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We are slowly approaching the end of the final round of MedUP!’s Peer Exchanges and would like to take the time to look back on 3 months full of inspirational and fruitful exchanges.

 

As one of the meso level activities in the scope of the MedUP! project, Euclid Network, organizes peer exchanges between social enterprise support organizations’ (SESO) senior staff in the MENA region and Europe. During these exchanges, the peers have the opportunity to exchange knowledge and good practices, collaboratively work on common challenges and goals, and explore the social enterprise ecosystem of the host country. After the exchanges the peers will return to their organizations and share the knowledge acquired with their colleagues. Thus, the exchanges are aimed at facilitating both individual and organizational collaboration and learning between the regions.

The first round, in which the EU peers traveled to their exchange partners, took place in early 2020 (find out more here & here). The return round was planned for March 2020 but had to be postponed due to COVID-19. Finally, between September and early December 2021, the MENA peers were able to visit their European partners.

In this post, we would like to zoom into the topics our fantastic participants discussed during their time together.

Eric & Rosario – Social Innovation Practices – Siracuse, Italy

Eric, Founder of Rabat-based Happy Smala, and Rosario, Co-Founder and CEO of Impact Hub Siracuse, are looking back on two successful exchanges together. After collaborating on a research project mapping social innovation in the Mediterranean resulting from their first exchange in early 2020, they tied the knot for further collaboration during their reunion in Siracuse in September by signing a partnership agreement between both organizations to scale common activities across the Mediterranean.

Yonca & Ichraf – Impact startups – Lisbon, Portugal

Ichraf, Founder of Sousse-based Hive12, made her way to Yonca, Founder of Impact Shakers, in Lisbon. Both Ichraf and Yonca share a keen interest for impact startups and together, they visited several startup hubs to exchange best practices with social enterprises and their support organizations.

Lama & Gary – Stimulating social innovation – London, UK

Lama, Executive Director at BuildPalestine, and Gary, from Nesta Challenges matched in February 2020, when Gary came to visit BuildPalestine in Ramallah. This first meeting was useful for Lama to develop a Social Innovation Bootcamp program. In November 2021, in the UK, our peers had the opportunity to meet various support organizations and social enterprises, learning from each other and getting inspired. The exchange was a great chance to network and follow-up calls and meetings are still ongoing to connect Palestinian social entrepreneurs to platforms in the UK that can help promote their businesses. “It was inspiring to experience,” according to Gary, “I also learnt a lot myself about the UK ecosystem.” Lama’s key take away? “Learn, but not copy”- readapt the acquired knowledge to the different context.

Usama & Jonas – Action Plan on Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship – Vienna, Austria

Usama Incubator Manager and Organizational Development & Management Consultant from Yunus Social Business Center, teamed up with Jonas, Managing Director at the Austrian Social Impact Award to discuss the grand question of how to build a strong and effective SE ecosystem. The two changemakers exchanged knowledge and best practices on social innovation and entrepreneurship together with various relevant stakeholders, such as Impact Hub.

Ahmed & Zlatko – Social entrepreneurship during a global pandemic – Skopje, North Macedonia

Ahmed, Managing Director at ICEALEX, and Zlatko from CRPM look back at two successful exchanges together. Back in early 2020, Zlatko went to Egypt and then in December 2021 Ahmed finally had the chance to visit his peer in North Macedonia. Despite some challenges related to limitations of in-person meetings due to COVID restrictions, the two changemakers were able to meet several stakeholders of the North Macedonian SE ecosystem which inspired for further discussions on impact measurements. Asked about his favourite memory from the travel to Skopje, Ahmed replies “Macedonia has a great potential, and I liked connecting with people and organizations here! I liked Skopje and I believe in the future we could do something around impact investment.”

Krystel & Clemence/Kelly – Exploring partnership opportunities – Paris, France

Krystel, Expert in social innovation and Programs Director at Berytech in Lebanon, met with Kelly and Clemence from Pulse in France to explore partnership opportunities and exchange best practices for the support of impact ventures.  In addition to visiting a variety of relevant stakeholders of the Social and Solidarity Economy sector, the exchange trio identified common project ideas for the support of impact ventures and institutions in the Mediterranean, that could be implemented once the right funding opportunities for programs are available.

Pablo & Youssef – Measuring impact – Amsterdam, Netherlands

Before even getting started on discussing organizational challenges and goals Pablo (SEND, Germany) and Youssef (Anoual, Morocco) had to overcome a different kind of logistical challenge. As our peers’ home countries had stopped their diplomatic relations during the planning phase of the exchanges, Youssef and Pablo decided to team up with SEND’s Dutch sister organization SE NL and explore the Dutch SE ecosystem instead. Their main topics of discussion: data collection and impact measurement. Luckily, EN had the chance to welcome them in The Hague as well during their stay in the Netherlands. 

Belal & Theodore – Social Entrepreneurship and the creative sector – Athens, Greece

Belal, Director of TTi Jordan, met with Theodore and Andreas from Academy of Entrepreneurship in Athens. Together, the impact leaders explored the Greek SE Ecosystem and exchanged on the topics of funding and the creation of new innovative services for existing (and abroad) beneficiaries. As a tangible result, the peers have agreed on applying as consortium partners for several upcoming EU calls. 

Amira & Teo – Establish and sustain collaborative communitiesČakovec, Croatia

Amira, Lead Facilitator of ElRe7la and Organizational Culture and Social Policy Lead of Collective Routes, welcomed Teo, Director of ACT Group, in Cairo in 2020. During this first exchange, the two changemakers explored the Egyptian SE ecosystem and discussed possible long-term collaborations. Especially learning about the ElRe7la methodology left a deep impression on Teo, which he looks back to as a “wow moment.” 

Due to unexpected circumstances, the return exchange in which Amira will travel to Croatia did not yet take place. Stay tuned!

Tarek & Ayhan – Partnership creation & Internationalization – Istanbul, Turkey

Tarek, Co-Founder of Lebanese Neopreneur, visited Ayhan from Istanbul Development Agency. Initially focusing on a shared interest in Fin-Tech, the two changemakers had the opportunity to exchange knowledge on various different topics and fields. Even the Mayor of Uskudar Municipality sent his virtual greetings to Tarek and Ayhan during one of their various visits of Turkish SE organizations. To summarize the exchange in Ayhan’s words, “I felt like I was reuniting with an old friend and realized that we have very similar culture. I gained a different point of view during the programme that will contribute to me for my studies.” 

You are interested in the work of our peers, would like to explore potential collaborations or exchange knowledge? Please feel free to reach out and connect! Let’s close the gaps between the regions and join forces to strengthen the Social Enterprise sector and create a lasting social impact together.

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