Enrique Muñoz
NBI Group
Nike Foundation
Abby and George O'Neill
Tanja Odjick
Tom Oliver
Open Society Institute
Aysen and Hüsnü Özyegin
PalTel Group Foundation
Parker Family
Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation
Martin Ping
Irene and Liesel Pritzker
Puku Foundation
Alexandra Quintana
Marie Rautenberg
Tom Rautenberg
Michael and Brigitte Rennie
Jair Ribeiro da Silva Neto
David Rockefeller
Rockefeller Financial
The Rockefeller Foundation
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
Carlos and Gabriela Rodríguez-Pastor
Diana and Jonathan Rose
Mark Rubin
Shelley and Donald Rubin
Güler Sabanci
David Sadroff
Samuel Family Foundation
Kim Samuel Johnson
Deval Sanghavi
Carol and Alan Schwartz
Daniel Schwartz
Tsugiko and William Scullion
Seriti Institute
Sesame Workshop
Shanduka Group
Shared Interest
Adele Simmons
Gordon V. Smith
Theodore and Vada Stanley and Family
Washington SyCip
Susan Taylor
Thebe Investment Corporation
Laura Thorn
Robert Timpson and Peregrine Whittlesey
Sarah L. Timpson
Tse Foundation
Desmond Tutu
Amy and Steve Unfried
United Nations Foundation
US Agency for International Development
Michaela Walsh
Curtis M. Webster
John C. Whitehead
Judy Wicks
Monica Winsor and Josh Mailman
Jin Zidell



The name The Commons comes from the English and early American term “commons,” which was an area of shared land, which the entire community could use for public discussions, local events, or even grazing livestock. The newsletter that bears this name has been created to keep the entire Synergos family of supporters and friends informed about our work.

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