MedUP! is an initiative that aims to promote social entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, specifically targeting the following six countries: Egypt, Lebanon, Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco.
The project is now in its second year and many exciting things have already happened and further ones are on the horizon. For example, this January / February 2020, we facilitated peer exchanges between social enterprise support organizations from Europe to the MENA region. I spent two weeks traveling between Jordan, OPT and Egypt; catching up with our partners and our peer exchanges. It was an incredible trip, and I can’t wait to share it with you.
Below, is the first half of a two-part series detailing my experiences with the MedUP! Peer Exchanges in OPT and Jordan.
24/01/20 — Flight to Jordan
Having left Jordan 3.5 years ago, I was happy to return to the place where I spent 6 months researching social innovation amongst Syrian refugees and made many happy memories.
26/01/2020 – Meetings with OXFAM IT
Today I had a good discussion with OXFAM Jordan about the development of Peer Exchange. It was also very interesting to hear about their JoinUp project, which is closely related to MedUP! JoinUp aims to nurture the social enterprise ecosystem in Jordan.
27/01/2020 – Off to Palestine
Today I had to get up very early—5 am—to catch the bus to OPT. I was rewarded with beautiful scenery! I watched an exquisite sunrise as the bus descended into the Jordan valley on its way to the other side.
On the other side of Jericho, I meet Huthayfa, our MedUP! colleague from PARC. PARC is a national development organisation that strives to improve the agricultural sector through creative programs and technical practices. It was quite fascinating to hear more about their work.
More meetings in the afternoon, with Gary from Nesta, an innovation foundation; and Lama from BuildPalestine, an online platform that connects supporters with local non-profits and social enterprises in OPT. I was inspired by their creativity and enthusiasm about developing ways to support early-stage social enterprises.
28/01/2020 – BBI & SIA & Bethlehem University
Great meeting today with Fayouz of Bethlem Business Incubator (BBI), and Jonas of Social Impact Award (SIA). BBI is an innovative hub for mentoring and supporting entrepreneurs regardless of business type, while SIA runs education and incubation programs in more than 15 countries to support early-stage social entrepreneurs.
We talked at length about ways to increase the visibility of social enterprises, especially in a young environment.
With the peers, I went to an interesting conference about social entrepreneurship at Bethlehem University. There, we heard about recent research done into the OPT social enterprise ecosystem and met Professor Fadi from Yunus Social Business Centre.
29/01/20 – Meetings, meetings and more meetings!
Today was quite a long day! There was so much to do I hardly felt I had time for it all, but it was all well worth it.
Back in Jordan, I meet with Christos of IHE Innovative Business Services, a business consultancy and professional training organisation, in the morning. He is facilitating a workshop on social innovation in collaboration with Neda of TTI. TTI is an NGO that focuses on youths to spread entrepreneurship and innovation culture in Jordan.
The highlight of the day by far was the check-in call with the exchanges in Jordan, Palestine, and Lebanon.
Ani (left in the picture) of Impact Hub Yerevan, a growing member-based network of changemakers; and Tarek (far right in the picture) of Neopreneur, an innovation and start-up hub for entrepreneurs and start-ups, are working on how social enterprises can address challenges of economic crisis.
Berivan (in the middle) of TED University Center for Innovation, a non-profit social incubator and open collaborative space within TED University in Ankara; and Krystal (left) of Berytech, a company that provides supports to innovative companies to scale up; are working on topics centred around impact measurement and financial sustainability of SEs.
Ghassan & Ivana
During one of my last meetings in Jordan, I meet with Ghassan (back right) of Parachute 16, a change agency that strives to build capacities, inspire, connect and empower entrepreneurs; and Ivana (front left) of SmartKolektiv, which helps companies and communities to connect.
They are working on impact measurement and management as well as thinking about how to build a better social entrepreneurship system. They were so enthusiastic—the conversation continued throughout dinner!
30/01/2020 – Last day in Jordan!
On my last day in Jordan, I met the Jordanian peers to reflect on their experiences with MedUP! They all expressed how much the exchange has helped them particularly when thinking about the social enterprise environment within their own countries.
Perhaps this sentiment is best summarized by the following statement: “This exchange we really helpful as we face similar challenges in our ecosystems. As such, it was probably more helpful for me than an exchange with the UK or The Netherlands.”
To be continued…
MedUP! is led by Oxfam, in partnership with Euclid Network, Diesis and Impact Hub International in Europe. Our southern Mediterranean partners are the Tunisian Center for Social Entrepreneurship (TCSE) in Tunisia, ENACTUS in Morocco, JOHUD in Jordan, PARC in Palestine and SEKEM in Egypt.